I wrote to my MP again.
Ruth Edwards replaced Kenneth Clarke in this constituency in 2019 and has been notably compliant with the Government whip on every vote. She's ambitious and doesn't want to do anything to rock the boat that might jeopordise her career in Parliament. I can actually understand that. I don't agree with her on almost anything and some of her voting has been ridiculous: she talks of her love and concern for the environment and then votes to allow the dumping of raw sewage into our waterways.... but still, this is how our democracy works. She can vote as she sees fit, and my recourse is at the ballot box.
I am genuinely interested to see how she lines up to defend this latest affront to common decency.
Dear Ruth Edwards,
I wrote to you in May 2020 about Dominic Cummings' trip to Barnard Castle with his family. You replied on 27/05/20, telling me how you were angry when you heard about it, but that
"As I listened to his media conference on Monday afternoon, I was struck by the level of detail and explanation offered by Mr Cummings, as well as the time he took to answer questions from the media. His performance was not polished or flowing, they were the words of a husband and father who had tried to do the best for his family in very stressful circumstances. Mr Cummings made clear that he had taken steps to remain isolated throughout his journey and once he arrived at his parent’s farm. I can understand why he thought it best to isolate himself, his wife and child where help was available to him should he need it and where accessing that help posed the least danger to other people".
You concluded that you felt that Cummings had acted reasonably, but added:
"Like any other individual, Mr Cummings is entitled to this due process and also to equality before the law. If he has stepped outside of those lockdown rules (which should be equally applied to everyone), then the process for investigating breaches of those rules must also be applied with the same equality."
I wrote to you again in December 2021 to express my anger at news of the Downing Street Christmas parties in 2020. Again, you expressed your shock and anger at what seemed like a flagrant disregard of the rules that we had all been following. I told you I hadn't been able to see my elderly mother with Parkinsons and you told me about the sacrifices you had made:
"We did it because we were following the rules we had asked everyone else to follow and because we believed it was the right thing to do. I know many other people also faced significant challenges of adjusting their business model to allow people to work remotely and of trying to cover both work and childcare when schools were closed. We all missed the camaraderie and friendship from working together in person with our colleagues".
Now, on the back of the news from a couple of weeks ago about a gathering in the garden in Downing Street (a 'work meeting', we were told), it seems that there was another drinks party in the garden on 25 May 2020. The invitation to this event, sent to 100 people, makes it clear that it was a social event with alcohol. It may have been socially distanced, but it was also clearly in contravention to the guidelines that were in place at the time. Matt Hancock made a point in one of that week's press conferences that we should resist the tempation to enjoy the good weather with our friends because we all had to do the right thing. Except it's clear that not everyone seemed to be clear what that meant. Whilst thousands of people were seeing their families through the windows of care homes, or attending strictly limited funerals, or washing their shopping and worrying about whether they were allowed out for a walk with their family if they had already taken some exercise that day, it seems that other people thought it was acceptable to have a garden party with alcohol.
I wonder what the Prime Minister's excuse will be this time; I wonder how he will try to duck responsibility or shift the blame onto someone else. What seems clear to me is that you and I are both being treated as fools. We followed the rules, and even as we were being urged to follow them, they were being egregiously broken by the very people giving us the instructions. What particularly galls me is that this particular party (and who knows, there may have been others we don't yet know about) is that it took place in the days immediately before that pious defence of Dominic Cummings by the government and many Conservative MPs, including yourself. That Rose Garden press conference took place within hours of this most recently revealed party, that defence of Cummings was masterminded by people who knew the party had taken place, and still they lectured us about rules.
How do you feel now about you defence of Cummings? Do you feel you have been taken for as much of a fool by these people as I do? When did you find out about these parties? At what point will you stop trying to defend them and start to represent the outrage of your constituents? We simply cannot tolerate a government or a society where there seems to be one rule for them and another rule for everyone else. I agree entirely with what you said in May 2020, "If he has stepped outside of those lockdown rules (which should be equally applied to everyone), then the process for investigating breaches of those rules must also be applied with the same equality."
The rules should be equally applied to everybody.
I look forward to hearing your views on this,
Ruth replied on 2nd February.ReplyDelete
Thank you for your email and for setting out your thoughts about reported events and parties in Downing Street during the lockdowns. I am grateful to you for being in touch and I apologise for the delay in coming back to you.
I wanted to wait until Sue Gray had published her report, or at least given an update on her findings, before I gave everyone who had contacted me an initial response.
I also hope you will forgive this ‘one size fits all reply’. With the large number of people who have been in touch, I felt this was the most practical way to keep everyone updated. I know I won’t have covered every single point but I can assure you that every message I received has been read with care and no discourtesy is intended with this group reply.
I absolutely understand why people feel angry and let down by the reports of events or parties at 10 Downing Street during the lockdowns, because I do too. Like the vast majority of people across the country, I stuck to the lockdown rules and faced the consequences of lost time with loved ones and the additional stress brought by working from home for an extended period. I know many people in Rushcliffe, and across the country, faced the unimaginable pain of not being able to be with family members who were ill or dying. I extend my deepest condolences to all of them and I am sorry for the hurt which has been caused.
I had hoped that, by now, Sue Gray’s complete report would be published and that all the facts, rather than reported allegations, would be laid out in full. This will happen as soon as the Metropolitan Police have concluded their investigations into a number of the reported events.
Although I understand the reasons for the delay, I am deeply frustrated by it as I think it is important that a full and impartial account is made available to the public and to Members of Parliament.
Based on the document that Sue Gray published on Monday however, it is clear that serious changes are needed within 10 Downing Street. It is right therefore that the Prime Minister has apologised for what has happened and has committed to implementing its findings in full. As he said in Parliament on Monday:
I want to say sorry. I am sorry for the things we simply did not get right and sorry for the way this matter has been handled. It is no use saying that this or that was within the rules, and it is no use saying that people were working hard—this pandemic was hard for everyone. We asked people across this country to make the most extraordinary sacrifices—not to meet loved ones, not to visit relatives before they died—and I understand the anger that people feel. But it is not enough to say sorry. This is a moment when we must look at ourselves in the mirror, and we must learn. While the Metropolitan police must yet complete their investigation, and that means there are no details of specific events in Sue Gray’s report, I of course accept Sue Gray’s general findings in full, and above all her recommendation that we must learn from these events and act now.
It is important that these changes are made quickly and I will continue to monitor the situation closely to make sure that they are.
For your reference, the complete statement by the Prime Minister can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-on-the-sue-gray-report-31-january-2022
The next step now is to wait for the full findings of the Gray report and the investigation by the Metropolitan Police to be concluded and published. This will give us a full picture of what happened and allow all these matters to be considered carefully and independently.
If it is found that rules were broken, then appropriate action should follow.
I do not intend to make any further comment on these issues until these investigations are completed. I will continue to read and file any other correspondence I receive on this until the conclusions are issued.
I appreciate this delay is frustrating, I can assure you it is equally frustrating for me.