Westminster Diary: Frustrations on the rise

Daisy Cooper. Picture: St Albans Cathedral

Daisy Cooper. Picture: St Albans Cathedral - Credit: Archant

St Albans MP Daisy Cooper offers her take on a week in Westminster...

I find it extremely worrying that nearly seven months on from the start of the coronavirus lockdown, I am still receiving correspondence from worried constituents in industries or circumstances where they are yet to receive any appropriate government support.

Those who work in the events and exhibitions sectors have seen demand collapse, despite the sectors bringing in an estimated £70 billion to the economy each year.

Residents who work in the UK’s creative industries have highlighted how their sector was previously growing at five times the rate of the wider economy, but is now facing a “cultural catastrophe.”

Millions of self-employed and freelancers, who are often over-represented in these industries, are still excluded from government support schemes and not eligible for Universal Credit – leaving them without a single penny of income for nearly seven months and no option but to pile up the debt.

If the government doesn’t act soon we are going to lose the world-class skills and innovation that we will so desperately need to power us out of this recession. Asking them to “re-train” at government expense is both insulting and economically illiterate.

But here’s the rub: it’s unbelievably hard to get the ear of government for the sector by sector needs and those left out of government support packages altogether, when it is still scrabbling around trying to get the basics right.

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Seven months ago, the coronavirus pandemic was unprecedented. Any government of any colour would have got some things wrong. But so many months on, and people are rightly starting to ask more challenging questions.

Why is it that some other countries have managed to keep the virus under control, and their economies and societies running, but the UK is stuck in a vicious cycle of lockdown measures?

The answer: test and trace. Just this week, the test and trace system – upon which everything hinges – was beset by even more problems. Bungled excel sheets caused thousands of test results to be omitted from contact tracing data. Thousands of university student test results were unhelpfully allocated to their home addresses, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles away from where they were actually living.

There is a growing sense that the time we’ve had between the first and second waves has been squandered. As winter arrives, frustration is clearly building.