On Sunday I was privileged to join others in attending two Easter Sunday services which is an obviously important occasion for Christian faith and Great Britain’s yearly calendar. At both services there were people who would not normally attend church, but the existence of the church is clearly a valued part of our heritage, culture, and community. During the preceding week I met constituents in a ‘drop-in’ event who raised their concern about the apparent withdrawal of the Church of England in particular from rural communities. This issue has rumbled on in the background for the past 12 months if not for longer and the impression from the powers that be in the CofE is that if communities don’t fund and use the Church they lose the Church. The problem is that if you reduce the number of clergy, as has been the case in both South Kerrier and across Penwith, the result is that you sap the energy and enthusiasm of the faithful and reduce the community-facing activity and outreach. This feeds the trend towards dwindling numbers and reducing financial giving.
There are a number of colleagues in Parliament who share my concern - an active church is such an important piece in any community as was demonstrated during the pandemic in the way churches joined other community organisations in connection people and ensuring they had what was needed. The risk to the CofE (and Methodist Church to a similar degree) is that faithful parishioners will grow exhausted and leave or find other fellowship (almost certainly drifting towards churches in town centres) and we lose a stable part of our village community which is in no-one’s interest. The CofE is not short of cash, and I plan to take these concerns first to our Bishop in Truro - who is a good friend - and then to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
MPs are often called on to defend unpopular decisions and their party’s and, in my case Government policies but I will not defend behaviour that has now proven to be illegal by both the PM and the Chancellor. I’m pretty sure few would expect me to. The difficulty my colleagues and I now face, is how we work to restore trust in our democratic system and the Government, and what role the PM has in this. Boris Johnson clearly has qualities and abilities that are needed at a time of international and national crisis - I agree that he gets the big calls right but I fear that, as the police investigation continues, as we receive the Sue Gray report and, as the question over whether the PM mislead Parliament is chewed over, the PM’s desire to ‘get on with the peoples priorities’ will be frustrated. I want him (and each of us MPs) to get on with the job but circumstances may decide otherwise.
‘Recruiting now’ has become the message almost everywhere you go. You see the sign in our town centres, across the NHS and social care providers, on our farms and on buses! It is certainly a phenomenon since we returned to some form of normalcy from the covid pandemic and people have given various reasons for this vast amount of job vacancies. I regularly receive emails blaming Brexit and I accept that freedom of labour has impacted some employers. Many employers also advise me that employees are reducing their hours and availability or leaving to go to jobs that are now paying much more. I’m not sure that any detailed analysis has been undertaken but I do know that mainland Europe and America are experiencing the same labour shortages. America, for example, there are 1.5 million fewer employees than before the covid pandemic. If Levelling Up is to work some detailed analysis is needed to understand what workforce is currently available, where they are needed and what skills and training opportunities are required to meet future demands. For too long we have left the jobs market to sort itself out but today we find we just don’t have enough of the right skills and people to meet the demand.
The situation in Ukraine has not got a lot better and our thoughts and prayers remain with those who are needlessly targeted in their cities each day by Russian aggressors who seemed to have lost all sense of reason and responsibility. However, this unfolds, Putin and his generals must be held properly to account and justice must be served not least to demonstrate that this is not behaviour anyone can get away with irrespective of who you are or the power you hold. However, the visa system in the UK has improved and about time! There are a number of people matched up with homes here in Cornwall and we can become home to lives that have seen the most unmentionable horrors unfold in their otherwise peaceful and friendly communities.
This week MPs have returned to Parliament to complete or carryover legislation before this current session comes to an end. In early May we expect the Queen to open a new session of Parliament and I’m hopeful that the planned Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will provide the tools to properly fix Cornwall and Scilly’s broken housing market.