This week we have seen passionate debate about the restrictions the Government is bringing in to try and control the spread of Coronavirus. I have always felt the suggestion that the UK could have just followed Sweden’s example was undesirable, not to mention unrealistic. We are a very different size, have a very different culture and I well remember people writing to me to say they wanted to see us lockdown weeks before we did so. I similarly feel that the suggestion lockdown and subsequent restrictions have extinguished liberty are overblown.
And yet just in the last month I have noticed a distinct shift in the correspondence I am getting from constituents. Throughout this period there have been people who think lockdown was too strict and those who think it was not strict enough. People who think we should have to wear facemasks everywhere and those who think we shouldn't have to wear them anywhere. And, of course, activists from other parties who write regularly to let me know they don't agree with what the Conservative government is doing, whatever it is that week.
The correspondence in the last month has been different. It is from people that I rarely or never hear from. I have been through it again and what follows are the things they say most – not everything they raise, but what now comes up most regularly.
They ask why we are imposing further restrictions when the death rate remains much lower than it was during lockdown, even though the case number is climbing. They say the rule of 6 is a real restriction given the size of their families. They ask whether MPs understand the toll new restrictions take on businesses trying to get back on their feet. (I do). They want to know if we understand the toll lockdown took on their mental health and want me to understand what toll further restrictions will take on this. (Again, I do).
Repeatedly, they say they feel that these opinions are not heard very much in parliament. They feel MPs from all parties simply wave through these measures on the nod or don’t discuss them at all.
I happen to think that the Government’s strategy is broadly right and they are trying to balance many competing objectives. I think MPs do understand the toll it is taking on people’s families, businesses and mental health. However, I also think that we could be doing a better job in parliament to show we understand the impact of the decisions on our constituents and, even if we agree with the measures being taken, to ensure their experiences are heard. I for one will be doing more to ensure this happens.