Last week was full of interesting and varied meetings. In my role as shadow education minister, I met OFSTED, the Association of School and College Leaders, and visited a nursery school with my colleague Tulip Siddiq MP. On Saturday, I participated in ‘Tolpuddle Online’ – the annual festival organised by the TUC to commemorate the Tolpuddle martyrs, who were transported to Australia in 1834 for trying to set up a friendly society – the forerunner of modern trade unions. On Sunday, I joined the Muslim/Jewish Forum as part of Remembering Srebrenica’s 25th anniversary events to commemorate the Bosnian genocide. I attended meetings with fellow Greater Manchester MPs to hear from Mayor Andy Burnham about the testing and tracing process (worryingly, Greater Manchester is struggling to get detailed data from the testing companies), and businesses operating in the Manchester night-time economy, who described the challenges they’ve faced during covid, and how and when they all hope to be able to reopen safely. I chaired a meeting with Baroness Doreen Lawrence as part of her review into the disproportionate effect of covid in ethnic minority communities. My good friend and former office roommate Gordon Marsden dropped by for a cup of tea (it was great to meet face to face, even if we had to sit at separate tables). And I had a very informative meeting with Amelia, who is a young ambassador for the Holocaust Education Trust in Trafford.
Apart from catching up with Gordon, all these meetings took place online – alongside all my usual weekly zoom team and shadow cabinet meetings, and my online surgery appointments with constituents. I know I speak for many people when I say I often feel zoomed out at the end of a busy day, and I look forward to when we can do more of our work in person. But despite the prime minister’s blasé announcements, as ever, he has provided little detail on his back to work plans, leaving businesses, public transport operators, families and schools to work things out for themselves and just get on with it. This isn’t leadership, and it’s clear the prime minister will simply seek to shift the blame if a second spike hits us in the autumn. One year into Johnson’s premiership has exposed how utterly unsuited he is for the highest office.