Westminster Diary: Reflections on VE Day and a post-lockdown world

Daisy Cooper with a photo of her grandfather Alan King.

Daisy Cooper with a photo of her grandfather Alan King. - Credit: Archant

Welcome to my Westminster diary. Each week, I’ll be giving a behind-the-scenes take on what life is really like as a new MP. From jeering and bobbing, procedures and prayers, I’ll be lifting the lid on the mother of all Parliaments. Think ‘The Thick of It’ not ‘House of Cards’! - Daisy Cooper, St Albans MP

In the run up to the 75th anniversary of VE Day, I thought a great deal about my 95 year old Grandfather isolating at home, how the world has changed and how it might change in future.

My Grandad, Alan King, was a soldier in the East Riding Yeomanry. He was part of the D-Day landings and after a vicious campaign in Normandy and Holland he took part in the Rhine crossing.

He remembers seeing the population of Holland starving and impoverished. The RAF and American air force dropped food parcels and locals only managed to ride their bicycles by replacing burst rubber tyres with rope.

It’s only in his later years that he’s spoken about the war in any detail. At times I haven’t been sure whether he’s more chuffed with the medals on his chest or his NHS replacement knees. Both give him dignity and pride, in their different ways.

Personally, I don’t think comparing this virus with the war is very helpful. But in the midst of every crisis, lies hope and opportunity. And this is where history can be instructive.

Post-war Britain brought the winds of change. Globally: peace in Europe, and the end of colonial rule. In Britain: the welfare state, the NHS and legal aid - three pillars of a vision to give every individual dignity, good health, and equality before the law.

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The “great crash” of 2008, was a crisis that brought little positive change at all. But what will happen after COVID-19?

Will our country seize the opportunity to reimagine a new way of life: to deliver on a green revolution, more working from home, and a modern, accessible, digital democracy? Will we widen opportunities, tackle privilege and monopoly, and give enduring support to the key workers and community initiatives that have become our heroes and lifelines?

My Grandad doesn’t remember an announcement about the end of the war but instead relied on word spreading amongst the troops. He was happy and exhausted and wondered what might come next. But it was another two years before he came home.

The road out of lockdown will be gradual and might not come from a clear announcement but as we all wonder what might come next, we must seize the opportunity to shape the future to come.

You can contact Daisy at daisy.cooper.mp@parliament.uk