It is great to be able to contribute to our fantastic local newspaper in this new column. I am so pleased that the paper was put on a sure footing by its new owners after the uncertainty earlier this year. Newspapers like the Herald are the lifeblood of local communities especially in areas such as ours with folk spread out in smaller communities separated by long distances. I will look forward to telling you more about my journey from veterinary medicine to politics and my experiences of Westminster in future columns.
Firstly, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for all that they have done during this public health crisis. The response to the Coronavirus pandemic by the people of Cumbria has been humbling. I want to pay tribute to everyone in the frontline from NHS workers and carers, to teachers, food producers, supermarket and smaller grocery shop staff, the police, delivery drivers and countless neighbourhood volunteers looking out for people. The sense of community has been uplifting. A huge thanks to the health professionals who have been at the forefront of taking care of patients suffering from this awful disease. And to the staff in our schools who have done so much looking after children of key workers and then expanding to re-opening schools to deliver the vital education for our children. I truly believe that we will get through this and Cumbria will bounce back. As we move to the gradual unlocking, we can see signs of recovery but I know that some sectors, such as our tourism and hospitality sectors will be slower to get back to normal. That is why I continue to work with Government to try to secure additional and targeted extended support as we move forward. It has been great working together with colleagues in central and local Government, the NHS, members of local resilience fora, the police and the voluntary sector as we navigate through this crisis. My message is that Cumbria is safe and open for business and I urge people to carry on with Public Health guidance to keep everyone as safe as possible as we move forward together.
It is a great honour to be have been elected as Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border. I know that not everyone voted for me, but I want folk to know I will represent you all to the best of my ability, no matter whom you voted for.
I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor as Penrith and The Border’s MP, Rory Stewart. When I was selected as the candidate for the seat, Rory reached out to me and was extremely kind and generous with his support. For that, I am very grateful. Rory was a tireless champion for Penrith and The Border, famously walking around the entire vast constituency……even that didn’t tire him out! He helped countless numbers of constituents and campaigned hard for better broadband, overcoming rural isolation, protecting the environment and flood management, which remains a key issue as we saw just back in February. As a Minister, he was incredibly thoughtful, articulate and rational in portfolios such as the environment, prisons and latterly as International Development Secretary. As he moves into his next stage, I wish Rory and his family well.
During this Coronavirus pandemic, I have been receiving literally hundreds of emails, letters and calls from constituents every week on a huge range of issues and problems that many anxious folk are needing help with, so it remains an incredibly busy time for me and my team. I have helped with repatriation cases for constituents stranded abroad and have been advising many individuals and businesses and helping them access the support they need. I am holding regular phone surgeries with constituents and am doing everything I can in Westminster and Cumbria to address the concerns of constituents. I am feeding in requests to Government for support for all areas of our economy and community and will continue to do so. Equally, I am feeding into Government regularly and pushing for more flexibility and breadth in the very welcome support schemes that the Government has introduced during this crisis. Readers will have seen key campaigns that I have been busy with such as working towards the saving of Newton Rigg and upholding animal welfare and farming standards and I will update on these and other issues in forthcoming columns.