Government ‘must not politicize Covid memorial plans’ | Coronavirus
The government must not politicize Covid-19 commemoration plans, the chair of Britain’s commemoration commission has said, as she urged more people to submit ideas on how to remember the pandemic experience of country.
Baroness Nicky Morgan, a former Tory minister, said ministers would be ‘unwise’ to give the plans a political spin when deciding what form the memorials will take.
Amid calls to make permanent the Covid memorial wall opposite parliament which has been launched by the Covid-19 campaign group Bereaved Families for Justice, the UK’s Covid Commemoration Commission is expected to submit the results of its consultations to government ministers. government next spring.
The recommendations will fall as current and former ministers prepare for cross-examination at the public inquiry module into the handling of the pandemic by the central government, which has pledged to identify any “mistaken decision-making and errors”. important judgment”.
Morgan told the Guardian the commission faced no “push one way or the other”, but said: “Any government would be underserved if it tried to politicize the commemoration process and the process of commemoration”.
Already the National Covid Memorial Wall in London, which features more than 200,000 red hearts, one for each person who died in the UK with Covid, is proving popular with the public who responded to the consultation, Morgan said.
“I think it’s a remarkable tribute…how that is reflected and what role this wall should play…is still up for debate,” she said. “But I think the fact that it’s organic, from the ground up, makes it really stand out.”
When asked if the wall should be preserved, she replied, “It’s been mentioned in just about every engagement one of us has had.” Other commissioners include former Condé Nast publisher Sir Nicholas Coleridge, former Labor health minister Caroline Flint and Ndidi Okezie, the chief executive of national charity UK Youth.
The memorial wall was designed, in part, as a rebuke to the government’s handling of the pandemic. Matt Fowler, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “The government needs to put politics aside and support us in our efforts to make the wall a permanent memorial.
So far, more than 2,000 members of the public have answered a questionnaire on what form the commemoration of the pandemic should take. But as this represents a small proportion of Britain’s population of 67 million, Morgan called for more responses, particularly from men and people from ethnic minorities who are under-represented.
Morgan said it was unlikely that one memorial would be enough. His commission examined memorials from the 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan, to the Bali bombing memorial in Indonesia, as well as Covid memorials already built across the UK. She said there was an emerging consensus on a desire for “spaces and they like the idea of green memorials”, in part because going out during the closures was a way to cope.
Lord True, the leader of the House of Lords, who set up the commission as Cabinet Office minister, has previously said there was consensus in the upper house on the value of ‘planting trees’.
Those consulted expressed enthusiasm for an emblem to mark the pandemic – the way red poppies are used to remember military conflicts – with yellow and red hearts already used to represent all those who have died in the pandemic and those who died of Covid. An annual memorial day also seems popular although there is “no particular consensus emerging” on the date, Morgan said. A suggestion of a commemorative coin, as was minted in Italy, was met with less enthusiasm.
Unlike the First World War, which led to a program of local war memorials, there was no national memorial in the UK for those lost to the 1918 Spanish Flu, prompting some commentators to wonder if this had contributed to the country’s lack of preparedness.
“People really want us to think about how you learn lessons for the future,” Morgan said. “Now we’re not the survey… But people tell us that when you think about your recommendations, thinking about the future is going to be important to us.”
The commission’s mandate instructs it to explore how to commemorate “the loved ones who perished”, “the heroism of those who saved lives” and “the courage of front-line workers”, as well as “the genius of those who created the vaccines” and “the small acts of kindness and the daily sacrifice of millions of people left at home”.
It aims to “shape a broader national conversation and create deep and broad public ownership of the recommendations.”