Opinion: Craig Mackinlay MP – Toilets, beaches, schools, Cummings and goings, care homes and a first birthday

Craig Mackinlay

Many debates have raged, often heatedly, over the past couple of weeks about the Coronavirus response and how we now try to move towards a new normality carefully and sensibly. The unseasonably good weather and the government advice to allow further travel and visits to public spaces, whilst observing social distancing, was always going to cause conflict and concern. On the one hand it is eminently possible to remain well spaced from each other in family groups but, as ever, there are fools out there who will disregard common sense.

But by and large over the past weeks we’ve mostly become alert to spacing; the lure of our blue flag beaches meant that we attracted huge numbers of visitors from out of area. This was bound to happen and I’m sorry to say there was a touch of ‘King Canute’ in the local response keeping toilets closed. Whilst many local residents were annoyed at the influx with the usual parking problems which I have long tried to solve, particularly in the Botany Bay area, the greatest anger was the rubbish and use of the beaches and surroundings as open lavatories. I am pleased to see that there is now a limited opening of these facilities.

In defence of Thanet District Council they have struggled to recruit additional staff to properly service the public toilets. This is not at all surprising – would temporary staff really wish to be stuck in a small space, be the marshalls of distancing: one in one out, clean and disinfect on a minute-by-minute basis whilst wearing extensive PPE? It is not a dream occupation no matter what the rate of pay.

We have few big industries in Thanet, but we have lots of smaller ones which come together and that is our tourist offer bringing £320m per year into the area. We need this spending as it trickles down to support much else from retail spending to rent payments. We need to manage this, welcome it where we can and give our local businesses a chance of getting back to normal.

Return to school

The next topic of heated debate is the return to schools and the potential risks of that, but can we really deprive children of social interaction and structured education for much longer? Am I being cynical or has this given various unions in the sector, and Labour led councils around the country the opportunity to flex little-used muscle? You decide. How many parents could get back to safe working but are prevented from doing so because of childcare obligations? Life has risks in all that we do. To remove risks entirely would mean we’d never go in a car – a one ton machine of metal and glass capable of high speed – dreadfully dangerous. We’d avoid any rainstorm for fear of a lightning strike. Whilst a vaccine to Covid-19 is yet to be found, although there are encouraging signs of progress, we will need to manage this new risk within the bounds of our risk-aversity to other daily threats.

Cummings under fire

The Dominic Cummings debate has filled my inbox; whatever really happened, the optics of this are truly bad no matter your viewpoint when we’ve all been so assiduous in our adherence to the rules for so long and given up so much. This story will develop further I’m sure.

Care homes

The numbers in specialist care within hospitals and the rates of new infection are now on a firm downward trend, but I remain deeply worried about the situation in our care homes. In my view the risks were not appropriately recognised at an early enough stage such was the emphasis, right at the time, for the policy to be one of protecting the capacity of the NHS. Hindsight makes us all expert analysts. The lasting analysis will be the length and depth of the contraction to the economy which creates every penny of public service expenditure, defence spending and benefit payments. We ignore this at our peril too.

A quiet birthday

Our baby Olivia had her first birthday over the weekend. Hard to believe how an eventful year has flown by. What should have been a party celebration with family and friends was a muted event of just us. This is a sad era, a trying time, but we will overcome. Keep safe, keep sensible.