Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.
Growing up we were told about the famous ‘Blitz spirit’. My grandfather served in the British Army and I learned from him and other elders of personal sacrifice and difficulties faced by their generation in the face of great challenges. These are uncertain times, which call for a new generation to step up and lead from the front.
We don’t yet know where the coronavirus is set to take us, but we do know that it will be a long and prolonged fight to keep it under control. For many of us it will be the first time we’ve faced a material threat to our health and safety. The 2008-09 global recession might have set us back financially, but it represented a different kind of threat to what we’re facing now. People are scared. I was a youth worker on the streets of west London for over 20 years and saw firsthand how people act in times of distress: it can be toug. However, personal responsibility and calm heads are ultimately needed.
And while it’s trite to simply call for a re-initiation of the ‘Blitz spirit’ to fight our fear, it’s clear that London will need an epidemic of coming together to see us through the rough days ahead. Our families and cities have atomised as we’ve migrated to chase our educations and careers; now it’s time to see if we can pull together as communities to care for each other.
The good news is that I know we can do it. Having done youth work on London’s streets for over 20 years, I know what good our communities are capable of when we pull together. There might be many more languages and nationalities than in 1940, but there is still only one London spirit and we will rally to this fight as Londoners.
The key to making a difference is first knowing that you can make a difference; sometimes when problems appear too big we talk ourselves out of making our contributions. But know this: even the littlest bit helps. You can’t fix coronavirus on your own, but you can ask one elderly neighbour if they’re alright or need help with their shopping. You can pop your contact info through the doors on your street with an offer to help. And you can also do the simple things that will help keep coronavirus at bay, like washing your hands and listening to the public health authorities.
For my part, I pledge to share only expert advice and keep my comments constructive; people aren’t looking for politics at the minute. I will continue to work constructively with the Prime Minister and the Government as well as within City Hall as a London-wide Assembly Member. Local councillors and London MPs will also have my support. We will get through this together, and we will get through it with a better sense of community and belonging.
If my experience has taught me anything, it is that heroes don’t wear capes, they just show up when they’re needed. This is something we know to be true of our doctors, nurses, emergency responders, and other front line workers, but it is also true of ourselves.
It’s time for us ordinary Londoners to stand up and be counted.