Last Friday’s VE Day celebrations were more muted and far less expansive than planned, but I want to thank our Town Councils, community groups and the Royal British Legion who put a huge amount of effort into planning them. They could not have known when they did that planning that a current national emergency would prevent us marking together the end of a previous one, but as we marked the end of the Second World War in Europe in more limited ways, perhaps we did so with a greater appreciation of the restriction, deprivation and worry that war brought to those who lived through it. Comparisons between that long and destructive conflict and the Covid 19 outbreak are sometimes overdone, but two similarities struck me as we all cast our minds back 75 years.
First, VE Day was a celebration of the achievement of all of our society – not only those who fought but also those who endured and suffered at home. It was a common struggle and VE Day signified a common victory over the Nazi threat. Today, the taming of this coronavirus outbreak requires us all to contribute, from the NHS and care workers who are confronting it every day, to those who have to make public services and businesses work in this testing and unfamiliar environment, to all of us distancing and isolating ourselves for the common good, in some cases under considerable stress. Our victory over this disease cannot be celebrated yet, but when it comes it too will be a common victory, one in which we can all take pride because we have all done our part to secure it.
Secondly, just as victory on VE Day took a long time to win, life in our country did not return to normal immediately when that victory had been won. Rationing, for example, continued for some time after hostilities had ceased. Although I certainly hope it will not take 6 years, it will also take time to defeat fully this outbreak of Covid 19, and normality will not return overnight. Protecting public health and yet allowing the economy to function remains a delicate exercise and is likely to require both caution and a willingness to reimpose restrictions which have been lifted if circumstances demand it. That is why the Prime Minister has not lifted all restrictions immediately and why he has set out how he hopes to do so in the future if the grip of the virus weakens as we hope and expect that it will. That must be the responsible way to proceed, but all decisions have consequences. I support the Government’s caution in moving forward, but it means that some restrictions on our lives will continue for some time to come and that in turn will have serious implications, including for the local businesses struggling to survive this period. My focus will remain therefore on trying to help businesses and individuals who are facing particular difficulty at the moment. As ever, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.