This week we saw Dominic Cummings give one of the most explosive and revealing interviews that exposed the abject failure of the Tory Government to manage the Covid pandemic. A series of extremely serious allegations were made, including Boris Johnson not taking the pandemic seriously from the very beginning and Matt Hancock repeatedly lying to both Ministers and the public. There are now serious questions that need to be answered and that can only properly be done by a full, public inquiry into the Covid pandemic that should start as soon as possible.
Last week we also saw Melrose reject an alternative business proposal that would have seen the GKN plant on the Chester Road remain open. The news came as a shock to the 519 strong workforce who worked hard to develop the alternative business plan with their trade union Unite. We will now step up the campaign to save the factory and we will not stop until the future of the plant has been secured.
There are also updates on the ceasefire between Israel and Palestine, our efforts to tackle dangerous and inconsiderate drivers, and our local Volunteers’ Week events.
Dominic Cummings Revelations
On Wednesday, Dominic Cummings gave 7 hours’ worth of evidence to a joint session of the Commons Heath, and Science and Technology committees in Parliament. The revelations he made about the Government’s handling of the Covid crisis were shocking and now Boris Johnson and his Ministers have many questions to answer.
It appears that Boris Johnson failed to take the crisis seriously from the very beginning and it led to a complacent attitude towards the virus. In what may be the most shocking evidence given, Cummings claimed that Boris Johnson suggested that Chris Whitty inject him with Covid on live TV to show the public the virus was nothing to be scared of – proving the careless manner with which the Prime Minister was treating the situation at the onset of the crisis.
From Ministers going on skiing trips to the Prime Minister failing to attend 5 COBRA meetings while the virus was spreading rapidly across the world, it is clear that the Government felt this virus wouldn’t impact us here in the UK – how wrong they were.
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, also came under severe criticism for his role in the dismal failure of the Government to control the virus. Cummings made the remarkable claim that Matt Hancock should have been fired 15-20 times during the course of the pandemic for ‘lying’ to Ministers about the crisis. The most damaging was the claim that he promised Ministers hospital patients would be tested before being discharged to care homes, something Cummings claims is “complete nonsense”.
Over 30,000 care home residents have died since the start of the pandemic, many of those were the result of outbreaks in care homes that can be directly traced to residents contracting Covid in hospital and bringing into the home. If this allegation is true, it is utterly appalling, and many lives were lost as a direct result.
The Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic has come under scrutiny for some time and these revelations will only add to the growing criticism and pressure on Ministers to give the families who have lost loved ones the answers they deserve.
The public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic
In his evidence session, Dominic Cummings claimed that “tens of thousands of people died, who didn’t need to die” – something that came as no surprise to bereaved families who have been calling for a public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid-19 for almost a year.
The extremely serious allegations made about the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the need for the public inquiry to start as soon as possible in order for us to learn what has gone wrong and to prevent more families losing loved ones in a potential third wave of the virus this winter.
It is welcome the Government have finally committed to holding the public inquiry, but it is simply too late to start it in spring 2022. The inquiry must begin as soon as possible, once all restrictions are lifted, and it must include a rapid review phase to allow lessons to be learnt quickly. This is the only way we can make every effort to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated and more lives needlessly lost.
The battle to save GKN
Last week, Melrose rejected a detailed and viable alternative business plan put forward by a team of union officers, senior management at the plant, shop stewards and me that would save the historic GKN plant on the Chester Road. The company terminated the consultation period and informed GKNs 519 workers at the plant that they intend to proceed with closure.
This decision is devastating for the 519 GKN workers at the Chester Road plant that has produced for the automotive industry for over half a century.
GKN Chester Road is vital, not just to Erdington and the West Midlands economy, but also the whole automotive industry in the UK. If the plant were to close, it would be a betrayal of the 519 workers, of British automotive and the British national interest.
I will therefore be seeking urgent discussions with the chief executive of GKN and also the Government, who have publicly indicated their commitment to offer support to allow the plant to remain open.
The 519 GKN workers and Unite the union have my full and continuing support.
It is welcome there has been a ceasefire declared between Hamas and Israel. The escalating conflict was costing innocent lives and we now need the international community to work collaboratively to bring a lasting peace to the region.
But we need a change in policy from the Israeli Government and for them to recognise the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. It is wrong that Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank are being treated as second class citizens and denied access to basic amenities and healthcare.
We must also see an end to the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah must stop and I condemn attempts by Israeli settlers to take control of Palestinian homes. East Jerusalem has been illegally annexed – Israel is the occupying power, which creates obligations that the Israeli Government is not meeting. Israel must comply with international law.
Moving forward, the entire international community must reaffirm our commitment to a two-state solution. Only then will the Palestinian people truly be free.
Tackling dangerous and inconsiderate drivers
There is a growing problem locally of dangerous and inconsiderate drivers putting lives at risk and causing significant disruption to local residents.
I have been contacted by a number of concerned constituents about cars travelling at dangerous speeds at various locations around Erdington. We have run a number of campaigns on this issue in the past, including changing the law so driving bans begin only after offenders have left prison after the death of Sarah Clark, and calling for ‘Poppy’s Law’ after the death of Poppy Arabella Clarke which would mean medical professionals would be legally required to report those who are medically unfit to drive to the DVLA.
However, speeding and dangerous driving continues to plague our local communities so we must once again renew our efforts to tackle this serious issue.
I am also aware of the rise of inconsiderate drivers parking illegally causing disruption to local residents. This is a particular issue around schools with parents blocking drives and footpaths when picking up and dropping off children. One local resident who contacted me about this issue is a nurse who has been unable to get off her drive on multiple occasions, making her late for her shift. It is simply unacceptable for our front-line workers to be prevented from doing their crucial work by inconsiderate drivers.
Today, I met with the Parents, Teachers and Friends Association Road Safety Group from St Barnabas School, the Police, and representatives of Birmingham City Council to discuss speeding and parking on Spring Lane. It was an extremely constructive meeting and we are determined to work together to tackle this growing problem. Going forward, we will be working on a number of initiatives that send an unmistakeable message to drivers that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
Volunteers’ Week 2021
Next week is Volunteers’ Week and to celebrate the fantastic work done by volunteers locally, the Erdington Covid-19 Taskforce are putting on a series of events to showcase volunteering in Erdington and offer people a chance to find out more about how they can get involved and volunteer in their local community.
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen our local community rise to the challenge of supporting those in need through the crisis. Hundreds of volunteers from across Erdington have stepped forward to help others in their time of need, helping people with things ranging from delivering food parcels, shopping for those shielding, to health and wellbeing support.
Volunteers’ Week 2021 is a chance for us to showcase the fantastic work done by volunteers throughout the past year. The community spirit that has been demonstrated is something we must look to build upon going forward.
If you are interested finding out more about volunteering in Erdington, then please come along to one of the events next week. You can find all the details below!
As always, if you or anyone you know needs support throughout this difficult period, then please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington