THIS coming Easter will be the first in which the God-fearing in England will be unable to make their Easter Communion since the disastrous reign of King John.

John was infamous for his military failures, arbitrary taxation, losing the Kingdom’s treasury in the Wash, being forced by the Barons to sign Magna Carta; and, of course, mixing it with the Sheriff of Nottingham against Robin Hood.

He also fell out with Pope Innocent III over the appointment of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury, resulting in England being placed under an interdict from 1208 to 1213: The only church services permitted were baptisms, although the dying could have their confessions heard -but were not allowed funerals and burial in consecrated ground.

Conversely, in our own ‘interdict’ services of baptism are not permitted but funerals are.

Let’s hope that ours lasts one hell of a lot shorter than King John’s.

Of course, even for some of the faithful, churchgoing is partly habit, but break the habit….

I’ve been conducting meetings online using something called ‘Zoom’. All the participants are presented on screen in thumbnail-sized squares, when they have the floor however, their thumbnail balloons out to occupy most of the screen, but it doesn’t always work like that, sometimes at random a participant will fill the screen unawares.

Actually, I used to find telephone conferencing more productive – there are fewer distractions.

With a screen you can’t help wondering about the different backgrounds: have they arranged the books on the shelf behind them to impress?

Is their home always really that tidy?

Are they still really in their pyjamas?

Last week one participant had laid his iPad flat on the table and was looming over it, whilst continuing with his breakfast cereal. In a random moment he filled the screen and we all saw a massive spoon coming straight towards us.

When we were all clapping furiously for our NHS on Thursday at eight o’clock (and I hope you heard the din we were making in Burley) we were clapping for all healthcare professionals, and others.

But for years constituents have been writing to me demanding that any independent and commercial provision be excluded from any involvement in our National Health Service. I’ve never understood this attitude. Do they realise that the part of the NHS with which the majority of us are most familiar is almost exclusively provided by private contractors -and they are doing a magnificent job, just like the rest of the NHS.

The original plan for setting up the NHS was to nationalise the general practitioners and leave the hospitals in the hands of private and charitable undertakings. In the event however, they did it the other way around, with all the family doctors, not as employees of the NHS, but contracting their services to it. Most people have never noticed the distinction, and I’m certain that nobody was excluding them from their admiration when we were clapping.

I hope that the Horlicks over testing will be a corrective to those ideologues who want to exclude independent providers from the NHS. At the outset, the authorities decided to centralise all testing within the NHS where they would have exclusive control, notwithstanding the ability and willingness of independent commercial laboratories and universities to assist.

The testing regime has not covered itself in glory, and it's time to let the independents contribute.