The West Country Debate July: Freedom day, housing crisis and racism

  • Watch July's edition of The West Country Debate in full

'Freedom day'

Residents and businesses across the West Country are gearing up for the closest thing to normal life since the start of the pandemic.

Monday 19 July marks so-called 'Freedom Day' when all restrictions in England will be eased as the country officially reaches stage four of the roadmap out of lockdown, a month later than planned.

Concerns have grown as coronavirus cases continue to rise, reaching higher numbers than the January peak.

However deaths and hospitalisations - though still increasing - remain low, with the picture in the South West remaining below the national average.

Health bosses are urging the public to practice caution as restrictions ease to avoid more people becoming seriously ill and to prevent a reintroduction of distancing measures.

An issue causing clashes is the continued use of face coverings, with some businesses still insisting those who are not exempt need to wear one after Monday 19 July.

Somerset Liberal Democrat councillor Tessa Munt says continuing to wear a face mask to protect others is basic manners.

Labour MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw says the "responsible people" should use common sense to navigate socialising again.

Gloucester MP Richard Graham from the Conservatives says it is right for people to be given the autonomy to decide for themselves when following guidance is necessary.


Meanwhile an issue much older than Covid continues to affect local residents as the affordability of housing remains out of reach for so many.

Cornwall came close to declaring a Housing Emergency this week as the growing number of second homeowners cause price hikes that drive out locals with smaller incomes.

One woman resorted to living in a tent with her young son when she was unable to find a home to rent in Bude.

Ben Bradshaw says the government is putting money into the wrong things and that more should be done to advance social housing.

Tessa Munt says too much consideration goes into what building developers think is a fair price for homes which leaves prospective buyers with unaffordable options.

Richard Graham says the government is taking the issue very seriously and that more social housing is part of the longer term plan.


Home Secretary Priti Patel has come under fire this week after a Bath-born member of the England football team accused her of pretending to be disgusted at racist attacks toward players after their defeat against Italy.

It has sparked debate over whether footballers should 'get involved' in politics, and whether politicians should ever have commented on the team taking the knee.

Former Defence Secretary and Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer took to twitter to agree with Mings and said he was "uncomfortable with [his] colleagues unnecessary interventions".

Conservative MP Richard Graham agreed and has said footballers should be allowed to make statements without politicians getting involved and he would not have reacted in the way other party members have.

Liberal Democrat councillor Tessa Munt said she also agrees with Mercer and that the whole issue boils down to people being kind to one another.

Ben Bradshaw says fans found guilty of acts of racism should be banned from football for life.