It’s with something of a sigh of relief that Parliament has finally risen for a (much shorter than usual) Summer Recess. It really has not been working properly, and I for one am glad to see the back of it, in the fervent hope that when we start again on 1 September the House and the Palace as a whole may be able to operate something closer to normally. We shall see.
What a rollercoaster 18 months we have had. Remember Brexit? Theresa May? 21 Tories losing the whip, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the leadership battle and Boris’s victory, the General Election and Tory triumph? It has all been blotted out by the Covid Pandemic which has been our overwhelming political and personal fixation for the best part of six months now. Add to all of that Boris’s near-death experience; his engagement, the new baby, moving into Downing Street and a whole host of other things. What an astonishing 18 months it has been.
All of that risks obscuring our successful delivery of Manifesto promises- on the biggest ever cash boost for the NHS, on recruiting 13,500 more nurses and 7,800 more doctors, with 40 new hospitals and upgrades to 20 more, and £200 million for new cancer screen machines. We have kept our promise on more police officers – recruiting 4,000 more officers; on schools funding – increasing funding for every child, with £14.4 billion over three years and set out a £1 billion rebuilding programme to transform schools in every region of the country. We have kept our promise to boost local transport connections – confirming a revolution in local transport, backed by £5 billion to improve bus and cycle lines. We have started reversing the Beeching cuts and announced funding to fix 50 million potholes. We have kept our promise to help those who need it most – giving the lowest paid a pay rise by providing the largest ever cash increase in the National Living Wage, and giving inflation-busting pay rises to teachers, prison officers, doctors and other vital public sector workers. Not a bad record for a Government fighting the pandemic and doing its best to keep the economy on track.
And despite everything, and ignoring the conflicting advice and complaints of the armchair epidemiologists, we have done our best to battle against the worst pandemic the world has ever seen. Sunday’s announcement of a closure of Spain, and compulsory quarantine for all returning from their holidays has been greeted by some as being too little too late; by others as an over-reaction. Some are puzzled about the travel ban to the Mainland, but not to the Balearics or Canary Islands; others welcome that slight easing to take account of regional differences within a country. I welcome the Government’s decisive action to prevent a second spike in the UK, and hope they will continue to be tough and decisive in the future.
The weather is a bit mixed, but staycationing has a great deal to recommend it; and will do much to help our embattled pub and hotel and B and B industry. I will be staying at my own very nice Cotswold Farm B and B near Corsham, at least partly because I am in isolation prior to my second hip operation on 19 August. So by the time the House is back on 1 September I should be leaping around like a spring lamb thanks to the genius of British medical science. Poor old Philippa’s the one who will get no holiday from the catering and laundry department. She will deserve a decent break as soon as all of this (hip and Covid) is over, and I promise that she will get it.