I was the 135th speaker for the House of Commons motion to pay tribute to Prince Philip, but they only got to the 131st MP. Had I been able to speak I would have recounted an anecdote in James Callaghan’s book in which he found himself squeezed into a small car with Prince Philip and Margaret Thatcher. Despite the fact he had been PM, he wrote “I recognised at once the force of their characters and decided that my best contribution to the general happiness would be to remain quite quiet.” Sensible man. Few people will serve their country as long and as steadfastly as Prince Philip did ours.
So far, so good, on reopening post lockdown. I spent most of the first full Friday I could visiting shops and pubs who were, as you can imagine, pleased to have reopened – despite that snow on day 1! Just before the retail visits, I’d been at the Sylva Foundation and the Earth Trust in Little Wittenham and been inspired by what both are doing. Make sure you check out the brand-new Earth Lab the latter has been building, which will open in the near future, not least to admire its construction. It is built with glulam beams and has a rammed earth wall, straw installation and a wildflower roof – I got a sneak peek and was very impressed.
I am among the MPs who has returned to parliament Monday-Thursday each week (parliament only sits on occasional Fridays). It’s not exactly lively yet – many MPs are continuing to participate virtually and there are so many restrictions in every part of the building, including the continuation of the 50 person limit in the House of Commons, that you don’t see many people in the way you used to. But important business continues to proceed, including the Domestic Abuse and Finance Bills.
Much continues to be by Zoom however. It has been a pleasure to continue to attend meetings of parish councils, most recently that of Aston Tirrold and Aston Upthorpe. I am always impressed with the dedication of people who sit on parish councils as there is not a lot of glory to the posts, but they’re vital to ensuring that very local issues get the consideration they should. And, of course, parish councils played a key role in the community’s response to Covid. I also continue to take searching questions from school children via Zoom – as I did just before Easter with Sutton Courtenay primary school. Some of the questions children ask you are tougher than the ones adults do.
The constituency and Oxfordshire have done very well from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, with Didcot Railway Centre, Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and Origin Technical Productions receiving a combined £400,000 in the latest round and 31 organisations receiving over £5 million overall – I hope we see them all flourish when they can get back to normal.
As ever, if I can help with anything then do contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.