05.06.2020

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A look ahead (and a little behind)
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Dear lovely reader,

Not sure if you've noticed, but politics is back. We've come a long, long way from the days when Labour were supporting the lockdown measures and it was all quite cosy. 

I think perhaps it was the Cummings Affair (does anyone call it that?). At least that was a catalyst. 

Parliament is back, too, and the government is getting on with the legislative programme that it set out in the December election. That feels a long time ago now. 

All of which means that these emails will go back to being a weekly affair. Popping into your inbox at 10ish on a Friday morning. 

Peace and love,

Tatton

Virus matters


The days of absolute lockdown, in which we just had to stay home unless we were buying essentials, seem long ago.  In fact, only four weeks have passed. We're now allowed to socialise outside in every part of the UK. Rain this weekend, though, is pushing people back onto Zoom, or into the prohibited territory of meeting indoors and possibly spreading the virus to friends and loved ones. 

Hopes of a return to the ways of the past rely, at the moment, on a vaccine. There is talk of something maybe being ready by late September. There are a great many things that would have to go extremely right for that to be the case. Don't hold your breath. 

If it's not ready this Autumn, though, what next? Will we have to go outside if we want to have Christmas together? Will children go a whole year without being in school?  Will those without a current romantic attachment be able to be intimate with anyone ever again?
 


What happens now?


Until we get that vaccine, we just have to manage the virus. We're allowed to meet outside because the air flow means that - at two metres (or maybe at one metre if the advice is changed) - you've got almost no chance of catching anything. Even if your mate Phil is incubating a nasty case of Covid, you're pretty much safe to raise a warm glass of chablis with him.

That's not to say that the new measures are foolproof. People need to shop, to travel by public transport, to work, to be indoors with other people. Also, some won't follow the rules. The virus can and will continue to spread. 

Which brings us down to management. The plan is all about tracing. Who has got the virus, with whom have they been hanging out and where are they in the UK.  If you think you've got it, you get a test, if you're positive you tell the tracing ninjas all the people you've been near, they all go inside for a bit. Viola! Each person who has it transmits it to nobody else.

There is also the advantage that we can keep an eye on which parts of the country have the problems. If, say, the Lake District had a sudden spike in cases, measures could be taken. It wouldn't have to impact on the surfing types down in Cornwall. 

Also, while we're tracking and reducing cases here in the UK, we don't want to import any cases from anywhere else, so we're ensuring that those coming in from abroad are quarantining for a couple of weeks. 

So that's all good then.

Except.

These measures are pretty tough.  What if you feel poorly, but don't want a test. Especially because it might mean all your friends from last week's BBQ have to self isolate for two weeks? You wouldn't be that popular. So you wait until you're better and then carry on. Except, those friends? They did catch it from you. All five of them. And they are out giving it to other people. Untracked. Untraced.

Which is going to be a more powerful motivation? Potential social humiliation or civic duty?  It depends who you are, I suppose, but that's the point. It depends.

Then there is the speed of testing. We really need to get those tests back in double time (within 24 hours) in order to get your BBQ lot indoors before they spread - even if you have done the right thing and got tested. Right now, 90% of tests are coming back within 48 hours, but we don't have the 24 hour figure. 

And then there is the quarantine. This scheme looks like it's going to be a brief one. There is a lot of opposition. People say that we've got a higher rate than almost everywhere else, so it makes no sense. We are much more likely to spread it elsewhere than they are to bring it here. 

It's been announced with great fanfare, but critics say it won't have any achievement, except for stopping any tourists at all coming over for a socially distant holiday and spending all their money on whatever outdoor entertainment Leicester Square can lay on for them. 

Expect it to be reversed in a few weeks time. The science, I'm sure, will have changed. 

In a couple of weeks time, we'll get another review. If we've managed to keep that R rate low, we'll see announcements on haircuts and pubs and UK holidays and all that. Maybe. That's if the tracing works. If cases, hospitalisations and deaths continue to fall. 

 

A change in how rules are written


A quick note on a technical, but interesting change. In the beginning, there was one clear rule. Stay at home. The government then listed specific exceptions when you were allowed out.

Now, with so much freedom, they list what you can't do rather than what you can.  That's how the law in this country has always worked. You can do what you want except steal etc. 

This hasn't been smooth, though.  The kind of news sources that are more interested in clicks than actual news have been reporting that certain things have now been 'outlawed'. Yahoo news (of course it's Yahoo news) focused on the fact that it was now illegal to smooch someone from another household within their home. Of course it is. You would be less than two metres apart, indoors. That wasn't within the rules before. That's the way it worked. 

