Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
The announcement of new lockdown measures at the weekend has understandably caused worry about what lies ahead over the winter months.
These measures are necessary – no one wants to see a repeat of the scenes we saw earlier this year.
But I understand the impact this will have on families and businesses. What makes it worse is that it didn’t have to be this way.
Weeks ago, Labour called for a short ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown over the half-term. Earlier action would have saved more lives, stopped infection rates from getting out of hand, and helped businesses open up quicker.
It was even what the government’s own scientific advisers were telling them to do.
Rather than heed this advice and take early and effective action, the Prime Minister ignored and mocked it.
The Chancellor also bragged about how he blocked a circuit breaker.
Yet thanks to him, we are now entering a longer, more costly national lockdown – one that could have a devastating impact on local jobs and businesses.
Not for the first time, he’s scrambling to pull together economic support to deal with problems of his own making.
Businesses need to be able to plan ahead, but it’s impossible for them to do so amid the Chancellor’s endless chopping and changing.
We still don’t know what will happen to the furlough scheme beyond December, or what kind of support areas will receive if they still face restrictions after lockdown, especially as we have already faced tougher restrictions for longer.
And there are still huge gaps, like the lack of support for many self-employed people who have not received anything since this crisis began.
This chaotic approach is risking lives and costing jobs.
We really need to see a proper plan if we’re to avoid a repeat of the 1980s, when regions like ours were scarred by unemployment.
And the Government must urgently fix Test, Trace, and Isolate, so we can finally get a grip on this virus.
This is vital as many people wonder if they’ll be able to see those closest to them this Christmas.
Making sure this happens lies in the Government’s hands. It’s up to them to make sure the sacrifices we have all made will be worth it.
Bridget’s article was originally published in the Sunderland Echo.