So, unless something unexpected has happened with the vote in the Commons on Wednesday night by the time you read this England will be back in lockdown. As I write I have yet to decide whether I will vote to support the latest month-long lockdown or against. Already I am receiving a great many emails from constituents either challenging the logic behind the full lockdown, apparent inconsistencies with banning church services and open-air activities like golf or tennis or with specific questions on the impact of lockdown support measures on their businesses. As with the earlier lockdown I will continue to post as much information as possible on the Coronavirus section of my website, and my office will respond as quickly and efficiently as we can, but please bear with us.
My main criticism all along has been that the Government needs to do a much better job at explaining the rationale behind the decisions that have been made. What impact measures are likely to have on reducing the infection or mortality rate; what has worked well or not in certain areas and how this has influenced policy; why should Adur and Worthing be subject to the same restrictions as say Liverpool with less than a tenth the number of cases; how many of the likely COVID casualties are older people who would normally be expected to succumb to flu at this time of year anyway?
The Government has a difficult judgement to make, listening to what the clinicians are telling us, what the economy is telling us and what the population is telling us about what is sustainable and then making a balanced call. It doesn’t help when one day we are told to abide by the rule of 6 and pubs must shut at 10, and the next a scientific report suggests that the impact of those measures are neglible. It also doesn’t help when the majority of people who have made sacrifices to follow the rules see others blatantly ignoring them, with few consequences. Consistency, confidence and consensus are key.
Amidst all the domestic pressures on COVID the biggest response I have received on social media recently is on the thorny and little understood issue of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a subject where my interest is as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Armenia Group and with some Armenian constituents.
I was asked to go on ITV’s Good Morning Britain to talk about it and the subsequent Facebook clip has so far reached over 110,00 people and I have been flooded with emails for and against what I said. It may have something to do with my comments about Piers Morgan when challenged about why ministers have been boycotting the programme. I suggested it may have something to do with the fact that he cannot decide whether he wants to be interviewer or interviewee and never let’s a minister get a word in edgeways. Not surprisingly the great majority of emailers seem to agree!
Due to lockdown I am afraid that our street surgeries will have to be suspended through November but I will again be conducting constituency surgeries by phone for anyone who would like to talk to me, please just contact the constituency office.