Mick Whitley MP and local volunteers delivering warm meals to vulnerable residents for Wirral Deen
Mick Whitley MP and local volunteers delivering warm meals to vulnerable residents for Wirral Deen's "Taste Ramadan" Initiative.

Since my last bulletin our tragic death toll has risen to the highest in Europe and the mismanagement of the crisis by the Conservative Government has become clear to millions. Their early dithering, their late lockdown, their failures to provide PPE and testing and now their utterly shambolic move towards ending the lockdown too early at the behest of the top bosses is a disgrace.

I am glad that our Party is now moving onto the offensive on these issues. I am all for co-operation when it is called for by the science, but I am increasingly frustrated that Johnson and co are being led by science fiction, not scientific fact.

I do need you to ask you is that every member needs to spread the message of hope, solidarity, support and practical assistance to all our constituents. So please send this bulletin to everyone you know, share it on social media. Help me help Birkenhead.

The Big Issues:

PPE and the Care Home Crisis

The pandemic has demonstrated that in the face of warnings about the spread of the Corona Virus Johnson and his cronies quite literally buried their heads in the sand. The cost of their do-nothing approach was that both the NHS and the Care Sector were left completely unprepared for the crisis.

The strains on the NHS and the fact that it required the army to intervene to get health workers the equipment they needed have been well documented and I have addressed them directly buy liaising with the management, staff and trade unions in our hospitals.

But if the NHS felt the strain it was the Care Homes who faced a dreadful wave of death and whose underpaid staff went without any army support, without any adequate supplies of PPE and with the government now admitting that it was discharging Covid positive patients back into Care Homes without testing up until mid-April.

This has led to carnage in the sector amongst staff and especially amongst elderly people. Politically I have challenged ministers on this and will continue to do so. It was criminal to abandon the vulnerable residents and poorly paid staff in the sector to the ravages of the disease for so long. I am currently pushing both the hospital and the council to investigate this and pledge that no one will be discharged from hospital into a care home without testing and that the hospitals will place no barriers to admitting residents who fall ill.

But this crisis called for practical intervention as well and I was really pleased to get the support of so many Birkenhead Party members in gathering and distributing PPE supplies directly to Care Workers across the town. This effort by volunteers meant that the masks, gloves, gowns, sanitiser, soap, and visors donated by companies and by individuals got to people who needed them urgently. Thanks to all those who helped make this initiative a success.

Getting Food to the vulnerable

My team have been working with people who are shielding but who have had problems getting food supplies from supermarkets. Thankfully they have had some successes resolving those problems. And I know the Council’s food hub at Bidston has done some amazing work – while the government supplies were almost non-existent the Council had, by early May distributed 16,000 hampers and 4000 food vouchers. I specifically pushed for the voucher scheme to be extended to shops where specific food supplies needed by our BAME communities could be purchased and am delighted this happened.

I worked with the Deen Centre in Birkenhead to address the issue of getting hot food to the vulnerable during Ramadan. The Deen Centre, Wirral’s Islamic Centre that serves and is open to the whole community regardless of faith, contacted Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley to support its “Taste Ramadan” initiative.

When Muslims break the fast during Ramadan the evening meal is a time when families and communities can come together. And the idea behind “Taste Ramadan” is to spread this spirit of togetherness across all of Merseyside’s communities. Last year it culminated in a fantastic festival at the Pier Head in Liverpool.

Lockdown meant this could not be repeated. Which is why Ibrahim Syed from the Deen Centre approached me and Tranmere Rover’s Football Club and Fans’ Trust. His idea was to see if any local South Asian restaurants would provide hot meals for the vulnerable during Ramadan.

Mark and Nicola Palios at Tranmere, Ben Harrison from the Tranmere Fans Trust and Reverend Mike Loach, the vicar at Christ Church Bebington, joined with me and together with Alison McGovern MP, Tranmere fans and staff and Birkenhead Labour Party members a team of volunteers gathered on the eve of VE Day to collect 300 meals at the Fans’ Hub.

The delicious food was cooked and donated by four local restaurants, the Paneer, the Ruhi Balti, Wirral Tandoori and Britannia Spice. The meals were bagged up, packed into a fleet of cars and distributed either directly to homes of vulnerable people or to Community Centres right across Wirral. Delighted recipients were made up to receive an unexpected “take away, give away”!

Safety at work

While safe working has been a major problem throughout the crisis – especially in those workplaces where rogue bosses couldn’t care less and where trade unions are not recognised – it has become a burning issue as a result of Johnson’s “get back to work” message on 10 May.

While his performance owed more to Mr. Bumble than his beloved Mr. Churchill the message was surprisingly clear – private wealth is more important than public health. His donors and backers, his right-wing hedge fund mates like the Right Honourable member for the Eighteenth Century Rees Mogg, are more concerned about their future profit margins than they are about our lives. So, we must go back to work regardless.

