Was it really only 12 months ago that the WHO declared a Pandemic and the first Lockdown started? What a shock it all was, and how the months since have stretched out. Who would have believed that we would see almost 130,000 sad deaths in the UK, several million worldwide, that we would still be in lockdown 12 months later, shops and pubs closed, all international travel effectively banned? What a year it’s been, and we all hope we will never see another like it.
The previous 12 months had witnessed the Brexit negotiations and appalling turbulence in Parliament, the end of Theresa May and the rise of Boris, an Election (the second in two years); and a landslide victory for the Tories.
Then we had the final end of Brexit after some nail-biting last minute negotiations; its implementation and the start of our new life as a free trading country; the astonishing success of the vaccination programme perhaps highlighting how lucky we are to be free of the EU. It’s a 12 months which saw the end of Jeremy Corbyn but Labour’s disappointment with Keir Starmer; the total disappearance of the Lib Dems (can you remember who their leader is?); we saw a steady Budget by Rishi Sunak a couple of weeks ago, which was broadly welcomed by the City and the financial press alike, and some signs that the cost of Covid may not be quite as severe as the worst pessimists predicted. More recently we have had the most fundamental Review of our foreign, aid and defence policy in a generation; and now a root and branch review of immigration policy and our approach to illegal immigrants alongside genuine asylum seekers.
No-one can say that politics and public life have been dull for the last 24 months! But we’ve got through it; survived as a nation and a people, and in some ways are the better for it. What we need now is a period of calm stability. We need to see the gradual easing of lockdown, as our infections and hospitalisations and excess deaths reduce to zero; we need a total ban on travel overseas until such time as foreign countries can match our level of vaccination; we need a steady opening up of the economy; we need a return to normal life.
The overwhelming feeling is one of weariness. We have had too much excitement, too much volatility. Now what we need is stability, dullness……. The House will have finished its business soon after Easter, when we will Prorogue prior to a new Queen’s speech on 11 May. I hope that it is stuffed full of dull, worthy, uncontroversial (if important) bills which will make Britain a better place to live, but which will quite frankly bore us all silly. I want news bulletins to be packed with something other than politics and Covid.
We now need to steer the ship of state into clear blue waters, recover from our seasickness, give the crew a bit of shore-time and then we must put the old girl into dry dock for a welcome bit of refitting.