As the Prime Minster starts to lay out some very baby steps towards ending Lockdown, we are all quite naturally beginning to turn our thinking towards what it will all look like post-Covid. When will we go back to work/school, when can we visit our relatives, when can we go the pub for a pint, or the restaurant for a decent (English) steak? All of those are, of course, perfectly reasonable questions, which will become increasingly clear as the weeks wear on.

Yet without diminishing any of them, can I suggest a slightly different psychological approach to Covid? Surely we now have a great opportunity to ask not “what will it look like?” but: “what do we want it to look like?” In a very real sense, for the first time since 1945, we have a blank sheet of paper in front of us on which we can paint a picture of the Britain we all would truly like to see. It’s the Covid equivalent of the old JFK quote “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” What changes might there now be to our way of life - for the benefit of us all and of the generations to come after us? Here are a few ideas.

There are lessons to be learned from Lockdown about our way of life, family life, work/life balance. We can now see the great benefits of a slower pace than we have been indoctrinated to believe we need. If we can work from home we should do so, (and incidentally help the environment by cutting down on commuting.) There seems to be good evidence that many of us work better and harder and more effectively from home. I suspect that employers are finding greater productivity and of course foresee a reduction in workplace overheads as a result.

I hope that we have reminded ourselves of the importance (albeit with stresses and strains) of family life. Eating together, playing together, being self-sufficient within our own houses. I know that we have come to appreciate the outdoors, personal exercise and Mother Nature. We have been reminded in general both about what life used to be like in previous times; and we have been shown what we ought to want life to be like. Slower, friendlier, more sociable.

Second, we have been reminded about Community. It’s all got to do with the Dunkirk spirit. It’s about helping each other out; about volunteering; and being truly grateful to the people who make such great sacrifices for all of us - in particular the NHS, care workers, police, fire and ambulance, the armed services. How lucky we are in this country. We must do more to appreciate and preserve these great national services.

And third, Covid-19 has reminded us all how fragile life is. It can be snatched away from us at a moment’s notice. And that, I think, teaches us to appreciate the little things that are so good in life - family, friends, laughter and love. These are the things which truly matter- not money, not status, not power, not belongings. These things are transitory. Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is love.

So as Covid passes - and we all hope and pray that it is starting to do just that - let us ask not what others can do for us, but what we can do for them. Let us value the things which truly matter, of which we have been reminded over the last few months. Let us preserve the quality of life, the better environment, the new experiences and emotions which Lockdown has taught us. Let us not ask: “What’s the future going to look like?”, so much as “what do we truly want it to look like,” and “what can I personally do to make sure it happens like that?”

Britain can be a much better place post-Covid, and we can be better - and nicer - people all round.

North Wiltshire has recorded the third highest number of constituents on the free ‘democratic access’ tours offered to show people around Parliament and learn about the history of the Palace of Westminster.

746 constituents from North Wiltshire came to visit Parliament on this free tour in 2019. Only Cities of London and Westminster and East Ham had more with 801 and 750 respectively.

James Gray MP welcomed this news and stated:

“I was delighted to hear this news and to see that we were top of the non-London seats. I greatly enjoy welcoming my constituents to Parliament and enabling them to learn more about the Palace of Westminster. The tour guides are extremely well informed and offer a great insight into the workings and history of this wonderful building. I hope that when the current crisis passes and they reopen for visits, we will be able to welcome many more people to the Houses of Parliament.” 

The Nation is stunned this morning by the news that the PM has been moved into an Intensive Care Unit bed in St Thomas’s Hospital. We should be clear. ICU beds are in very short supply, and you don’t get one unless you are seriously ill. He has been given Oxygen, but so far as we know at this stage he is not on ventilation.

This is serious news on a whole variety of levels. It will be deeply unpleasant for Boris himself. It will of course be desperately worrying for his family. We think especially of Carrie who has had symptoms herself, and who is of course expecting their child. What a terrible time for them all.

It’s a worry for the Nation too. We know that he is but ‘First Amongst Equals’; but he is a powerful figurehead. It is he who takes the ultimate decisions and gives direction and energy to the government- both Ministers and civil servants. He is the strong man to whom the whole government looks. I am sure that Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Rishi Sunak and the whole team will carry on doing a great job. And the Government has been split into four ‘cells’ exactly so that it can be guaranteed to continue no matter what happens to any individual. So I have absolutely no worries whatsoever that the Government of Britain will plough ahead fighting this terrible virus no matter what happens at the top of it. (And never forget that Churchill was critically ill for part of the Second World War.)

Boris has had a turbulent 12 months. This time last year he was a backbencher with his career behind him. Since then he went through the bruising leadership battle; won a magnificent victory in the General Election; carried out his promise to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and established a strong and dynamic government pressing ahead with a wide variety of novel policies. To be struck down in this way is ironic after a most powerful and successful year. But perhaps the two are not unconnected. I know Boris very well. (Inter alia I was his first whip when elected in 2001). And I know of his massive personal energy and dynamism. He is a workaholic, and can well be argued to have sacrificed his own health in support of the Nation.

So no matter what your political opinions; no matter what your personal view of Boris Johnson, I know that you will join with me and the whole Nation in wishing him God speed to a full recovery to his robust best health.

Get well soon, Boris. We are all with you.

 

 

On the advice of officials I have decided to stop holding face-to-face advice surgeries to try to contain the spread of COVID-19. I will, however, still be very much available to assist with any constituency concerns or queries. Simply fill in the ‘Contact James’ form on this website, or send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  detailing the issue and I will deal with it in much the same way as during an advice surgery.

Please click on the following useful link for the most up to date guidance and advice from Wiltshire Council about COVID-19: http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/public-health-coronavirus