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Influential MP Graham Brady on why we need to be ‘less fearful’ of Covid

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Altrincham and Sale West MP Sir Graham Brady is one of the country’s most influential politicians – and one of the most outspoken on matters of principle.

In a question and answer session with Trafford Local Democracy Reporter, Alice Richardson, Sir Graham, chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, this week addresses some of the biggest political stories of the last few months.

In this frank interview, Sir Graham gives his views on the government’s management of the pandemic, the departure of former health secretary Matt Hancock, and his views on the Greens in his backyard.

Q: When the government announced its decision to postpone the ‘Freedom Day’ of June 21, did you agree with the rationale and what were and are your thoughts on the decision?

A: I disagreed with the delay and voted against it. The evidence was already strong that the vaccinations are effective in preventing serious illness from the so-called ‘Delta variant’. It has since been revealed that vaccines work better against it than against the earlier strains. I welcome the lifting of some restrictions on weddings but there are still many couples who have had to rearrange for a second or third time.

Sir Graham has said lockdowns ‘cost lives as well as livelihoods’

Q: What are the feelings on the back benches now? Does the government largely have support for its approach to the easing of restrictions and travel bans or is there discontent in Conservative ranks?

A: I think MPs across the House are hearing concerns from constituents who are fearful for their livelihoods or who are desperate to see family members overseas. I think the public expects to be treated like grown-ups and allowed to take some decisions about their own lives and their own families.

Q: What are your thoughts on an emphasis likely being placed on ‘personal responsibility’ after July 19?

A: I have always believed that the British tradition is for government to serve the public – not to tell people what to do. A return to people taking responsibility for themselves is long overdue and I hope that we move to that approach in July.

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Q: How likely do you feel it will be that vaccine passports will be introduced and made compulsory in the UK?

A: I think we can all accept that foreign countries might expect evidence of vaccination – or of a negative test – for arriving passengers. Vaccine passports for visiting a shop or a pub would be divisive as well as being unnecessary. The vaccines work and the most vulnerable people had both shots a long time ago. We should feel that we have a significant degree of protection and should be less fearful.

Q: What are your thoughts on the effect the pandemic is continuing to have on children’s education, the economy, civil liberties and standards in public life? Especially in light of the fact that deaths and hospitalisations are – at least not yet – rising in tandem with the increase in cases?

A: Not only are the hospitalisations and deaths not rising with positive tests but the percentage of infected people who get ill is falling – probably due to effective vaccination. For much of the last 18 months the interests of children and young people were given shockingly low priority. Now we should recognise the toll on educational and social development and the alarming impact on children’s mental health. Young people should be enjoying school, university, sports and social life normally. We owe it to them.

Sir Graham Brady

Q: Do you think public trust in the government has been permanently damaged by what has happened involving Matt Hancock?

A: Matt Hancock’s behaviour was hypocritical and it was obvious that his position was untenable. I hope that the new Secretary of State will hold a steady course to releasing restrictions.

Q: Following the most recent local election results where the Green Party came a very close second to Conservative members in strong-hold Hale Barns, do you think Altrincham could go the way of Brighton and the South East? Do you think the actions of central government and Boris Johnson could be alienating life-long Conservative voters in Trafford?

A: I suspect that people would be less likely to vote for the Green Party if they knew about their opposition to grammar schools, their support for Labour plans to build on the green belt in Timperley or their hard left economic policies. We will need to work harder to get these facts across.

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