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OPINION: Lockdown restrictions don’t reflect low infection rates in Norfolk and Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 11:02 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:31 22 September 2020

Health secretary Matt Hancock arrives at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, for a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. James Marston argues East Anglia's low infection rate should have an impact on the restrictions we face. Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Health secretary Matt Hancock arrives at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, for a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. James Marston argues East Anglia's low infection rate should have an impact on the restrictions we face. Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Columnist James Marston says a question raised by a Norfolk MP makes a valid point when it comes to lockdown

What have estate agents and journalists got in common? This is not the lead up to some awful joke but more an observation I have often made while watching Sunday afternoon episodes of Inspector Morse or Midsomer Murders, indeed television generally.

According to the received wisdom of television the estate agents are usually doing some dodgy deal, while journalists are seemingly intent on tripping up, or at least interfering on the investigations of the virtuous coppers – both get a bad press and as a result many people believe the telly stereotype of what the estate agent and journalist is.

The stereotype is far removed from the reality. Neither are all estate agents are crooked. Nor are journalists always badgering, ready with a barrage of questions or desperate to trip up or twist in some way. Though in my experience when people scream “it was taken out of context” it is because they said something they shouldn’t and don’t want to admit it.

But the journalist who constantly asks questions, one after the other, is a stereotype that isn’t really accurate. The aim, when interviewing, is more usually instead to engage the subject in conversation, interviewees often say more when they are in a more relaxed and informal manner. And listening patiently, as much as interrupting with questions, allows that to happen.

The importance of listening cannot be overestimated too, I suspect, for politicians. Those who listen to their constituents are likely to be re-elected. Those who fail to do so are, sooner or later, going to regret it.

I wonder if this week Duncan Baker, Conservative MP for North Norfolk, has been listening because he has finally said what many are thinking: “My constituency of North Norfolk and widely in Norfolk has seen some of the lowest infection rates in the entire country and that is thanks to the dedication and sacrifice that many people have made in my area.

“Can you assure me that any further major national restrictions will absolutely reflect the low levels of infections in constituencies like mine?”

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Health secretary Matthew Hancock, MP for West Suffolk gave an answer: “My honourable friend makes an important point. He actually represents the oldest constituency in the country and so this is an important matter for him and his constituents.”

Indeed.

As the politicians ramp up the fear and raise our concerns and further lockdown rears its head, I can’t help thinking it’s time we have listened enough and might like to be listened to a little bit more and I thought of some questions we might like answered:

1. Does the rise in cases negate the efficacy of the national lockdown in the spring?

2. How dangerous is it? And how long can we expect to kick this virus into the long grass?

3. Has mask wearing made one iota of difference? Or has it simply given us a false sense of security.

4. Is it really fair to blame the young for increased numbers of cases?

5. For how long will parliament and representative democracy be superceeded by rule by decree?

What questions would you like answered? Should Norfolk and Suffolk – areas of lower infection rates that elsewhere be spared further restrictions? Is a more regional approach called for to avoid yet more economic disaster? What do you think? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk


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