People have been drawn to London for work and the dazzle of the city lights since Dick Whittington was a boy. We can see influences from every continent here in the capital and its historical significance and influences live on in its landmarks and museums.
Step inside the Royal Opera House and you’ll find music and dance from across the world. Enter the Tower of London and you’ll be transported back in time — to when William the Conqueror was building keeps, trying to terrify Londoners.
But Londoners aren’t easily cowed. That’s certainly been shown over the last year. To protect the NHS and save lives, we’ve needed to put much on hold — including these great cultural attractions.
The Government’s been backing them, including through the £1.6 billion Culture Recovery Fund — part of our unprecedented £352 billion package of support for businesses and workers throughout the pandemic.
But thanks to the success of the vaccine roll-out, and the stern resolve of Londoners and the whole country, we’ve made great progress in tackling the virus.
Case rates and hospitalisations are down, and more than two-thirds of the adult population have had at least one jab.
That’s why the Prime Minister confirmed on Monday that we can continue reopening — including pubs, restaurants and cafes returning indoors, and London’s attractions making a grand return.
Yesterday, tourism minister Nigel Huddleston and I went on a tour of London’s iconic sights and went behind the scenes to see how they’re getting ready to reopen.
Things will look a little different in places. The Beefeaters have adapted to more one-to-one experiences with visitors and there’ll be more face-covering and booking in advance.
That’s because as we take this next step, we must maintain caution. But if we can keep following the rules and doing our bit in this national effort, we’ll be back to doing all the things we love with the people we love.
That means seeing London. And that means, to quote Samuel Johnson, seeing as much of life as the world can show. So, get out there and enjoy it — safely.
Paul Scully is minister for London and MP for Sutton and Cheam