Last week, we marked the anniversary of the first national lockdown, when we remembered those who lost their lives to covid, and honoured the critical workers who have given so much during the pandemic.
While everyone is pleased and relieved to see the success of the vaccination programme – a huge credit to the NHS – I remain utterly appalled that the UK has the highest death toll in Europe. There’s no doubt that reflects poor decisions by the government during the crisis. Ministers acted too slowly to bring in lockdowns when infection rates began to rise, they delayed procuring vital PPE, the test and trace programme run by private companies cost billions but failed to deliver, and, shockingly, care home residents were discharged from hospital without being tested to check if they were covid positive.
But it’s not just because of the government’s failures during the pandemic that we have suffered so badly. We entered this crisis with our public services and our economy on weakened foundations, thanks to a decade of Conservative austerity. Insecure employment, inadequate sick pay and huge cuts to local councils over the past ten years have created great hardship for many. That’s why, after this pandemic, there can be no return to business as usual. Because business as usual wasn’t good enough.
In a few weeks’ time, we will have local council elections, and the campaign for the re-election of Andy Burnham as mayor of Greater Manchester. I’m encouraging my constituents to apply for a postal vote so you know that whatever happens, you’ll be able to vote safely (go to https://postalvote.labour.org.uk for a form to apply and for more information).
I will be taking advantage of the Easter break to spend as much time as possible when I’m not in parliament out and about talking to voters about why these elections are so important (and I’m absolutely delighted that, after a year when I haven’t been able to meet constituents face to face, government guidance now allows me to return to the doorstep!). I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone, and with restrictions starting to be relaxed so we can meet up outdoors and in gardens, I know many constituents are also looking forward to spending time with family or friends over the bank holiday weekend. Please stay safe, and my best wishes to everyone for a very happy Easter.