Forgive the deviation from the normal fare of archaeology and history. But sometimes politics becomes personal, and inescapable, and I am angry. A letter to @WalkerWorcester:
Rt Hon Robin Walker MP
Dear Mr Walker,
I’ve never written to my MP before. It’s not that I’m apathetic. It’s just that I’ve never believed it would change anything. My wife writes to you. At length. And, to be fair, you always respond. But her latest letter was brief. She’s got a lot going on. Her father died last week.
He’d spent much of the last couple of years under treatment for cancer. So we were careful, Mr Walker. We stuck — religiously — to the rules, for fear of putting him at risk. We had a birthday party in June 2020, Mr Walker. We sat on separate rugs, in a National Trust garden. We brought our own food. We did not hug. It was one of the few occasions our baby daughter got to meet her grandfather. And even after the rules relaxed, Mr Walker, we were cautious. We did not want to put our family at risk.
Our son was 5 when this all started, Mr Walker. Formative years. So many firsts their grandparents missed. But it seemed like he was on the mend. There’ll be time to catch up after, we thought. Well, Mr Walker, there wasn’t. Because he’s gone. And now, of course, there’s a whole heap of self-doubt. Did we do right? Shouldn’t we have just bent the rules?
Do you see why this matters, Mr Walker? Do you see why this isn’t going to blow over with a non-committal apology and a redacted internal report? Because it’s not just the daily drip of damning evidence that exposes each improbable denial. Your government asked us to make sacrifices. And we did. But it turns out that the Prime Minister was less capable of restraint on his fifty-sixth birthday than my son was on his sixth.
People say you are a decent man, Mr Walker. Politics necessitates compromise. I understand that it is possible to put up with a lot from one’s colleagues if you believe you are serving the wider public interest. But it’s no longer possible to hold your nose above the stench of arrogance and exceptionalism emanating from the heart of your government. The thing about rotten apples, Mr Walker, is that they taint the whole barrel.
Our little private turmoil, and my mounting anger, is mirrored across the city. Most of your constituents will have their own stories of absence and loss. Keep them in mind when you consider this matter, Mr Walker. That’s all I ask. I think you probably know the right course, and I wish you the conviction to take it.
With best wishes,
Update: To his credit, Robin Walker was quick to respond, and in the interests of balance his reply is copied below
Thank you for your recent correspondence which I read with the greatest of sympathy. My
thoughts are with you and Hannah in respect of your late father in law. I lost my own father to
cancer soon after being elected and have also been taking extra precautions through the
pandemic as a result of a relative who is undergoing chemotherapy. I entirely appreciate the
difficult choices that you and your family have been having to make and therefore the added
concern that this might generate about some of the media coverage of events in
I understand and share the anger felt by people across the country at allegations of
gatherings in Downing Street during the pandemic. So many of us have made extraordinary
personal sacrifices throughout the pandemic. We followed the rules to protect ourselves, our
loved ones, and our communities. I know for many people, it is deeply upsetting to think that
anyone in Downing Street, who was involved in setting the rules, did not follow them.
The Prime Minister, in comments to the House of Commons, has accepted that there were
things that they did not get right and has taken responsibility for this. He has offered his
heartfelt apologies. I made clear at that time that I thought the Prime Minister was right to
apologise. A number of constituents have contacted me about this matter and I have made
their views known to my colleagues in government.
It is right that this should be properly investigated and I welcome the ongoing investigation
into these allegations which will establish all the facts and report back as soon as possible.
This is an independent investigation and is being led by Sue Gray, second permanent
secretary at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. I want to reassure
you that the Terms of Reference for this investigation make clear that wherever there are
credible allegations of gatherings, these may be looked at. It has been confirmed that this
includes the allegations relating to November and December 2020 as well as 15th and 20th
May 2020. The Government has been clear that if wrongdoing is established, then
appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. I await the outcome of the inquiry at which point the Prime Minister will make a statement in Parliament.
In the meantime it is important that I as Worcester’s MP remain focused on all of the things
that matter to the people of Worcester. These priorities are investing in jobs, growing our
economy, supporting our treasured NHS and improving our local schools. I recently made
the announcement that schools in Worcestershire will next year receive a £23 million
increase in core schools funding (6 per cent in per pupil terms) and a significantly higher
increase for high needs funding which rises by £10 million to a total of £78 million. Work is
underway on the £15 million upgrade to the Emergency Department at the Worcestershire
Royal as well as a much needed expansion of bed capacity at the hospital, and last month
was the tenth month in a row that unemployment fell in the constituency.
I can assure you that when the report is published I will consider it carefully but I do not think
it is right to draw conclusions based on a series of selective leaks to the media. I recognise
that there is a great deal of concern about these matters and I respect your strongly held
views. I know from my work as a Minister, the vast majority of which was done remotely during the period of lockdown, that ministers and officials in all parts of government were
working hard to protect both lives and livelihoods and the type of events that have been
alleged to have happened in the various leaks and briefings, neither reflect my own
experience or that of any colleagues with whom I have discussed them. I do think it is right
therefore to get to the bottom of what actually did happen before sitting in judgement on
Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding this matter and please accept my
condolences for your family’s loss.
Robin Walker MP