We live through the most extraordinary times as, in a matter of weeks, our lives have been turned upside down in an attempt to slow down the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19). Whilst most people accept the need for the lockdown and are trying to make the best of it, many who email me are understandably becoming impatient and want some or all restrictions lifted. I write with the advantage of being a new recruit to the ministerial ranks and I have had a chance to see how decisions are being made. Having attended several Cobra and numerous other ministerial meetings, I can honestly say decisions are being taken purely on the basis of what independent scientific experts say will save the maximum number of lives.
Further, I believe that every one of those meetings (certainly all the ones I have been on ) had ministers from the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Four governments represented by three of the largest political parties (and some smaller ones) are working together in a way that I have certainly not seen in more than 20 years of politics. There is no doubt the lockdown is having a terrible impact on the economy but saving lives and the NHS must come first. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and as soon as it is safe to do so the restrictions will be lifted and some sense of normality will resume.
My office is trying to continue business as usual. As well as a huge number of enquiries from people and businesses affected by the lockdown, we are dealing with casework on a variety of issues from the cancellation of the Severn Express and X14 bus services between Newport, Chepstow and Bristol to the change in franchise for Abergavenny Post Office. If you need to get in touch on any issue, please do so. We are all working from home so email is best: firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite the seriousness, I hope we can still laugh. The first ever online ministerial questions was to the Wales Office - myself and Simon Hart. I looked forward to a small walk-on role in the 700-year-old history of Parliament. Instead, there was a saga involving two hi-tech communications vans that didn’t communicate and a parliamentary sound system that was sounding like an echo chamber minutes beforehand. Seconds before starting the internet went down. Desperate officials had no idea who, if anybody, would be able to answer the questions. In the end , Simon had to do the lot. My chance of making history was gone!
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 29 April 2020 and the Abergavenny Chronicle on 30 April 2020*