Shaun Bailey is a member of the London Assembly and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.
It turns out that my mum was right. She used to tell me that the best way to stay out of trouble is to stay inside.
Back then, we lived in a council house in Ladbroke Grove. Back then, she was thinking about me.
But now I’m thinking about her. In fact, I’m thinking about your family too. I’m thinking about families across London. I’m thinking about all the people who need you to stay inside.
We still don’t fully know how coronavirus spreads. But we do know this. The more people come into contact with each other, the quicker it spreads. That is why the Prime Minister has put the country into lockdown. And that’s why I support his decision 100 per cent.
Coronavirus may not bother you if you’re young, fit, and healthy. To be honest, it didn’t bother me at first either. So I get it. But then I thought about mum. I thought about the hundreds of vulnerable Londoners I’ve met — the elderly, the sick, those with weakened immune systems. They’re hoping against hope that they don’t catch the virus. Because for them, coronavirus isn’t just painful. It’s lethal.
If they catch it, they can’t stay at home in bed. They need an ambulance. They need to be taken to hospital. They need doctors and nurses and respirators. They need our NHS.
So while we’re in lockdown, there’ll be one group of people that get up and go to work. Every day, rain or shine: doctors, nurses and other key workers will put themselves directly in harm’s way. They’ll do it without complaining. They’re the heroes fighting coronavirus at the front line — and you can help them win.
By staying at home, you can stop coronavirus in its tracks. You can save lives. Because if there’s no one for the virus to feed on, it will die.
When I was a youth worker, I knew when kids were starting to turn a corner. They’d talk about the community being bigger than any one person. That’s the situation we’re in now.
London is our community, the NHS is our health system, doctors and nurses are our heroes — and I’ll be damned if a virus is going to take any one of them down.
So don’t stay inside for yourself. Stay inside for mum. Stay inside for dad. Stay inside for your grandparents and your friends. Stay inside for the thousands of vulnerable Londoners who can’t afford to catch this virus. Stay inside for the doctors and nurses who can’t afford to be overwhelmed with patients.
In London and across the country there will be organisations – sprouting organically – that you can join to help people in your community. This is the very ethos of conservatism, whether we label it Big Society or One Nation Conservatism – it is a willingness to define society by the forging of bonds between people, rather than a series of independent relationships between persons and the state. In times of strife, it is our second nature to want to help our neighbours. It is our second nature to be ‘conservative’.
Prior to the lockdown coming into effect, I would go out with the charity ‘Take a Knife, Save a Life’ to collect and deliver groceries and other essential items for vulnerable neighbours of mine. This is a group I have worked with for many years, who in this time of crisis have turned their attention from youth and gang crime, to the elderly and vulnerable in our community.
And after speaking to our team of excellent Conservative London Assembly candidates across London, I know I’m not alone. I was not surprised to learn that during the early days of this crisis, many have quietly but bravely dedicated themselves to local charities and programmes committed to helping others.
Selina Seesunkur took it upon herself to start a group on Facebook for people self-isolating, encouraging members to share information and tips on how to protect one’s mental health. Subjects range from cooking to meditative practices to home videos of amateur singers – anything to help one another stay connected.
Neil Garratt, our candidate for Croydon and Sutton has created a full guide on how to make use of online library services in his pocket of south London. Roberto Weeden-Sanz, our candidate for Barnet and Camden, is doing grocery and pharmacy runs for the elderly and at risk in his immediate community.
And our candidate for Merton and Wandsworth, Louise Calland, has established an emergency fund for local community groups in her capacity as chair of the Grants Committee of Wandsworth Council. As a trustee of Battersea United Charities, she is part of the team liaising with other local groups on mutual support at this difficult time. And all this whilst self-isolating.
These are but a few examples of how you can help and they go to show that anyone can play a part. The coronavirus has exposed one beautiful part of the British character. Whether it’s facebook groups and grocery shopping, or the 750,000 + who immediately signed up to volunteer alongside our NHS heroes, in times of crisis, we stick together. And together is how we will beat this virus.