Show Hide image Spotlight 24 December 2020 MPs on the biggest issues of 2020: Spotlight's round-up of the year Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, parliamentarians give their takes on climate change, the economy, education, and more. By Spotlight Sign UpGet the New Statesman’s Morning Call email. Sign-up That this year has been difficult is an understatement. The Covid-19 outbreak, beyond its colossal impact on public health, has sent shockwaves through the economy. Different sectors have had to adapt, with many making the transition to home-working. It has been a year of crisis, but also creativity, as people have had to cope with the sharp pace of change. While the coronavirus has undoubtedly caused problems, it has also offered an impetus to think differently about key issues, such as climate change. The “new normal” raises questions about the old one. What policy solutions are required? Here, Spotlight has collated some of the best comment articles we have published by MPs in 2020. In their own words, parliamentarians have told us how they think policymakers should meet these challenges. Climate change “As Greta Thunberg has said, we must act as if our house is on fire, because it is. It is not enough to dial 999 and ask for the fire service to come in 30 years’ time.” Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion and former leader of the Green Party on how Covid-19 underscored the climate crisis. “Green industries that will be the employers of tomorrow are rapidly evolving.” Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, on the intersection between skills policy and the environment. "The horrors of 2020 will stay with us. The grief, the damage and the cost will be hard to overcome. But with the right approach we can emerge from it stronger, more united and more purposeful. If we do, history might look back on this darkest of years as a key turning point." Bim Afolami, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Renewable and Sustainable Energy and Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, on why the transition to net zero is key to the UK's post-pandemic recovery. The economy “For too many people, where they live limits their opportunities and their chances to succeed. Central government must play a key role in tackling that.” Bridget Philipson, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, on whether the government’s “levelling up” agenda is genuine, or just lip service. “In recovering from this crisis, we do not just want to keep the economy ticking over. This government was elected with ambitious plans for the economy – ambitions which remain firmly in place.” Paul Scully, the Minister for Small Business, on what the government can do to support and stimulate SMEs. “We need to help businesses meet the challenges of this battle, the green industrial revolution and the regional rebalancing of wealth generation.” Chi Onwurah, the shadow minister for science, research and digital, on how the Labour Party would handle the Covid-19 fallout. Healthcare “At the start of the pandemic, care homes were effectively forgotten by the government.” Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on health, on how the pandemic has provided fresh impetus to fix a broken social care system. “To stay well, people need a reason to be well. They need a reason to wake up in the morning and a sense of meaning and belonging.” Ben Spencer, a qualified psychiatrist and the Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, on the importance of community in maintaining people’s mental health. Education "As a former teacher, I firmly believe in the transformative power of education. At its best, it enhances the lives of individuals and improves our wider society." Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, on how schools can be a driving force for change on racial equality. "We know how much children have missed school, and not just the education they receive there. They have missed being with their friends and interacting with their teachers in the classroom." Nick Gibb, the Minister for School Standards, on how the government would support schools through the Covid-19 pandemic. The future of work “Just as automation is not new, neither is the decreasing requirement for human labour to perform production tasks. What is new is the speed of change, the exponential ability of machine learning and the emergence of a new form of Fordism, one with tentacles touching not just manual jobs, but all echelons of employment.” Jo Stevens, shadow secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, on why technology and skills policy are interlinked. “Even in less specialist roles, workers are expected to be comfortable navigating smartphones or tablets now the workplace is increasingly mobile.” Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Dgital, Culture, Media and Sport, on upskilling the nation to meet new technological demands. "Artificial intelligence technologies have taken on a central importance in our everyday lives during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only have they been at the heart of public health strategies and pharmaceutical research in the fight against Covid-19, but data-driven tools were also essential to maintaining our professional and private relationships during the lockdown." Stephen Metcalfe, chair of the APPG on AI and Conservative MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, on why new technology needs to be matched by progressive policymaking. Cyber security “As the minister charged with overseeing the country’s digital infrastructure and cyber security, I want everyone with the talent and aptitude to have the opportunity to succeed regardless of where they live.” Matt Warman, the Minister for Digital Infrastructure, on improving the UK’s cyber resilience. "There is no doubt that the pandemic has brought the threat of cybercrime into sharp focus." James Brokenshire, the Minister for Security, on the government's cyber security strategy against the backdrop of the pandemic. 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