Christmas column in advance.
This column is written in advance and by the time it’s printed we’ll know a lot more about omicron’s behaviour. It may be a busted flush, it may not. But evidence from elsewhere suggests it’s milder than delta but transmits faster. That makes balancing preventive, but intrusive, health measures with maintaining liberty and livelihood devilishly tricky. Maybe we should cut those who have to make the calls a bit of slack.
Since the facts are changing so very fast, I want the Commons to sit over recess so we can endorse or otherwise the government’s approach in near real time.
It’s vaccination that will get us through this. The PM’s target set on 12 Dec of around a million jabs a day for the rest of the year is way beyond our best so far. It will require a massive national effort.
I have been following up on my Tisbury station site visit a while ago with ministers. The primary purpose of the visit with Network Rail and councillors was to work out an approach to the planning application to build the other side of the track. I originally got fired up on this in the summer when I got my ear bent at my roving surgery at the Nadder Centre. I have written to the council to say I am unhappy with the application principally because of access which, for the foreseeable future, will be dire.
But the other reason for pacing the ground was to gather intel on the connected matter of the so-called Tisbury loop. I know all about this as I take the train from Gillingham to London and back every week. I subsequently raised the issue in the Commons suggesting that some of the money being spent on HS2 might be better spent revamping other bits of the rail infrastructure - the London to Exeter and London to Bristol via Trowbridge and Salisbury lines for example. A meeting with my good friend the trains minister is now in the diary.
Network Rail perfectly reasonably doesn't want to commit to facilitating access across its track to the east of the station before a decision has been made on Tisbury's second platform, an integral part of finally fixing the loop. Without that access I don't see how the site to the south of the track can be developed without severely impacting on the three arches access to and from Tisbury.
Great news that will please the many serving and retired soldiers in the area - including my eldest daughter. The Army Officer Selection Board at Leighton House Westbury is staying put. The Defence Secretary, a graduate of the then Regular Commissions Board, announced that he had canned plans to move it to Sandhurst. I have been campaigning for it to stay local since I was first elected 20 years ago. Hopefully now it’s future in Wiltshire is secure.
Here’s to a very merry Christmas and a much, much happier New Year!