Still, I had plenty of messages asking about the legality of various acts that consenting adults may get up to. Not one was particularly interested in my technical point about legislation. Which is partly why I'm sharing it with you here. 

The week ahead...

 

House of Commons

Monday - It's been coming for quite some time, but no blame divorce is finally in the Commons. This allows couples to just agree it's time to go separate ways. No need for one to file for divorce against the other for set reasons. 

It won't make the process painless. Couples had vowed to be together for life and now everything has changed. That's always going to be hard.

It might, though, make the process that much easier, with no need for final recriminations. That could be something

It'll be a few months before this change actually comes in, but today is a big hurdle. 

Tuesday - Another new law that's got lots of support from all sides. This is about people convicted of terrorist offences serving all their sentences. There is also some stuff about better monitoring them in the community after they have been released.

Wednesday  - Fancy a bit of PMQs? Well, I've got some good news for you. The Johnson / Starmer series is certainly more interesting than the May / Corbyn stuff we got for years. With the virus recovery becoming more and more political, this is only going to become more box office.

After PMQs there are a series of 'motions' which small (or not so small) changes are made to previous things. There are four today, two of which I won't bore you with.  One of the others includes the ability to broadcast proceedings from the Court of Appeal.

The final one is about relaxing the regulations around adoption / child homes during the virus recovery when social workers and Local Authorities are extremely stretched.  There can be fewer visits and other areas become more flexible.  This has been strongly criticised by the Children's Commissioner.

Thursday - The necessary legislation for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games continues through the Commons. If you close your eyes and concentrate, you can just hear Dina Asher-Smith winning three gold medals at the Alexander Stadium.

Friday - Nuffink.

House of Lords

Monday - Oooooh. Today's a quiet one in the Lords. Very, very quiet.

Tuesday - A new law to create new ways for insolvency and restructuring for companies who are in trouble. They're going to make changes to, erm, 'flexing', 'entering the new moratorium' and 'new cross class cram down proceedures'. 

OK, so I'll admit that corporate structures really aren't my thing, but this is what the House of Lords exists for. They have a very technical bill about this, so people who really know their insolvency onions can decide to come in (or zoom in) to give it the scrutiny it needs. They have the time and the expertise available to get deep into it all.

Wednesday  - This is where it all happens. The Agriculture Bill. This is generally a bill that gives the government the power to do stuff later on. It's all about sorting out farm regulations and payments after the EU transition period is over.

Here is (if you'll excuse me) the beef. In the Commons, there was an attempt to insert an amendment that said there would be no loosening of food standards in the UK once we are able to set out our own version. The government have promised that the standards will not be lowered. They did, though, vote down the amendment that guaranteed that. 

There was talk of this guarantee being in the Trade Bill, but there was also talk of 'not tying the hands of the government'.

The big question is whether the Lords have another go at getting this amendment into the bill. That can't happen today because this is the second reading, but we'll get a good idea if the government are looking at defeat in the Lords over the next few weeks. 

Thursday - Very, very little.

Friday - A day for hobbies
 

Black lives matter


I didn't want to send this off without at least acknowledging the most important story of the week. The tragedy of the death of George Floyd. The anger it has uncovered. The institutionalised injustice of a system rigged against black people in America.

It's not just in America. We don't have black people being murdered in the street here, but the life chances of BAME people are not the same as white people. They are considerably more likely to die from this virus. That's a woeful state of affairs. Why? Because black lives matter. 

Which all raises the question of what we can do about it. Sure, we can listen to Spotify playlists called 'We shall overcome', 'African Heat', and even 'Black Lives Matter'.  We can post black squares and inspiring quotes on social media. We can sit in Hyde Park.  Will any of those things really impact the life chances of a five year old trying to make sense of the world, who happens to be black? I don't think so. I wouldn't criticise anyone for doing any of those things. We all have to deal with and express our horror and outrage in our own individual way.

Going forward, though, efforts have to be made in changing these things. How can we create a more equal, tolerant society? I'm sorry. I've not got the answers here. They have to be out there and they have to be achievable. Let's use our energy to find them and make them happen.

And finally...


These are hard times. We don't know what's coming, we don't know where we're going. It's no different for life at SP. Over the past few weeks, some people have been very generous with their support. We're not too far off a place where our future is looking more certain.  If you can support us with a few quid a month, it would really mean the world. Thank you.
I'll chip in.
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