The Speaker and Parliamentary authorities have done great work for 12 months or so keeping some kind of Parliament alive. It hasn’t been how I would like it and it probably isn’t even fulfilling its basic task of holding the Government to account. But last March at the beginning of the first lockdown, we really had no idea about what Coronavirus meant. Was it going to be a plague threatening the lives of the entire nation? Or was it going to be little worse than a bad bout of flu? Opinions have ranged backwards and forwards ever since. And historians will no doubt enjoy analysing what Britain got right or wrong, whether Sweden were right to try for herd immunity and why the EU’s vaccine procurement process seems to have been so flawed. (Is it not astonishing to see Germany apparently buying vaccines from Putin’s Russia? I think I might be reluctant to have that particular vaccine pumped into my veins.)
At all events, the true meaning of Easter must be one of hope. Easter Sunday and the Resurrection is the ultimate symbol of overcoming terrible times. Even nature has cast aside the filthy weather of this last winter and the daffodils and lambs gambolling in the fresh green grass symbolise an end to the past and hope for a bright future. The magnificent vaccination programme in the UK and the sharply improving figures for illness and death we all hope symbolises an end to the nightmare and a fresh start.
Parliament is on its Easter recess which ends on the Tuesday, 13 April, after which I very much hope it will start to get back to normal. My wonderful staff have been working from home for 12 months which must have been quite fun for a time, but will have got a bit boring after a while. So my plan - if the regulations permit it - is for us all to be back in the office in Parliament from 13 April.
Locally, I have not been allowed to hold my regular surgeries nor to fulfil the hectic round of visits and events which I am used to. Again, I hope that action packed Fridays and Saturdays in North Wiltshire will be allowed to start quite soon, and at all events by freedom day which, of course, coincides with the mid-summer Solstice at Stonehenge. So please do start asking me to any events that you might be planning after that time. The evidence is good enough for us to plan for the best, albeit being ready for the worst should it happen.
The worst would of course be a sharp increase in disease and any kind of further lockdown beyond 21 June. The two ways we can ensure that that does not happen are: first, by maintaining reasonable precautions, wearing masks and keeping away from each other as much as possible. Act sensibly and we can keep this disease under control, at least here in Britain. And second, with the virus apparently raging more or less out of control only 22 miles away in France and beyond, let us accept that overseas travel simply is not possible and that anyone who tries to find their way around the rules to sneak a holiday overseas is simply irresponsible and unfair to the rest of us.
The fresh start is just around the corner. So let’s not wreck it now.
With my warmest best wishes to you and yours, for a Happy Easter.