This article was submitted by a member of the Bracknell Forest Liberal Democrats
As the country gradually opens up public areas, schools, and businesses, it’s clear that most people simply want COVID-19 to be “over”. Queues have been building up outside town centre shops and many pupils are taking the first tentative steps back into schools. And who can blame them? The last three months have been a dreadful experience by any measure. If you have been bereaved, worried about a sick friend or family member, tried to juggle work and child care, been worried about your business, or just dismayed at what the next year may bring for the country, this has not been a good time.
However, before we try to “move on”, it’s perhaps worth reflecting on some of the things that may of us have learned since March that confirm and reinforce our Liberal Democrat values.
Almost all of us have had to learn to slow down and accept a quieter, simpler pace of life. Maybe we didn’t actually need to be working all hours in order to afford a lot of “stuff” after all. Perhaps all those air miles flown in the hope of a bit of relaxation were not really all necessary. For weeks, we couldn’t drive anywhere, and many of us got back in the habit of walking and cycling again, saving huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution from our exhausts, while we got fitter and healthier. Skies were bluer and clearer, and when we were able to get out in parks and the countryside again, we have appreciated and valued public access, and the things that a decent society makes available to all.
The phrase “key workers” was hardly heard before the pandemic. Our EU workers and immigrants from elsewhere were all too often written off as “low skilled workers”. Not so low-skilled when they were keeping us alive and fed, and keeping the wheels of society moving! Perhaps this has fuelled some of the outrage in the “Black Lives Matter” protests – it’s become very obvious that they most certainly do matter, and that black and minority ethnic groups have consistently lost out in our increasingly unfair and unequal society, even to the extent of suffering disproportionately from COVID-19.
The way we treat our parents and grandparents, the generation who fought for our freedom and values in World War II, has been a source of shame to many of us, with so many dying alone in care homes and without proper funerals. Perhaps the 75th anniversary of VE Day was a reminder to us, not to try to recreate the British Empire, but to reject everything that fascism stood for, and be thankful for 75 years of peace with our European neighbours.
Our 2019 election manifesto stood out for a commitment to two things: education and mental health. Anyone who has tried to keep kids fit, happy, and well-adjusted, while maintaining their access to education for the last three months will have realised as never before just how important this is.
For many years, we have taken for granted that Britain is a prosperous country, and that people from all over Europe and the rest of the world want to come and live here, but this is something that we can no longer just assume. Under the twin assaults of the pandemic and a threatened no-deal Brexit, our economy is reeling, and in desperate need of vision, commitment, and support.
2020 has been a year that most of us would never wish to repeat. Yet, with a commitment to the health of our planet, a more equal society, mental health, good relations with our neighbours, a sound economy, and educational opportunities for all, there has never been a better time to stand up and be proud of our Liberal Democrat values.