Opinion: ‘England have united the country’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 17th July 2021, 1:37 am
Football almost came home last Siunday. Picture: Chris Lowndes.

Football so nearly came home.

The hope of the early goal, a brave defence and then the agony of penalties.

At least this was England in a final.

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Something I had waited my whole life to see, with many long, disappointing years between the semi-final defeats of the 1990s and 2018.

The whole country can be proud of the England team.

They gave it their all. And with this young, talented side, we have a chance of going one better at next year’s World Cup.

2018 was the platform for this year’s run. It establish-ed the self-belief and the appetite within the squad. It gave Gareth Southgate the authority to make tough calls on team selection, without the disunity or criticism that would normally follow.

Tournaments are won by great teams, with players who unselfishly put the team ahead of themselves. This 
generation of England play-ers has what it takes to win, and so nearly did.

I went through every emotion imaginable during the game, as we roared ourselves hoarse in the phenomenal atmosphere at Coyotes in our city centre. Everyone felt it, from sitting rooms to the stadium. It was a palpable, collective experience that brought us together.

No blame can be attached for the missed penalties. The pressure of taking a penalty kick in those circumstances is unimaginable. We should be proud of each and every one of them.

What an emotionally draining night! Inevitably, the nation’s Monday morn-ing had a sense of anti-
climax, but life goes on – and life continues to return in our city.

Although the restoration of our freedoms has taken a long time, it’s finally happen-ing. There was a wonderful moment at Wimbledon the other week, when the centre court announcer mentioned the presence of the Oxford vaccine team and the crowd gave a prolonged standing ovation.

Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert was a model of dignity, yet visibly moved. We owe her and her fellow scientists so much.

Every business able to reopen, every choir able to sing, every extended family able to gather. The vaccines made this possible.

I know some people are nervous about the return of normality. Coronavirus hasn’t gone away. Rather, we now have the means to manage the risks.

A crucial part of that management involves vaccinating younger people and those who have yet to be jabbed, despite an invitation. If that’s you, please do your bit and get down to a vaccination centre.

Two jabs of AZ or Pfizer are over 90% effective against hospitalisation, for every variant, and up to 87% effective at preventing infection in the first place. Those kinds of numbers can make masks – and many other measures – an irrelevance.

After the noise made by Labour MPs about masks, I was disappointed to watch them vote in Parliament to allow unvaccinated staff to continue working in our care homes.

Obviously, staff have a personal right to refuse the vaccine. But they shouldn’t have a right to put the most vulnerable residents of our city at risk because of their refusal. Not when the vaccines are safe and the consequences of their contact with care home residents could be fatal.

The government has rightly taken action to protect our elderly. It’s a pity that we don’t have the unity on vaccination that we had for the football.