Although there are some cautious signs of hope in the recent coronavirus statistics (continuing the trend I previously wrote about), it’s a crisis that isn’t going to be over any time soon.
As the government’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty put it today:
This disease is not going to be eradicated, it is not going to disappear.
We have to accept that we are working with a disease that we are going to be with globally for the foreseeable future…
If people are hoping it’s going to suddenly move from where we are now in lockdown suddenly into everything’s gone, that is a wholly unrealistic expectation.
We are going to have to do a lot of things for really quite a long period of time, the question is what is the best package.
For the Liberal Democrat specifically, it’s important to let that really sink in when we consider how to operate.
It’s quite plausible that canvassing and leafleting for next May’s elections will be massively curtailed. Indeed, if there is a second spike in the winter, it may never really get going at all.Or when will the next traditional-style local party AGMs take place? With attendance at such events skewed towards those in higher-risk groups, it may not be possible to hold such events offline safely and in ways that involve all our members for the several years it could take to get a vaccine.
Likewise, it’s not only that this autumn’s plans for a traditional offline conference have been put on hold. It’s more likely than not that conferences into next year or even beyond will get disrupted. It’s certainly possible my term as party President will come and go without there ever being a speech from a conference podium from me.
There are some silver linings in all this, such as how the move towards normalising video conference calls may result in a much more inclusive party. It’s easier to get involved if you don’t have to leave home, and possibly travel for several hours, to meetings. That could be good for the geographic diversity of national committees. It could be good for the demographic diversity of party bodies at all levels if it is easier for parent and others with caring responsibility to come to meetings when they involve just switching on your webcam.
As Chris Whitty said today, the chances of a vaccine or drugs to treat the symptoms of coronavirus in “the next calendar year” are “incredibly small”.
Normality will not return any time soon. We are only a few weeks into something that will last at the very least months, and quite likely years.
We all in the party need to adjust to that.
We don’t need to just cancel one or two things for a bit longer. We need to fundamentally change how we operate.
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