There was a famous old exchange in a court between a judge, who pompously pronounced “Your client is no doubt aware that Vigilantibus, et not dormientibus, jura subveniunt?”; to which the shrewd barrister responded in his Yorkshire accent: “In Barnsley, m'lud, they speak of little else.”
Coronavirus has achieved that status in Parliament, the media and across the country. I am doing a bit of self-isolating not because I am infectious, but because I simply don’t want to catch it before my hip operation next Thursday, for which I can hardly wait. I am back in Wiltshire now, and plan to stay here until after the operation (and the very necessary physio thereafter.) So you won’t see me appearing on the Parliament Channel for a while, but I will be working from my Constituency office, and so won’t be slacking during convalescence. (Although my staff have very kindly given me a 1000-piece jigsaw of the Palace of Westminster which looks fiendishly complicated, to keep me quiet while I’m laid up).
The Government seems to me to be handling the Coronavirus crisis well - seeking to delay the peak so that hospitals have cleared their winter patients before it really hits. So we all need to take the precautions they advise and the whole thing will be over by the Summer. However, I do know how concerned people quite naturally are, and will later today send out a separate Column on the crisis and my views on it all.
The Budget and its £30 Billion Coronavirus fund, together with the Bank of England base rate cut will help. Rarely have I heard a Budget so widely acclaimed. The new Chancellor did a brilliant job - hard to believe that he’s only been in Parliament for 5 minutes.
I plough my own furrow. I rebelled against the Government over the idiotic decision to hand over our vital 5G Network to Chinese Government monopoly, Huawei. 35 other Tories rebelled, and I am glad to say that number included all of those who really understand national security. I was hauled in for a jotter-down-the trousers interview with the PM and Chief Whip over it; which, as you might imagine had no effect on my decision whatsoever. But it may not have enhanced my career prospects. Never mind - more time to spend in North Wilts.
My last job in Parliament until we all come back after Easter was to host a Westminster Hall debate on various aspects of the appalling murder of 17-year-old Ellie Gould in Calne in May last year. I have been doing a good bit of work with her parents, Matt and Carole, over the (far too lenient) sentence on her murderer; victim support and in a variety of other ways. Ellie’s three school friends, Ellie Welling, Harriet Adams and Tilda Offen are campaigning for better relationships training; and they have now come up with the very sound notion of basic self-defence training for all in schools up and down the county. The Minister’s response by letter was cautiously encouraging but made the point that schools must decide their own curriculum. So I thought I would call a debate in Parliament ion the subject, at least in part to secure some wider publicity for this thoroughly good idea.
Coronavirus, the Budget - these are great and important clouds swirling around the Westminster landscape. But in North Wiltshire it is self-defence in schools, the detail of the Budget and so many other day-to-day problems. They talk of little else.