View from the house - What did you think of “Freedom Day”?
Barry Gardiner MP, Brent North
- Credit: PA Images
Was it champagne and party hats as you finally got back to work in person, Zoom calls consigned to the dustbin of Lockdown memorabilia?
Or was it a rather more frightening experience of a crushed tube carriage with the very people you thought most likely to be carriers, staunchly refusing to wear masks or social distance?
One thing you can count your blessings for – you were unlikely to run into the prime minister. In my job, it is something of an occupational hazard, but on Monday he was locked up and isolated from the rest of society. Sadly, this was not for any high crimes and misdemeanours, but because he had been pinged and had the “hardship” of isolation in his country retreat at Chequers! The last person to be forcibly confined at Chequers was Lady Mary Grey, the great-granddaughter of Henry VII who was imprisoned there for marrying without the sovereign’s consent. Perhaps they have more in common than we suspected!
Of course, this was not The Johnson’s intention when first he heard the Test and Trace App sound off in his pocket. No! “Rules”, he thought “are what WE decide for other people. Not things that WE observe ourselves.”
Have you noticed how The Johnson always seems to think in terms of the Royal WE? What is it Shakespeare says: “There is such divinity doth hedge a King, mere mortals do but peep at it! Well, it's obvious he regards us as the mere mortals and even issued a press release saying he had now been whisked into a special pilot scheme that let him avoid the rules.
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Thank goodness for the British public! It was your outrage that made him do the fastest U-turn in British Political history. Schools have broken up this week but so many teachers have spent the past year covering for colleagues whose class bubbles had tested positive. Hospital nurses have been covering shifts for colleagues who despite being double vaccinated and working every day on Covid wards have done the right thing when they were pinged. Their horrified astonishment and disgust achieved more than a dozen speeches in the House of Commons ever could.
I am pleased nightclubs, theatres and music venues have opened up. I am pleased not for my generation, but for young people who have suffered more than most whilst being less susceptible to hospitalisation. Their exams were disrupted, their university experience more like a prison and their ability to get into the jobs market was hugely curtailed.
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But I urge all young people to get vaccinated, and double jabbed as soon as possible. It is not just about protecting your parents and grandparents. You are actually doing it for yourself. Less transmission means fewer variants and less variants means less chance of a Covid that attacks young people as much as old.
Pop up vaccination centres have made it so easy now for everyone to get jabbed yet in Brent only 59pc of people have even had their first jab. This worries me. I see the infection rate rising. 50,000 new cases each day and 25 or 30 people dying each day. We need to break out of this cycle of lockdown and release, lockdown and release, with a strategy that genuinely protects and safety rules that everyone obeys. By his double standards, this prime minister has undermined public confidence and sent another message that says “who you are matters more than what you do.”
I hope that his time isolating in the comfort of Chequers will give him time for a period of reflection. Carry on as you are, prime minister, and we will be heading for a new peak in September and October just as schools are going back and students are off to college and university. Nothing could be more damaging to our nation’s health or to our country’s economy.