By Sleaford and North Hykeham MP

This has been an incredibly difficult year. The disruption caused by the pandemic has touched every corner of society and I sympathize with all those who have experienced hardship during the last nine months.

After the first national lockdown was announced at the end of March I swapped the House of Commons for Peterborough hospital, putting in extra shifts to support my NHS colleagues through my work as a Consultant Paediatrician. Working on the frontlines, it was amazing to see everyone coming together, from the doctors to the hospital porters, working night and day to tackle the virus head on.

The selfless professionalism and sacrifice shown by key workers during this time has been truly exceptional. While our NHS workers have been saving lives, we have seen people from all walks of life step up to keep the country running, from supermarket workers to delivery drivers, and we all owe a great debt to them.

For those able to do their jobs from home we have seen a transformation in the world of work. Parliament has not been unaffected by this and we have seen an incredible meeting of technology and tradition, from virtual PMQs to Committee Meetings over Zoom. There have been a number of hiccups along the way but it has been crucial that parliamentary business continued over this time and the correct mechanisms remained in place for parliamentary oversight. Through Zoom I have been able to be an active member of the Education Committee, pressing the Government on how to best support pupils whose education has been severely disrupted this year.

While working from home has been challenging it’s also provided opportunities. Without commuting there’s been more time to spend at home with loved ones. Many have reconnected with nature in their local areas, enjoying long walks within the beautiful countryside we are lucky to call home in Lincolnshire. There has been ample time to complete much delayed home improvement projects, and judging by the long lines at garden centres many have taken the opportunity to spruce up their home environment.

Throughout this crisis the Government has had to walk a difficult tightrope between preserving life whilst protecting the economy. Finding the correct balance has been incredibly difficult and after nearly a year of restrictions, I recognise the frustrations felt by many that the measures in place have gone on for too long. While the tough decisions the Government took ensured we did not lose control of the virus and stopped the NHS from being overwhelmed, there has been huge disruption to the economy and our normal way of life.

Thankfully with the announcement of a vaccine being approved the end is now in sight. Following a nationwide vaccination campaign, and with more vaccines in development, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and a time beyond lockdowns, restrictions and social distancing. By spring next year we can hope for a return to a way of life as close to normal as possible.

There is still a long road ahead, but this a momentous step forward. As we begin our economic recovery it is imperative that the Government’s levelling up agenda is at the forefront of efforts, ensuring rural areas such as Lincolnshire get their fair share of investment. The £110 million promised to complete the ring road around Lincoln is a good start and I look forward to working with the Government to get the economy up and running again. Next year promises to be better than the last and I wish you all the best for the New Year.

If 2020 were a brand, what would its tag line be?

I get locked down, but I get up again

Dr Caroline Johnson is the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham.

By Sleaford and North Hykeham MP

This week, activists from the climate change group Extinction Rebellion began a fortnight of coordinated protests shutting down all the streets into Westminster. Over 20,000 people are expected to block bridges, disrupt public transport, and lock themselves to lorries. I know their concerns about the environment are shared by some in our constituency, with around 40 Lincolnshire environmental protesters travelling to London to take part, in addition to a number of protestors taking part in an event in Sleaford.

As a mother, a doctor, and the Member of Parliament for Sleaford and North Hykeham, I am committed to ensuring our children inherit a world that is cleaner, safer, and greener.

I respect their motivation and passion on this issue – but not their tactics intended to cause mass disruption.

Everyone has the right to peacefully protest; it is a proud British tradition and a vital part of our democracy. However, people do not have the right to break the law and disrupt the lives of others. Protesters do not have the right to cause misery for those going about their daily lives – disrupting individuals going to work, attending hospital appointments, or dropping their children off on the school run.

These individuals are neither responsible for nor have agency over the issue of climate change – yet the inconvenience they must suffer is seen as justifiable collateral damage by these protestors. The same logic applies to our emergency services, who suffered great difficulties on the road networks during similar protests in April. As a Consultant Paediatrician I know just how precious every minute is for an ambulance – and they should not have to navigate through open air yoga classes on Westminster Bridge when responding to a person in urgent need.

In shutting down all the streets into Westminster, one of their objectives is to shut down all the Government departments – the irony being that the hard work by ministers and civil servants across these departments has put the UK at the forefront of global efforts to fight climate change. We were the first country to introduce legally binding long-term emissions targets under the landmark Climate Change Act in 2008.