Not only has this exposed the real dangers facing public transport workers and users alike, it has highlighted the need for the unions to take a stand against this cavalier approach to safety. I am pleased that at my old workplace, Vauxhall, the unions have agreed a series of measures to ensure that health and safety is prioritised before any work starts.

This means thorough risk assessments, safe distancing arrangements on the line, checking the temperature of workers on arrival at work. Together with regular Health and Safety Rep monitoring this will make working under the present conditions as safe as possible and should be the approach across the whole of industry.

I am also supporting the five safety tests demanded by the Education unions before schools can re-open and have drafted a letter for the Education Minister to this effect. I am currently asking other MPs to co-sign this letter.

I have also intervened directly in several workplaces where staff have reported problems to me. The government’s disregard for people with their get back to work message needs to be challenged. How can someone who works miles from their home and has no bike or car get to work other than by public transport? How can we expect older workers with pre-existing health conditions to walk or cycle?

All of this highlights the need to challenge the Tories on health and safety and build the unions in every workplace. Just compare a good employer, like Greggs, that recognises the union and worked with it to make their outlets safe, with a bad employer like Wetherspoons that treats its workers with contempt and refuses to recognise the union.

My message is, join a union and fight for safe working. Together we can achieve this.

The crisis facing BAME people

The evidence is that this virus disproportionately effects BAME people and the low paid. A considerable number of low paid workers, especially in the NHS and Care Sector are BAME. It is horrible double whammy and I have liaised with colleagues at Wirral Change over this issue and have signed a “Stand Up to Racism” petition calling for a public enquiry into this matter.

In addition, in response to a constituent – an immigrant doctor in the front line of the battle against the virus – whose family would face immediate deportation if he dies, I have raised the need for the right to remain for such families with the government. It would be an insult to classify a family as illegal immigrants because their loved one had died as a result of their role in fighting Covid 19. And I was pleased to see that the British Medical Association are pushing the government to grant this.

Britain’s institutional racism, the so called “Hostile Environment” for BAME people, must end now. There is no place for such racism – and its consequences for BAME people such as the victims of the Windrush scandal – in a civilized democratic society.

The Council

I have continued to work constructively with the Council. There are problems of course and my team have been helping people with their housing issues for example. But I must commend the Labour Council in Wirral for the work it has done supporting its own staff, its vulnerable residents, many small businesses and workers across the borough.

I understand that these efforts cost money and that the Council is standing on the edge of a financial abyss. Especially after the Tories cut funding in the second tranche of support to Wirral and other councils on Merseyside. So, I pressed the government on this and, together with the other Wirral MPs, contacted the Minister for Local Government as follows:

In the light of this terrible financial strain on the Council we would like to propose that you (Minister) convene an emergency meeting with the Wirral Council’s leadership and its senior officers and with the local MPs to discuss:

  • The full reimbursement of all additional expenditure the Council has incurred as a result of the pandemic
  • The cancellation of the Council’s debt and the cancellation of the £84 billion debt that councils across the country owe
  • A realistic increase in central government funding to councils based on economic indices of poverty, deprivation and need, not just on population.

Ongoing issues

Me and the team have continued our casework to help many people – workers and small businesses – on a range of issues both Covid 19 related and relating to other constituency issues and we will continue to do so. I am pleased to report that nearly everyone who was stranded abroad has been able to return to this country.

Age UK

We received this useful information from Age UK and want to bring it to the attention of as many people as possible:

“Age UK nationally and Local Age UKs are working hard to alleviate loneliness through befriending schemes, our telephone helplines, teaching digital skills to connect online and we will continue to be there for isolated and lonely older people even as lockdown lifts for others.


There are also plenty of ways we can all help older people without leaving the house:


  1. Phone friends or relatives to check in and chat – particularly those who live alone. Even a short call can make a big difference to someone who is feeling lonely, and remind them that they are missed and cared for. You could also send cards or small gifts to let people know that you are thinking of them.
  2. Share your boredom-busters. Inspire your friends and family with ideas of crafts, activities or recipes that you have tried out. You could even try doing activities together over the phone, such as working together on a crossword or taking a quiz.
  3. Get together virtually. Why not explore ways to hold your regular events using the internet? People have been hosting everything from quizzes to book club discussions online, and you don’t need to be a tech wizard to get involved. Video calling can be very straightforward to use – take a look at our video calling how-to guide to get started.
  4. Support friends or neighbours to get online. Some people are taking their first steps into the digital space right now, which can be a bit confusing if you’re not used to it. If you have digital know-how, see if you can help them over the phone with any issues they run into. We also have some handy tips on using digital technology to keep connected you could take them through.
  5. Join the Big Knit. Try your hand at knitting or crocheting and make a tiny hat, just right for topping off an innocent smoothie bottle. Every hat sold raises 25p for Age UK. Find out more and get started.

Please share these ideas with your constituents, local volunteering groups, family and friends through your website, newsletter and via email. We’d love to hear if you have any great local examples of tackling loneliness during Covid-19.”

In solidarity,

Mick Whitley MP

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