Last night the Prime Minister set out the UK Government’s plan to rebuild the country for a world with COVID-19. The challenges facing the country as we emerge from lockdown and continue to fight this virus are huge – we have not faced a challenge like this since World War II.
Some have suggested that the PM’s speech was ‘confusing’ and ‘unclear’. Others have said it was ‘disappointing’.
Imposing the lockdown on the country was relatively easy. Re-emerging from the lockdown will be much harder. A quick return to 'normality’ is impossible and is not going to happen. The Government is grappling with extremely difficult questions and decisions. There are no easy answers. Expecting the PM to answer every single question that millions of people have and to cover every point in a 15 minute speech was unrealistic. Those expecting ‘quick results’ and ‘easy answers’ might have been disappointed. But this was always going to be the case.
I don’t agree with those who say that the PM’s speech was unclear. He stated that the vast majority of the current guidance and rules remain in place. However, it is vital that we move onto the next phase of our fight with this virus and the PM’s speech outlined the first changes to the current guidance to make this possible. Full detail of this is available in the link further down but the two most important changes are a) people who cannot work from home should be encouraged to go back to work (if your place of work can open) and b) outside recreation is to be encouraged but people must socially distance. Apart from this, the guidance remains largely the same!
I’ve received hundreds of emails, comments and phone calls about the Government’s approach to the current crisis and every person has a different view! Some would like us to go back to ‘normal’ straight away as if nothing has happened and reopen everything today. Others would like the strict lockdown to continue until the virus has been eradicated from the globe – regardless of the cost to the economy, people’s jobs and people’s lives. Everybody is of course entitled to their opinion as to what should happen. However, I would point out that the Government’s approach is based not on ‘hunches’, ‘opinions’ or ‘comments on TV or Facebook’, but the best medical evidence available and the advice of the experts.
So what is my view?
You can see that there are no ‘easy answers’ and quick fixes. Whatever the Government does some people will be disappointed. The government has a duty to do what is best for the whole of the country and every person, not one particular group who want the circumstances to fit their view or their lifestyle.
The overriding priority remains to save lives. The government will continue to put your safety first. By obeying the rules for the last few months we have done a fantastic job as a country. The disease is under control. The NHS has coped extremely well. The infection and death rates are falling. Whilst there are still big challenges ahead (tackling infections in care homes, providing PPE to the frontline), it is clear that without the measures the government introduced in March the number of deaths would have been far, far higher. This now allows us to think about how we can try to get the country moving again. But the country is still in a delicate place. If we go too far, too fast, the infection rate will increase. This would mean a second spike and all of the good progress we have made will be lost.
This is why we need to take small steps to getting things back to a ‘new normal’. This is exactly what the PM’s speech was about. No big changes in one go. No grand speech. But signalling a clear direction of what the government is trying to do and to give people an idea as to when different things might open up again.
For those who are staying that it is too soon to be thinking about emerging from the lockdown, I disagree. Whilst the government will continue to put people’s health first, we have to think about getting the economy going as well. We need to achieve a balance between protecting people’s health and getting the economy going again. Every day that we are in lockdown makes it more difficult for our economy to get back on track and impacts on the living standards of us all.
The OBR’s scenario suggests that GDP could fall by 35% in the second quarter of this year – to put this in perspective, the banking crisis in 2008 created a recession one-tenth the size of this. The longer we are in lockdown the worse the situation for the economy. This means more local businesses going bust; more local people unemployed (potentially for a long time); less money in people’s pockets (for a long time); less money for the government to spend on people’s benefits, pensions, the NHS, schools and your public services; and a significant decline in your living standards and income – the scale of which has never been seen before. If you think that a significant economic downturn will not affect you then you are mistaken. It would impact upon every Blackpool resident, our town’s economy, your life chances and health, and the quality of public services that you have come to expect.
I would be failing as your MP if I didn’t point out the consequences of remaining in a state of lockdown indefinitely. This is not sustainable; would have serious impacts on every one of us and I will not support it. I would also be failing as your MP if I suggested that we should ignore the impact of the virus and open Blackpool up for business straight away. Such a reckless approach would throw away the progress we have made together and would endanger the NHS causing more suffering and loss of life.
It is for this reason that I support a slow, managed easing of the lockdown restrictions. This is exactly what the PM and Government are doing. No big bangs and no easy answers. But a logical methodical process of small steps to normality. This starts with those who cannot work from home returning to the office or the factory (with employers putting measures in place to protect staff) and people spending more time outdoors (whilst social distancing). And then – if the infection rate remains low – looking to bring some students back to schools and reopen shops in June. Following this - if the infection rate allows – we could then allow other businesses such as those in the leisure and tourism sector (hotels, pubs, cinemas, hairdressers, tourist attractions, etc) to open in July. This is a clear plan that balances protecting people’s health with reopening the country and the economy. It is will depend on the science and the infection rate but provides people with a clear sense of what the Government is trying to do and why.
If you would like more information please click OUR PLAN TO REBUILD.
You can of course contact me on 01253 361 350 or email@example.com if you have other further questions.
Take care and stay safe