Across Vauxhall, I know that countless residents have made painful sacrifices to support the national effort to stop this virus and save lives. Many families have been denied the opportunity of saying goodbye to their loved ones, not been able to visit new members of their families, watched as their businesses face near bankruptcy and faced significant personal sacrifices. It is therefore important for the Government to reassure the public and ensure that everyone follows the guidelines to help protect lives.
The most painful thing that I have had to do to date as a relatively new MP is speak to the family of 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, who died from Covid-19 on 30 March 2020. As I spoke to his older sister to offer my condolences to the family, I could hear his mother in the background and I am not ashamed to admit that I also cried as I could only imagine what she was going through, not being able to be with her son when he died at Kings College Hospital. Two of Ismail’s siblings developed Covid-19 symptoms and in line with the clear advice which states ‘If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus, do not leave your home for any reason – if you need food or medicine, order it online or by phone, or ask someone to deliver it to your home,’ Ismail’s mother and his siblings were not able to attend his funeral.
As a mother with a 5-year-old and 2.5-year-old, my husband and I came down with Covid-19 symptoms in late March, but we followed the guidelines and self-isolated in our flat. We were both ill but with two very active children, we had no option but to soldier on and get on with it. I know that some of my constituents, including vulnerable constituents and single parents and carers may have had to go through similar circumstances and again, most people stuck to the clear guidelines.
A few weeks ago, I visited the food distribution hub in Kennington where I met volunteers putting their community first to help prepare food packages and essential packages for vulnerable residents. I dropped off a food parcel to an elderly resident who was in the shielded category and she mentioned to me that she had not left her property in 6 weeks. She was missing her grandchildren and said that she is happy for the food packages, but she was very much looking forward to just being able to stroll to the park and local supermarket.
I wanted to give the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings the right of reply, however I am very worried at the precedent now being set following the press statement. I watched the Prime Minister’s press statement and I could only bring myself to watch the first part of Dominic Cummings’ press statement. I felt angry for the many constituents including small business owners, self-employed artists, headteachers, care workers, doctors and other front-line key workers who have all worked hard and made immense sacrifices to follow the guidance. It cannot be one rule for all of us and another for the Prime Minister’s Special Advisors.
As the Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer has made it clear that if he were in the Prime Minister’s place, he would have fired Mr. Cummings. He has also been clear that there needs to be an investigation by the Cabinet Secretary into what has happened. Dominic Cummings actions were not a reasonable interpretation of the rules, and millions of people have not done the same. That’s why this is such an important issue. The Government also need to answer serious questions about their actions in the past few days in defence of Mr Cummings and the impact this will have on our fight against this virus.
Please be assured that I have relayed to Keir Starmer the strength of anger on behalf of Vauxhall constituents.