Welcome to my new weekly column in your local paper.
As a former local and regional journalist, I’m acutely aware of the important role newspapers have in our communities. They are a window into our way of life, showcasing success and celebrating where we live, holding people like me to account and focusing a spotlight on issues we face across East Devon.
There’s no doubt the issue which keeps my post bag bulging and inbox incredibly busy is the ongoing battle against coronavirus. It may feel a tad abstract to watch the national news every night for many of us in East Devon.
We’ve kept the virus at bay locally. We’ve worked hard to follow the rules and prepare for the worst. The new restrictions go against our human instincts and I know it’s hard to live with rules which impact everyday life. I recognise it is somewhat frustrating to be placed under further restrictions when cases remain low in East Devon as a result of our collective efforts since March. We should take great pride in our success to date. National measures are in place to make sure we don’t become like other parts of the country, where the number of cases has sadly risen significantly.
It is our personal responsibility to consider our actions, adjust our plans if necessary, and stay focused on the goal in front of us. None of us want these restrictions. We must keep up the great work in East Devon so we can banish them to the history books as soon as possible.
As a proud Devonian, it’s an honour to be your MP and it’s never been more important to represent you in Parliament.
The speed at which emergency coronavirus legislation was passed in March left Members of Parliament without the opportunity to scrutinise decisions taken by the government. I’ve long felt that Parliament must be able to “take back control” and I’m pleased to hear Parliament will get to carefully scrutinise and vote on national lockdown restrictions. Parliament having a clear voice and vote will be crucial in the months ahead as we battle coronavirus.
By allowing MPs to vote on extreme measures under any full lockdown, MPs could also flag issues with planned legislation and guidance. Simple questions like “Why can X go ahead but Y can’t” could be invaluable to make sure our coronavirus response is clear, concise and proportionate. It would also stop rabid and unfounded speculation in the press.
The lockdown was grim for many, but it also demonstrated why we should be exceptionally proud of where we live. Our communities rallied around each other, with volunteers shopping for neighbours, picking up prescriptions and local shops going above and beyond to keep food on the table.
We are so lucky to have greengrocers, butchers and farm shops dotted around our communities. However, they will need more than luck to keep the doors open. We must continue to support our local independent shops to help protect our high streets.
I’ve received several emails from people who find wearing a mask in shops intolerable and no longer want to shop locally. Whilst I have every sympathy for that view, I always urge people to pause and reflect on our NHS staff who have to wear masks day in, day out. If they can wear one for work, surely we can wear one to support our local shops and protect other customers who may be more vulnerable than ourselves?
These restrictions are temporary. They will help suppress the disease. Nobody wants them in place for 6 months, so let’s work together to scrap them sooner rather than later.
This article appeared in the Exmouth Journal on 7th October, Mid Week Herald on 8th October, and Sidmouth Herald on 9th October.