Things are undoubtedly bleak right now. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are dying, we can’t go outside and, as an added bonus, the economy is essentially going to be fucked up beyond all recognition.
This state-of-affairs certainly may not seem like the ideal time to jump head-first into any political pursuits. We are still being told, largely by members of the right-wing media, that we should refrain from ‘politicising’ the current crisis for generally undefined reasons.
Whilst political point-scoring for the sake of it is admittedly not particularly useful at this point in time, neither is this the time to refrain from political activity altogether. Instead, as there’s little else to occupy us for the foreseeable future and with a lot on the line, the lockdown period is in fact a perfect opportunity to effect positive change both during and after the Coronavirus crisis.
For starters, there are some serious problems with the way the government is handling Covid-19 which, if fixed, could achieve drastically better results for the country than the current forecasts are suggesting. On the issue of PPE for example, in a recent YouGov poll (see below), 61% of Doctors said they had inadequate, or not enough, PPE, whilst 37% of Doctors said they were having to treat patients both with and without Covid-19 which obviously presents a serious health risk to the patients, the Doctors and their families. Although several members of the government have repeatedly stated that solving this is a ‘priority’, things still clearly aren’t moving fast enough with each passing day further exacerbating the spread of the crisis.
In South Korea, which has dealt with the crisis better than perhaps any other country in the world- healthcare staff are covered head-to-toe in Hazmat suits which drastically reduce the spread of infection. Our NHS staff have resorted to covering themselves in bin-bags, an absolute disgrace which our Government has allowed to happen by not preparing fast or hard enough and has certainly led to the unnecessary deaths of several frontline workers. Therefore pressure and effective scrutiny must be applied on the government to get this issue, as well as other problems regarding testing and provision of ventilators, solved as quickly as possible.
Petitions such as this one must be signed and shared, emails/tweets must be sent to MP’s and Councillors demanding action, all to highlight the strength of feeling and force the Government to act. The Daily Mirror today launched a further campaign to demand the protection of our NHS heroes, hopefully leading to even stronger public support for a massive increase in PPE.
Throughout the past few weeks it has been great to witness the sense of pride and admiration amongst the public towards our vital NHS staff. But right now we can’t afford to let this simply be a cosmetic show of support. We need concrete activity to provide them with much-needed help. Despite the claims of some Tory ministers, now is in fact the perfect time to reward our most-necessary key workers with a pay rise to at least make their current situation a tad more bearable.
There have already been tangible victories as a result of public action during this crisis. The Government initially introduced the necessary lockdown and introduced a furlough scheme paying 80% of salaries after pressure from both the public and opposition parties. Subsequently, petitions were circulated demanding the self-employed received a similar compensation package and that parking charges for NHS staff were scrapped – with both duly being dealt with by the Government.
The Government will not do this on their own. Without wishing to get too party political, their ideology as small-c ‘conservatives’ will likely prevent them from spending money unless absolutely necessary. Despite a recent influx in spending in Rishi Sunak’s last budget, austerity is far from over.
Though the current parliamentary majority is strong, as Boris said himself, these votes were only ‘lent’ to the Tories and it is certainly clear that the current Tory Government is aiming to expand their electoral coalition by pursuing popular policies. As such, the Government would be loath to refuse the demands of the public to protect key workers, wages and those most at risk from Covid-19.
The lockdown itself, frustrating as it is, must continue to be enforced at least until our health system becomes adequately prepared. The Government initially wished to pursue their now infamous ‘herd immunity’ strategy with Dominic Cummings reportedly saying: “if that means some pensioners die, too bad”. This was based on the idea that the British public are too freedom-loving and unresponsive to authority that they simply would not abide having to stay in their homes for months on end even if it means hundreds of thousands of Brits die. As evidenced by both polling data and general common sense, the government got this very wrong (and their delay in implementing the eventual lockdown has likely cost thousands of lives).
Therefore, simply sticking to the rules and encouraging others to do the same, is a political act in and of itself. Whilst public support for the lockdown remains high, the Government will keep it in place and lives will be saved. The public-blaming espoused by politicians and journalists alike allows the spotlight to be taken off those who actually have the responsibility for inaction and a significant loss of life.
All in all, by getting political- signing petitions on Facebook, writing to your MP, telling people to stay home, joining a mutual aid group- you can affect positive change. By forcing the Government to act quicker to protect the NHS, by helping out vulnerable others, and observing social distancing we will all be doing our part in preventing the worst effects of this crisis (and this is even without bringing up the inevitable side-effects of Covid-19 which deserve an article on their own).
We have already seen that our actions can work. So get involved, organised and help save lives.
By Glyn Sheldon .