JANUARY 2021: News from your local MP
MP Darren Jones
Your Champion in Bristol:
THIS past year has been like none other, with hardship and sacrifices for so many and a relentless and exhausting workload for our key workers. I’m starting the New Year with optimism about the year ahead and gratitude for the incredible efforts made by so many, including new community volunteers and leaders. I’m reassured to know that whatever we face in Bristol in the year ahead, we do so together.
I know this Christmas will not have been what many of us planned, and that the last- moment changes will have been so difficult for all of us hoping to share the holidays together as normal. Please know that the time spent away from loved ones will have saved lives at a crucial time. I too had to cancel my three-household Christmas, not least because I had been working in London. Grandparents living alone and young children not being able to see their families for so long is difficult, but with every vaccine that’s injected we get a step closer to some form of normality.
My heart goes out to schoolteachers too, who were landed with the task of building a mass testing system for students just as the last term ended. Parents will know how hard our schools have been working to help give our children the best possible education in the most difficult of times, and this continuation of chaotic and irresponsible messaging from Government made that even more difficult.
All our problems to one side, I’m delighted that some of the world’s first Covid vaccinations have been rolled out at Southmead Hospital and at local GP surgeries, with plans to more widely distribute the vaccine. Vaccines will be distributed in a priority order set by Government and the NHS will be in touch with you when it’s your turn. I’ll be some way down the list, but I’ll be delighted to take it and to encourage others to do so too.
Your Voice in Parliament:
At the time of writing, Parliament is in recess and we have unanswered questions on both the new variant of Covid and our future relationship with Europe. The border crisis for deliveries between Dover and Calais was a rehearsal for delays and showed the Government’s preparations for Brexit related friction were not up to scratch.
Even though Ministers refused to recall Parliament, I was able to use my powers as a Committee Chairman to call an emergency session before Christmas Day to hear what was happening on the ground, and it wasn’t great. With over 4000 trucks and vans delayed, perishable foods going off (both coming into the UK and going into Europe), distressing conditions for drivers and significant costs for business it’s clear that we’re going to have a bumpy start to 2021 even if a Brexit deal is agreed by the time you’re reading this. These costs will, I’m afraid, trickle down to the price that we pay for goods and we’re expecting delays for some time.
I don’t yet know whether I will get to vote on what happens next on Brexit but I’m grateful to the significant number of you who took part in my Brexit consultation event and survey. If there is a genuine threat of a no deal Brexit, I will vote for whatever the alternative is. But if there is a deal and it looks like it’ll get through comfortably on Conservative votes then I won’t endorse it either. I’ve always been clear that I think Brexit is the wrong thing for our country and the deal being negotiated by Ministers is so thin that it’s near to no deal anyway. I cast my one vote on behalf of 100,000 of you. Balancing my promises to you at the last election and what I think is best for the country, and assuming a no deal Brexit is taken off the table, I’m likely to abstain (primarily because voting against would be to vote for having no deal). I just can’t endorse a direction of travel for the UK that I fundamentally disagree with.
Irrespective of what happens, we’ve had such a difficult year in 2020 that 2021 must signal the start of getting our country back on its feet. Dealing with Covid and Brexit, I will be doing all I can to ensure the Government provides the investment and leadership required to pick the country back up again ready to face the future, with an optimism and hope for renewal and modernisation.
My commitment to you is to continue to give you direct access to what’s going on, to listen to your feedback and to be your champion in Bristol and your voice in Parliament. I will continue to hold my fortnightly Q&As on Facebook and my monthly coffee mornings on Zoom and my telephone surgeries. If you need to get in touch, just drop me an e-mail on email@example.com or find my other details on www.darren-jones.co.uk.