This week, the vast majority of Covid restrictions were lifted. There is now no limit to the number of people who can meet indoors or outdoors, the wearing of masks is no longer a requirement, and social distancing rules have been scrapped. This is despite a backdrop of rapidly rising cases across the country that runs the risk of vaccine resistant variants that would threaten the global vaccination effort. Once again, the Government’s recklessness is putting our Covid recovery at risk.

Boris Johnson’s handling of the Covid crisis has been thrown into question once again by Dominic Cummings’ shocking interview with the BBC. He made a number of startling allegations that suggest Boris Johnson simply did not take Covid seriously and people died as a result. The calls for a public inquiry into the handling of Covid to start immediately are growing ever stronger, and I raised this issue in Parliament yesterday.

I also published the results of my recent school survey that revealed worrying levels of underfunding that threaten the quality of education local children and young people will receive. It is clear the Government need to do far more to support our schools, who have done brilliant work in such difficult circumstances.

There are also updates on the cuts to international aid and the terrible abuse suffered by England footballers in the wake of the Euro 2020 final.

More on all of these topics below, but first for a quick announcements:


 

Dear Jack,

 

This week, the vast majority of Covid restrictions were lifted. There is now no limit to the number of people who can meet indoors or outdoors, the wearing of masks is no longer a requirement, and social distancing rules have been scrapped. This is despite a backdrop of rapidly rising cases across the country that runs the risk of vaccine resistant variants that would threaten the global vaccination effort. Once again, the Government’s recklessness is putting our Covid recovery at risk.

 

Boris Johnson’s handling of the Covid crisis has been thrown into question once again by Dominic Cummings’ shocking interview with the BBC. He made a number of startling allegations that suggest Boris Johnson simply did not take Covid seriously and people died as a result. The calls for a public inquiry into the handling of Covid to start immediately are growing ever stronger, and I raised this issue in Parliament yesterday.

 

I also published the results of my recent school survey that revealed worrying levels of underfunding that threaten the quality of education local children and young people will receive. It is clear the Government need to do far more to support our schools, who have done brilliant work in such difficult circumstances.

 

There are also updates on the cuts to international aid and the terrible abuse suffered by England footballers in the wake of the Euro 2020 final.

 

More on all of these topics below, but first for a couple of quick announcements:


 

Social Media

 

As always, I post weekly updates on Facebook and Twitter – if you haven’t already, like my Facebook Page and follow me on Twitter to get these updates and more information as we rise to the challenge of the Covid-crisis.


Key Updates

End of Covid Roadmap

 

On Monday, the vast majority of Covid restrictions in the UK came to an end. There is now no limit on gatherings indoors or outdoors, no requirement to wear a mask, and no rules around social distancing. This is despite a worrying increase in Covid cases over the past few weeks.

 

Without a doubt, the latest lifting of restrictions is a massive gamble by Boris Johnson. Last week, over 1,200 scientists warned that England’s Covid unlocking was a ‘threat to the world’ because the dramatic rise in cases brought with it the risk of new vaccine resistant variants developing. Should this happen, it would set the entire world’s vaccination efforts back to square one.

 

With every adult having been offered the vaccine, and the vast majority due to be double vaccinated by the end of September, now is not the time to take unnecessary risks. There is no doubt that a progressive unlocking is needed, but to remove all restrictions before the adult population is fully protected puts our Covid recovery at risk.

 

For example, the decision to remove the requirement to wear masks in confined spaces makes no sense. We know that wearing a mask is a simple and proven way to reduce the chance of transmission, so to leave it up to personal choice seems foolish. Wearing a mask may be a personal choice, but if you have Covid and pass it to someone else then you are removing their choice – they will have a potentially deadly virus that has killed over 120,000 people in the UK alone.

 

So I would urge everyone to respect others. Please wear a mask in confined spaces, and please continue to give people their distance. Even though restrictions have been lifted, Covid has not gone away. If we allow ourselves to be reckless then Covid may get out of control again – so please be careful.

 

Read more about the threat posed by England’s unlocking

 

Dominic Cummings’ Revelations about Boris Johnson

 

Dominic Cummings was at the heart of Boris Johnson’s Government while the Covid pandemic was unfolding through until November 2020. He played a central role in the Government’s handling of the crisis and was in the room for many key discussions. This makes the claims he made in an interview with the BBC this week truly shocking.

 

The accusation that he did not take Covid seriously from the start has been levelled at Boris Johnson before, but the WhatsApp messages Cummings released show the Prime Minister showed a callous disregard for the British public and their welfare. In the messages, he suggested that Covid was not as big a problem as was being made out because “The median age [of someone dying of Covid] is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy.” – he went on to say “So get Covid and live longer.”

 

I have been in regular contact with bereaved families who have lost loved ones to Covid, and I know how much these remarks will shock, appal, and hurt them. For the Prime Minister to essentially say the deaths from Covid didn’t matter because they were above the average life expectancy age is disgraceful. The actions of his Government directly led to many people dying who would not otherwise have died – and many families are left broken as a result. He should be ashamed.

 

The fact he was determined to go and see the Queen when he had been in close contact with people who had tested positive with Covid, potentially putting her life at risk, shows the lack of seriousness with which Boris Johnson was treating Covid at the start of the pandemic. With the most senior Minister in the country taking such a lax attitude towards Covid it is no wonder we have ended up with one of the highest death tolls in the world.

 

Boris Johnson’s handling of the Covid crisis has been a disaster. Now we know that it was not just incompetence that caused the scale of loss that we have seen, but a blatant disregard for the seriousness of Covid and the wellbeing of the British public he was elected to serve. A public inquiry into the Covid pandemic must now start as soon as possible to ensure that lessons are learnt and mistakes are never repeated again.

