Dr Luke Evans is a member of the Health Select Committee, and is MP for Bosworth.
Four months ago, around the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, the Editor of ConservativeHome contacted me to ask whether, as both a GP and a newly-elected backbench Member of Parliament, I would like to write a weekly diary about how Covid-19 would come to affect my constituency.
Of course, as any newly-elected backbench MP would, I jumped at the chance. It would hopefully be a way to give an insight into what goes on at the grassroots of backbench business.
But far more importantly, I saw it as an obvious opportunity to assess Covid-19’s impact on my constituency of Bosworth on a weekly basis.
I would have to step back and think for a couple of hours before picking up my laptop. That’s vital time which helps you to reflect and strategise about what you do next.
A space to breathe in a fast flowing, ever-changing situation.
So as Parliament breaks up for its summer recess, it’s a good time to reflect on the past four months – to ask what went well and, of course, what I could have done better as a new MP.
A chance to gather my office together. After all they have shouldered the load with me, and without their dedication, tenacity and expertise the situation as a new MP would be nearly untenable. Four weeks to simply focus on the constituency; clear the decks, reset, and prepare for the next phase.
Until September an uneasy hiatus, as we’re nowhere near the end of the Coronavirus story I fear.
I recognised right at the very start of these columns that I was fortunate to come from a medical background. I was able to understand the data, the system, the clinical constraints on staff and hopefully ask pertinent questions at the Health and Social Care Select Committee – and in the virtual Chamber of the House – while also raising ideas that were fitting to ministers and their departments, and where possible offering solutions.
That experience as a GP, I hope, meant that I was able to communicate those aspects effectively to my constituents. As we were learning about the virus at a rate of knots I was able to record videos about the differences between social distancing and shielding, and – even now the most effective weapon in our fight against the virus – good hygiene.
But it quickly became apparent that while this period in our history has been driven by a global virus, with far too many lives tragically lost, the medicine has only been one part of a much wider crisis.
Where I was comfortable in discussing the science the role of an MP is seldom that of a specialist. I had to gain knowledge in supporting businesses on the verge of collapse, constituents losing their jobs and – certainly not least – a world-renowned zoo fighting for survival.
Anyone entering politics really does need to know that at base backbench level, to serve your constituents you quickly need to become a problem-solving generalist. It should come a surprise to no one that in the past month I’ve asked as many questions about the economic impact of Covid-19 as I have about the medical one.
But as Parliament breaks for the summer our minds turn to what comes next.
Like everyone else I’m eagerly watching the promising medical breakthroughs that we have heard about in the past two days and hope that they come to fruition. While we all hope for a vaccine, we know that we will never return to pre-pandemic normal – this can be construed as a positive or negative, and we all have an active role in the preponderance to which it is.
Although we all have to be working for the best, we also have to be preparing for the worst. We must be mindful of the economic impact of the virus, how we begin to pay it back and the absolute need to protect younger people who may well bear the brunt through unemployment. All balanced with the plan to deliver on what we promised as Conservatives that lead to a large majority in the House.
I’m proud of how this Government has responded to the greatest threat to us all in living memory. Of course not all has gone to plan, and there will no doubt be lessons to be learned, but to be here with one of the best health services in the world and a growing economy is a huge testament to the work of the Cabinet.
So I leave Parliament for recess with a thought stuck in my head: what do we want our virus legacy to be?
I believe a question the public, businesses, politicians and Government all need to think long and hard about and actively make a choice. As a crisis creates opportunity now is the time to harness it for good.
I hope to return in September, rested, refreshed and ready to articulate a positive future for Bosworth and the country.