So Parliament back – sort of. All the usual extra debates that allow the likes of me to raise constituency issues still aren’t happening. The ability to intervene on Ministers during question time isn’t there, as you can only be in the Chamber if your name is drawn out of the hat, and only to ask a specific question. Zoom calls with local groups are restarting, and more casework is being processed than ever before by both myself and my ever hard working staff.
The emergence from lockdown is perhaps best described as a zigzag. Many of the sectors which Blackpool’s smaller businesses consist of – especially the hospitality sector – are back going again. But not everyone is opening yet – I got to sit inside Costa, for example, yesterday for the first time, which seemed quite a landmark. But there is certainly inconsistency in how differing businesses are making themselves covid-secure and equipping their staff. Many potential customers are also still understandably reluctant to go out, so more consistency will help increase confidence.
So it may be that Rishi’s announcements on ‘eat out to help out’ during August might help to kick start demand, and support the margins of so many local small businesses who are struggling to keep going as they exhaust the grants that were handed out. I hope people are going to go more to local cafes than picking up a £1.36 Big Mac …
Some things reopening earlier than others, with the logic not always clear. You think beauty salons are reopening – but can’t provide facial treatments for example. Spas and gyms are on the way – but the requirements in the small print seem quite complex.
There is a still a long tail and we don’t fully know what the economic consequences are yet to be visible. It may still get worse before it gets better – which is why the Chancellor’s announcements about supporting younger people into work (who have been disproportionately affected by the unemployment) as well as trying to allow people to equip themselves with new skills in economic areas where jobs will be created are so important.
As regards face masks – a controversial issue I know - I understand why even if I would rather it had been made mandatory. That said, relying on ‘common sense’ was perhaps never going to happen.
I do accept that the medical evidence has swung behind wearing a mask to prevent infecting others, though I wish they had got it right first time round as it has only served to confuse. Part of the dispute I believe arises from the fact that we are not being given the more detailed information about the virus. We now know that post-lockdown spikes elsewhere seem to be have a common pattern of being in a mix of chilled areas in food preparation, or compact, crowded and poorly-ventilated locations. But maybe that level of detail might mean people choosing not to wear masks in places where they might actually make a difference in the false assumption it didn’t matter?
However, I am highly concerned that people will mistakenly think wearing a mask is all they need do, and neglect the thorough hand-washing which is the really essential precaution.
I do hope this is something which will not be part of the ‘new normal’. But I do worry that even if a vaccine is found, the global anti-vaccination movement will persuade too many not to take advantage of it. I also fear one consequence might be more shops closing as people will be deterred from shopping. I suspect many will just go in ‘on the off chance’ - and so our funds might last that bit longer.
I think we need to accept that we aren’t going to know everything, and even those advising us, won’t know exactly what the perfect answer is. Indeed, even if the ‘experts’ published all the data, would I be able to understand or interpret it?
And we shouldn’t be afraid of admitting what we don’t know yet either – whether politicians or anyone else. One problem is the shrinking space in society where we can have these conversations. Too many prefer clarity and simplicity, even if it means avoiding complexity when an issue is genuinely complex. Certainty seems to be more important than measured consideration that sees two sides of the coin and reaching a balanced verdict – and listening to those we don’t agree with is seen by many as a waste of time.
Our public discourse is all going slightly wrong, very fast, in my view. Issues around social and cultural change spring up, which most of us scarcely give a thought to, but whether some people think you a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ person depends upon your answer, not your intention.
There was a great quote in yesterday’s paper from a columnist who has just resigned. She wrote that “truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everybody else”. They clearly haven’t learnt from Brexit that lecturing us to do as we’re told doesn’t always lead to the outcome the ‘establishment elite’ hope for or expect!
And yet the BBC continue on as they do. So, yes, I will mention TV licenses and making pensioners not on pension credit pay . As you may now, I’ve been dismayed by the BBC’s political posturing on this as they try to blame the Government. Yet they spend millions on so-called ‘star names’, programming that doesn’t appeal, and now funding with our money a trailer telling us that ‘our stories [the BBC’s] are your stories’. This to me sounds as though it is our fault we aren’t watching the BBC enough. I would have thought it was for us to decide the stories we want to hear, and where we choose to find them! If we move towards decriminalizing non-payment the TV licence (making a civil offence), the BBC might find it has shot itself in the foot.
Paul Maynard MP
Conservative - Blackpool North & Cleveleys
07885 651 705
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Paul Maynard MP
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