There were remarkable scenes in parliament this week as Dominic Cummings arrived to give his version of events inside Downing Street at the height of the Covid pandemic.
His condemnation of his former boss, Boris Johnson, health secretary Matt Hancock, and the whole Conservative government he sat at the heart of as the Prime Minister’s adviser, was searing and made for compelling viewing. It was no surprise to find the entrance to parliament thronged with journalists and camera crew as I arrived at my office on Wednesday. But what is really important isn’t the fallout and fury among the Conservatives. Nearly 130,000 people died because of their laziness, arrogance and crass carelessness. That isn’t forgivable, and I wholly support the relatives of those who died who are calling for a public inquiry to start at once, not drag on until 2023 when it will be too late to learn the lessons.
And the pandemic is far from over. The news of the so-called Indian variant, present almost everywhere in the country, but with especially worrying levels in some areas, including close to us in Bolton, is a reminder of the dangers we still face. I was delighted to receive my second dose of the vaccine this week, and I am so grateful to the amazing scientists and the NHS who have worked miracles to get Britain vaccinated. But we are still some way off from reaching the level of vaccination needed across the whole population to combat this terrible disease. What’s more, until the whole world is vaccinated, we won’t be safe. Yet confusion and mixed messages about travel abroad continue to be received from the government.
I really urge my constituents to take great care, go for your vaccine when you’re invited, and follow social distancing rules. It’s lovely to be able to socialise with family and friends, but let’s do all we can to make sure we don’t go backwards again.
I am however enjoying the chance to get out and about on MP visits once more. Last week, I visited the amazing 42nd Street in central Manchester, along with Claire from my staff team, and my colleague Rosena, Labour spokesperson on mental health, who joined us on Zoom. We met some of the young service users who shared their experience of and ideas about how mental health services need to improve. Special thanks to staff who showed us round – we loved your beautiful building!
I was also really pleased to visit a school and foodbank in Wolverhampton to hear about the work they’re doing to make sure every child gets a healthy meal every day, and to sample the veg pots and banana loaf the children had made to sell at the school’s healthy eating tuckshop. Over half a million more children have become eligible for free school meals in the pandemic, as more parents face financial uncertainty, and now it’s halfterm, it’s really important that those children get a healthy meal every day. But the Conservatives’ holiday food and activities scheme will only feed children for half the holidays this summer. Children don’t go on half rations just because they’re not in school! Labour is calling for a proper programme that makes sure every parent has the money they need to feed their children properly, every single day.