Like I’m sure most of you reading this, I really didn’t want to see another lockdown. As I said in one of my Herald articles a few weeks ago, I well understand the impact that the first lockdown had on mental health, other health conditions and on our local businesses. For that reason, I was supportive of the Government’s Tiers.
As you will know by now, in the weeks leading up to the lockdown, the Conservative MPs in Oxfordshire did not want to see the whole county put into Tier 2 as local leaders and officials were requesting. We do not doubt the sincerity of those who wanted to see this happen – public health is the priority for all of us – we just felt it was premature given rates in much of the county outside Oxford remained low.
There was no politics to this, we were simply representing the interests of our constituents, hundreds of whom contact each of us every day to express how difficult 2020 has been. We gave our views privately and were happy for the discussions to continue in private. But the local Lib Dems rushed out to the media, using the old trick of politicising something but pretending it is the other side that is doing so. Disappointingly, they didn’t bother to ask any of us what we had said first. They even started an email campaign telling people what they thought had happened and encouraging them to write to us to express their support for us going into Tier 2. This yielded 5 emails to me and 4 to one of my Oxfordshire colleagues – was this worth deciding not to speak to any of us first?
We’re now told we ‘would have been better off’ if we’d gone into further restrictions weeks before lockdown. This is nonsense. It would have meant more weeks of people not being able to see their families properly; more weeks of local businesses, already in a fragile state, being under tighter restrictions. Half-term plans would have had to have been cancelled. What’s more, given the current plan is for areas to emerge from the national lockdown in the tier they were in, the whole county would have emerged from lockdown in December to find itself in Tier 2 instead of, hopefully, Tier 1.
Then as now, it is the analysis of the Chief Medical Officer and the Joint Biosecurity Centre which matters most – they didn’t think our county needed to go into Tier 2, but they do think a time-limited national lockdown is needed to protect the NHS nationally. We should support their judgement, forget party politics and work together to protect physical health, mental health and local jobs.