 

Public Inquiry into Covid-19

 

Bereaved families have been campaigning for a public inquiry into the handling of the Covid pandemic for many months. They are desperate to know if their loved one’s death was preventable and to prevent the same mistakes from being repeated so other families do not have to go through the tragedy they have suffered.

 

Yesterday, I spoke in Parliament and pressed the Government on the need to start the public inquiry immediately so lessons can be learnt. Spring 2022 is just too late – we need answers now.

 

We also must ensure that bereaved families are at the heart of the public inquiry. Their confidence in the inquiry is essential, and to ensure this the families must be consulted on both the chair and the terms of reference.

 

Furthermore, the implementation of the recommendations of the inquiry will be key. We have seen from inquiries in the past that the Government has too often been reluctant to act, this must not be the case here. We need to see real change that will ensure the mistakes that led to one of the highest death tolls in the world are never repeated.

 

Up to now, the Government have not backed their warm words up with action. Despite promising at the dispatch box in December to meet with bereaved families from Birmingham, the former Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to set a date for that meeting.

 

I am pleased the Minister agreed to meet with bereaved families and consult with them on the details of the inquiry, but they must now follow through on this promise and I intend to ensure they do.

 

Watch Jack raise the public inquiry in a debate in Parliament here

 

The Future of GKN

Since Melrose announced they were set to close the GKN plant on the Chester Road, I have been working closely with the 519 strong workforce and their trade union, Unite, in an effort to save this historic plant.

We have organised rallies in protest of the closure, secured debates in Parliament, and met with the Secretary of State for Business on a number of occasions. We have also developed a viable plan that offers an alternative to closure, which the workforce and Unite presented to Melrose. Shamefully, Melrose rejected this alternative and announced they were still planning to close the plant.

Our latest efforts to save GKN involved once again meeting with the Secretary of State to see what measures could be taken by Government to intervene and help secure the future of the plant, and I’m pleased that the Government have agreed to convene talks that will bring all parties to the table, including Melrose, to discuss viable alternatives to closure.

We must now move towards a solution that will save these highly skilled jobs at a plant that has sat at the heart of Erdington for over 50 years.

 

Read more about the campaign to save GKN here

 

My Erdington Schools Survey

Throughout the Covid crisis I have working closely with our local schools. They have done fantastic work supporting young people in the most difficult of circumstances, they have gone above and beyond and their efforts have been nothing short of heroic.

I have recently completed a survey of local secondary schools, primary schools and maintained nursery schools which has laid bare the scale of the crisis in school funding. From the results, it is clear that school budgets are closer to breaking point that ever before.

Without doubt, the education of our young people will be impacted by the lack of support from Government. Schools told me that in order to alleviate resource pressures, they are considering reducing the size of leadership teams (57%), reducing the number of teaching staff (79%) reducing the number of non-classroom support staff (79%), reducing investment in equipment for the school (71%), reducing their maintenance budgets (50%), reducing their CPD budgets (64%) and reducing non-educational services and extracurricular activities (43% and 21%).

Urgent action is required, therefore. Yet in spite of all the rhetoric, the Government is failing to back their promise to ‘level up’ education with the necessary action, leaving schools without the funding and resources they so desperately need.

Enough is enough. The Government must commit to funding schools properly in the autumn Comprehensive Spending Review. It is time to stop viewing education spending as a cost and to start seeing it as an investment in our children’s, and by extension our country’s, future.

 

Read more about my school survey here

 

Cut to International Aid

Last week, Parliament voted on whether to confirm the cut to international aid which would mean £4bn less support for some of the world’s poorest people. Despite a number of Tories opposing the cut, the Government managed to win the vote and the move was confirmed.

At a time where many of the world’s richest economies are increasing their international aid commitments, it is unforgiveable that the Government has decided to cut ours.

The move will mean that, at the most conservative of estimates, tens of thousands of people will die as a result, many of them women and children. As a global leader, we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable around the world wherever possible. The Government has turned its back on this duty.

Furthermore, the cut also diminishes Britain’s global influence as it turns us ever-more inward facing. The world will not look kindly on Britain withdrawing from our global role.

I remain completely opposed to the cut and will continue to urge the Government to reconsider the move and restore our international aid contribution to 0.7% of our GDP.

 

Racist abuse of England footballers

 

The England football team did brilliantly to reach the final of Euro 2020. They showed passion, commitment and determination to reach England’s first major tournament final since 1966. The leadership they showed on and off the pitch is to be admired, their unwavering commitment to equality and diversity should be applauded and they showed the very best of England.

 

If the England football team were the best of England, the racist abuse suffered by some of the players showed the very worst of England too.

 

After missing penalties in the penalty shootout that ultimately decided the final, 3 England players, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, all suffered terrible racist abuse online. These players gave their all for their country and were brave enough to step up in a crucial moment. They should be celebrated as heroes, not subjected to disgraceful abuse.

 

It is clear, as it has been for some time, that urgent action is needed to tackle racism and abuse online. For too long, people have been allowed to post horrific abuse online with impunity. Social media companies have not done anywhere near enough to tackle abuse on their platforms and the time has come for action.

 

We need Government to show leadership and act to stamp out this disgraceful behaviour. Words must be backed up with action – either social media companies are part of the solution, or the Government makes them.


As always, if you or anyone you know needs support throughout this difficult period, then please get in touch with me at jack.dromey.mp@parliament.uk.

Best wishes,

Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington

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