With Parliament in recess, August should be the time for MPs to get out and about in our constituencies.
It is a great time to visit businesses and community groups, church groups and local campaign organisations.
But of course, this summer that isn’t really possible. We are still in the middle of the pandemic crisis and although we are trying to get back to work, and get the economy back up and running again, social distancing and the need for precautions means I still have to limit where I can go.
One of the essential parts of the job of an MP is holding advice surgeries and these had also fallen by the wayside during the lockdown. Technology means I can now do these by computer and telephone combined. It may not be the same as meeting face to face, but needs must until the pandemic is passed.
But my struggles are as nothing compared to the thousands around Chester fighting to keep their businesses afloat. From the largest businesses, like Airbus or Vauxhall or Toyota, and some of the finance companies on the business park, to the self-employed entrepreneurs, these are the toughest of times. Take the wedding photographer who contacted me: with no weddings, there is no work and so no income.
There are still plenty of people working from home. I and my staff are, for example. But what about those coffee bars and sandwich outlets in Chester that rely on the office and shop workers in the centre of town? They need people back and spending money too. We need to get the balance right so we can safely return to work.
Which is why I can’t understand those people who are refusing to wear face masks when they’re out. Of course, some people can’t wear masks for good reasons. But others flatly refuse, as though it is a matter of personal liberty, not a collective battle against a killer disease.
Another area I am working on is support for people excluded from the government schemes. The Job Retention Scheme – furloughing – and the Self Employed Income Support Scheme were really important measures. But many people have been missed out because they don’t qualify for one scheme or another.
‘The Excluded’, as they are known, might have started a new job after the deadline for furlough. Or they might be self-employed but without enough financial accounts to demonstrate this. They feel left behind, forgotten, the victims of unfairness. And there are possibly over a million such people struggling to survive. I will keep fighting to make sure they are not forgotten.