We’ve introduced a legally binding net zero target to end the UK’s contribution to global warming entirely by 2050. We’ve reduced greenhouse gases by a quarter since coming to office in 2010; increased renewable electricity generation six-fold since 2009; and reduced emissions faster than any other G20 country. Indeed, the last time emissions in the UK were this low was in 1888 when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

The Conservatives have always been strong advocates for the environment – in fact, Margaret Thatcher was the first leader of a major economy to recognise global warming as a threat. Since 2010 the government has cut single use plastic bags by 86 percent through the plastic bag charge; legislated to ban other harmful plastics such as microbeads, straws, stirrers, and cotton buds; ensured cleaner air for the next generation, through supporting local authorities with funding worth more than £260 million to tackle those road junctions with particularly bad levels of air pollution; and ensured 25% of UK waters are now Marine Protected Areas.

There is more to be done, of course, but these achievements show that rather than turning a blind eye towards environmental issues, we have been at the forefront of efforts to tackle them. I have been proud to play my part through my work on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee; including scrutinising the Environment Bill, which will establish a world-leading environmental watchdog that will ensure parliament keeps the environment at the heart of decision making for decades to come.

It is a common refrain that all politics is local, and climate change is no exception. Reaching the ambitious goals we have set will require action at all levels of government. In our constituency of Sleaford and North Hykeham, we are lucky to be served by district and county councils that take their role in reducing emissions seriously. North Kesteven District Council has reduced its carbon footprint by an incredible 70%; while Lincolnshire County Council has reduced its carbon emissions by 24% since 2012. LCC was also one of the first authorities that took part in the Carbon Trust Local Authority Carbon Management programme in 2006. I am proud that Lincolnshire is committed to playing its part in tackling this issue.

I believe this government’s commitment to the environment is clear to see, and the mass disruption caused by these protests only serves to cause unnecessary misery and even alienate many potential supporters. Extinction Rebellion have the right to protest – but not the right to break the law.

Dr Caroline Johnson is the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham.

By Sleaford and North Hykeham MP

I am a consultant paediatrician in our NHS. I became an MP because I wanted to use my experience to deliver improvements in health, social care, and opportunity for children and their wider family. Our constituency, my home, is rural and I hoped to play a part in enabling rural communities to flourish.

Whilst I have worked to achieve both of these, whether in the chamber, on various committees, or in my constituency work, I have to agree with many of my constituents that the machinations in Parliament on Brexit have distracted attention from many of the government’s achievements.

We need to be honest with our members and voters, and admit that the Conservative Party is not just in trouble; it is in great danger. We could argue for hours about why this state of affairs has come about, but the essence of it is our failure to keep the promises we made on Brexit.

Why we failed and who is to blame has been, and will continue to be, debated ad nauseam; but to the voting public it doesn’t matter, because others promise to succeed where we failed.

The risk is not just to the Conservative Party, or even to Brexit, but to the country as a whole. If we fail to leave the EU, the country could sleepwalk into the very real dangers of a Corbyn government.

Most fundamentally, by not delivering Brexit we erode the very core of democracy: trust between the electorate and their elected representatives

But we have an opportunity, a chance, to restore confidence in our Party and in our democracy. That opportunity is to elect a new leader with the drive and vision to deliver Brexit in this Parliament.

I have consulted widely with my local party members, and within my constituency generally, and the feedback is clear

We need a leader who is ready to lead on day one. We have a plethora of talented people who have the qualities to lead us, but we don’t have time to test them. We must pick a leader with proven abilities to lead, to inspire, and to get things done.

We need a leader who is committed to Brexit. For far too long we have allowed a narrative of Brexit that is one of damage limitation, and this must change. This means we must choose a leader who, like me, was committed to Brexit before the referendum. Some contenders have expressed their Damascene conversions or their commitment to deliver because of their deeply-held belief in democracy but, however well motivated they are, there is a risk that the public may not have confidence in them.

We need a leader who recognises the opportunities Brexit offers and is determined to realise them. For nearly three years we have been bombarded with “project fear” and it is time for “project opportunity”. We need a leader who will develop this.

We need a leader who can communicate their vision, both of Brexit and the world beyond it. They must be able to make the case why the Conservatives are the only party that can successfully deliver Brexit but also how we will guarantee a safe and prosperous future for this country and all its citizens.

And finally, we need a leader who is brave and democratic. The people of this country voted clearly to leave the European Union. Unfortunately, we are a minority Government and there are some MPs who appear to me to feel they have some sort of Parliamentary divine right to overrule their voters. Our new leader must navigate the difficulties in Parliamentary arithmetic to deliver.

In short, before we can progress with an ambitious domestic agenda we need to deliver Brexit. To do this, we need a seasoned leader who is committed to delivering Brexit and who can overcome the challenges from doubters, inspire our electorate, and lead us out of the European Union.

In taking into account all these criteria, there is only one candidate who ticks all the boxes. Boris Johnson has executive experience as the Major of London; indisputable charisma; the belief in Brexit from the start; and the determination to make it a reality. This is why I will be giving him my support.

Dr Caroline Johnson is the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham.

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