The contrast between attendance in the Chamber this week, with that of only a few weeks ago, tells the story of the nation.
Instead of sitting in familiar huddles, my colleagues have been observing social distancing and sitting unnaturally apart from one other.
At the same time, select committees are exploring how to do their business virtually and have already started collaborating remotely.
Many of the catering facilities where we meet for lunch and a chat have closed.
Visitors can no longer enter the estate and all staff who can work remotely have been encouraged to do so – with videoconferencing and Skype helping them to keep the Parliamentary show on the road.
All the while our valiant doorkeepers, security staff and police officers have continued to keep us safe while critical business has been undertaken.
I know that in this most difficult of times we have placed unique demands on our Members, their staff and staff of the House Service – and they have risen to the challenge.
This has included ensuring that Members have a chance to consider the ministerial responses to the ever-evolving crisis, the ability to scrutinise emergency legislation which gives the Government the powers to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time, representing their constituents.
With Government so heavily engaged, the nation expects Parliament to examine closely the difficult decisions made, and to air their concerns.
This has placed an enormous responsibility on Members, but also on our staff to provide the infrastructure to support them.
So, I want to say a huge thank you for everybody’s efforts and understanding.
On top of that, the speed with which we are facing this sudden and widespread threat is shocking and worrying.
Each of us will have our own anxieties, whether for our loved ones, or for constituents who have lost their jobs or whose livelihood has become precarious.
Obtaining the daily necessities has become a challenge, and we all feel for the most vulnerable in society and for the amazing NHS healthcare workers coping with enormous pressure.
The absence of so many of our normal pleasures – holidays, football, socialising – only adds to the anxiety.
In that context I am so impressed by the attitude of my fellow inhabitants of our ‘Parliamentary village’.
Crises have a habit of bringing out the best in people and I have heard of many acts of selflessness and kindness to keep everyone’s spirits up.
As the Prime Minister said, this is not forever – this is for now. If we can all do our bit, go against our instincts and keep our distance, stay indoors, yet stay in touch, we will endure this.
I hope that when this historic crisis passes and we return to business as usual, we will come back stronger, wiser – and more agile with new and better ways of working.
We will never forget this time, our dependence on each other and the strong sense of feeling that we stood up to the challenge – and together we beat it.
Photo credit: Roger Harris / UK Parliament
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