As the Government asks us to follow tightened regulations once again, it’s vital that public confidence is maintained. Given the last week in politics, this is a real worry.
The Omicron variant is a wake-up call to us all that the pandemic is not over, and we need to act with speed to bolster our defences to keep the virus at bay. The number of cases has leapt from just 42 last week to 817 today.
It remains vital that we wear masks in public spaces to help keep one another safe and get our vaccinations as soon as they are available. Having met with the Chief Executive and the Interim Chair of University Hospitals Birmingham yesterday, I know that Birmingham’s vaccination rate is not high enough. So, we all need to encourage those around us to come forward for their first, second and booster jabs as soon as they can.
However, the Government could also do so much more. Fixing sick pay, improving ventilation, and properly utilising anti-virals are crucial to ensuring we reduce the spread of this deadly disease.
It is also an important reminder that no one is safe until all of us are safe. Ministers haven’t met the commitments that were made this summer at the G7 to get the vaccine rolled out to other parts of the globe and this simply isn’t good enough. The Government must do all they can to ensure that countries with cases of this variant are given the support they need - whether that’s with genomics, with testing or with their vaccination programmes.
Anger over Christmas Parties at Number 10
This week my inbox has been flooded by constituents telling me that, despite their politics, they are so angry with the actions of this Government. While so many of us have been following the rules, it’s becoming clear that those who are supposed to be leading our country have not.
As legislators, it is vital that we set a standard and follow the rules we put in place. But, by leading the cover up of a party in Downing Street, Boris Johnson has diminished his moral authority and ability to lead the country in a time of crisis.
489 people died of COVID on the day of the Downing Street Party and with many making huge personal sacrifices – the Prime Minister should be ashamed his Downing Street couldn’t even follow the rules.
The British people do not ask their leaders to uphold standards that are higher than them, but they do expect leaders to follow rules set for everyone else - to lead by example. This is an issue of leadership. The Prime Minister has failed.
Now, Labour has called on Boris Johnson to hand over everything his government knows about parties in Downing Street to the Metropolitan Police.
Learning from the tragic death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes
Like everyone who followed Arthur's case, I was horrified to hear of the abuse he suffered which led to his murder. As a former front line children's services manager in Birmingham, this case really affected me because we would not ordinarily have such detail of the abuse. The CCTV, voice recordings and messages paint a picture of Arthur’s world. Nothing can bring him back and I wish more could have been done to save his precious life.
It angers me when I think of all the services the Government have cut. We need to have an honest conversation on what this means for our most vulnerable children. Services are stretched to the absolute limit particularly early years which provided vital support to many families.
However, we must learn the lessons from this case. Arthur was under Solihull council which is why I wrote to Birmingham Children's Trust at the outset to ask them exactly what action they were taking in respect of those children who had not returned to school during Covid. What work they were doing with schools to identify the cohort of children who have been absent for long periods or not returned at all. It’s also unclear what advice the DfE provided to schools in respect of those children that had not returned to school.
It is vital that we get answers to these important questions, and I will now also be asking how many children that have been absent from school, have had a home visit and have been seen alone if appropriate?
No one should have to endure the abuse and torture that Arthur went through. We know that a wave of domestic abuse has been cast in the shadow of the pandemic, and we must recognise that children are victims too.
Yesterday, I took part in ITV’s Central Lobby where this was a key issue discussed. If you would like to hear more, you can watch the full show in the link below.
Last week I let you know about the toy donations we were collecting for children at Christmas as part of Birmingham Live’s #BrumWish campaign. It was fantastic to visit Edgbaston Stadium and see first-hand the generosity from all those who made a donation.
I was really pleased to see Birmingham Live, local organisations and of course, our Labour Party volunteers coming together to see that, at the very least, we can ensure every child in Birmingham has a gift this Christmas.
Finally, I was really proud to see the Harborne and Quinton Labour branches donating over 100 toys to the cause. It truly shows the community spirit and support from residents at Christmas.