There have been a number of occasions recently — but certainly not at every opportunity — that I have voted against the Government of which I am a part, with regard to Lockdown policies and implications.
One such instance was the ruling regarding the imposition of a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants imposed across the country. No evidence was ever produced to show why this was required – the Covid-19 virus did not only wake up after 2200hrs, and the Government and my Ministerial colleagues were completely unable to provide any solid believable reasons who this imposition was being made.
Nor have we ever seen any impact assessments for any of their other myriad of decisions either. What it does show, in my humble opinion, is a crass understanding of how young people, and frankly social drinkers of any age anywhere in the world, would act when all ‘kicked out of a boozer’ or high-end wine bar or bistro at 10pm sharp onto the same crowded streets – a crazy notion that just might …be as crazy in practice as it sounded in theory. And so it proved to be. Street parties and drinking continued unabated and unregulated, particularly and graphically in my home region of the north west.
Despite misgivings at times, that I have voiced and demonstrated in votes and Parliamentary Questions to Cabinet Ministers, I have also consistently reinforced the clear message that I have repeated incessantly since the start of the pandemic: ‘Use your commons sense’ and ‘Wash your hands frequently.’ In my view if people in general had followed this and the general advice from the Government we would have been in a much better place than we are now as a nation.
But we must deal with the tribulations of an ever-changing landscape: Political and pandemic wise, and I have. My vote last night was not an easy one, but it was specific, as many of my colleagues who voted similarly and or abstained. And as an aside – I do try and be as loyal to my Prime Minister and his Government as much as I truly can, as my whips know. But I also have to be true to myself and to my constituents, as a whole and entirely. I have spent much time talking and listening to various representatives from our region during this past year since I was re-elected in December 2019, much as I did in the years before and from when I first stood in Lincoln in 2005 and had the honour and privilege to ‘Put Lincoln First’ as the Member of Parliament in 2010.
I fully understand the threat that Covid-19 is to many vulnerable residents of my constituency, and the effect that the virus can have on our public services, including our NHS both locally and across our nation. However, as we now enter another month of lockdown – the third lockdown and 10th months since this crisis began — I also cannot in all good conscience ignore the damaging consequences that lockdowns have on the well-being of our society – of all ages. This includes the hugely negative implications for many individual’s psychological well-being and economic security – both of which can have grave consequences for general health. Additionally, the mental well-being of school pupils is not fully being considered in my view with regard to school closures, and the decision to cancel the various external exams later in this school year. In the 21st Century surely we could, and should, have made provisions to ensure these went ahead.
There are various reasons for my vote yesterday evening, but especially as a libertarian Conservative, who holds the freedom loving values of the United Kingdom close to my heart, any proposal for restrictions on civil liberties is an extremely difficult decision to make and agree with – especially one which after ten months is extended with no checks for a further three months – a quarter of another year. That is not democracy as I know it. I am, as I have repeatedly said, particularly concerned about the negative economic impact on closed businesses, and those individuals and small businesses struggling to survive and stay open physically or virtually, be they small or medium enterprises, and especially concerned by the increasing lost days of classroom education and the consequences of these outcomes for some of my most isolated constituents’ overall mental wellbeing.
I fully understand the threat Covid-19 represents. I do hope that my constituents, the wider Lincolnshire electorate, and of course our fellow citizens of our nation follow the guidelines and laws as now laid out by our Prime Minister and Government. But with proposals for such sweeping and profound restrictions to individual freedoms, as were put before MPs yesterday, and specifically with reference to the extended time period, I had no choice in my mind and belief, but to vote against the retrospective Statutory Instrument that was in front of us in the House of Commons last night. However, I again acknowledge that I was on the losing side. So, I unequivocally urge all my constituents to follow the Government guidance as is now in place.
As we enter the critical stage of vaccinations, there is light at the end of the tunnel for this crisis. Together, we will win the war against Covid-19, and I of course do hope that this is much sooner rather than later.
And before signing off, if any business, or individual resident or business owner, has any enquiries, points or issues to raise, or would like my assistance, please do not hesitate to call, email or write to:
House of Commons. Westminster, London. SW1A 0AA