I’m sure we are all looking forward to a time when ‘Covid-19’ does not crop up in every conversation. But after an extremely tough couple of years, defined by the pandemic, I think it is important to mention the incredible milestones that we have reached along the way.
Just over a year ago, the UK was administering its first vaccine to 90-year old Margaret Keenan in Coventry. This was a momentous occasion that I remember clearly: a moment of relief and hope, but just the start of a long road ahead in the fight against the virus. Since then, our heroic NHS has administered almost 140 million jabs across the UK, saving countless lives and relieving pressure on our hospitals.
And we are about to hit our greatest milestone yet: the first country to be fully free of Covid rules. This has been the Government’s ambition throughout the pandemic- to reach a position where it is safe enough to shift the balance from state mandated rules and restrictions, in favour of encouraging personal responsibility. We are of course the party of individual freedom and limited government.
The virus has not yet been defeated, and we must continue to be careful, and encourage people to get vaccinated, as this is our only way out. But we need to start looking into the future. To get our confidence back as individuals and as a country.
Despite an economically uncertain couple of years, our economy has bounced back stronger than ever. We have made historic free trade deals, creating endless opportunities for UK business. We now have the fastest economic growth in the G7, and have more people in work than before the pandemic began. This is a huge achievement, and is a testament to the resilience of businesses, and the dedicated financial support provided to businesses by the Government: From Furlough to Statutory Sick Pay, ARG Grants, Business rates relief and Restart Grants. I am sure we would find ourselves in a very different position had these not been made available.
And now on to personal news, it’s been white a whirlwind start of the year for me! Just before Christmas, I accepted the role of Minister for Europe and had a very busy but interesting couple of months in talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol and European Trade negotiations, as well as discussions over Ukraine.
My time in the FCDO was unexpectedly cut short, as I was asked by the Prime Minister to take up the reins as Government Chief Whip. I look forward to working with colleagues from across the parliamentary party to help deliver on our manifesto commitments.
I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking to many of you over the past few weeks, whether on your doorstep in Daventry or over a cuppa at one of my coffee mornings. As always, if you have anything you would like to speak to me about, please do get in touch by email (firstname.lastname@example.org
) or come to one of my monthly coffee mornings (I publish details of these on my website or Facebook page so do keep a look out). The next one will be held at Braunston Village Hall on 5th March.