“I can’t help but think that as a country, we would be better equipped if we were governed and represented by more MPs who are actually representative of the parts of the country that elect them.”Jon Trickett MP.
Pick up any number of the newspapers and you will find headlines celebrating the fact that from Monday, groups of up to 6 people can meet in gardens. Multiple media outlets cheered the fact that very soon people will be lighting up BBQs and reuniting.
My immediate thought was: what if you don’t have a garden?
Millions of people in this country live in high-rise flats or houses with no garden to speak of. For them, the measures announced by Boris Johnson, will not make any difference.
For every person enjoying the new found freedom of being able to host friends and family in their backyard, after months apart, there will be someone living within the small confines of a tiny apartment, with no garden, no balcony and no outdoor public space nearby.
Not that this was acknowledged by a Prime Minister who is unaware of how other people live their lives.
Yet it is this other Britain – the country of working class people who have been designated as key workers, who have kept the country moving and relatively safe during the crisis.
Many of the tenants that live in high-rise dwellings and council flats spend their days working, as healthcare workers, delivery drivers, supermarket cashiers. The Prime Minister steps outside Downing Street at 8pm every Thursday evening to clap these modern-day heroes, with no understanding of the lives these key workers live and certainly no shared experiences of the financial hardship they live through on a daily basis.
These key workers have kept our country going at a time of national crisis. Yet, the country they are keeping afloat with their hard graft is run by a group of people who collectively, are a grossly inaccurate reflection of the kind of nation we are.
The coalition of men (yes, men) calling the political shots regarding the UK’s response to the Coronavirus is widely seen to be Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, Matt Hancock, Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove. All five of these men are Oxbridge educated.
Indeed, half of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet attended Oxbridge. 73% of them attended Private Schools. This compares to 30% of Theresa May’s 2016 Cabinet.
These Ministers will never have had to live somewhere out of necessity. The houses they live in, the gardens they will be able to sit in with family from Monday, are facets of life they will never go without. And therein lies the problem. They don’t get it. They don’t get that the lives they inhabit are the exception for the people of the UK, not the rule.
As we look to wade through this awful crisis and come out the other side, I can’t help but think that as a country, we would be better equipped if we were governed and represented by more MPs who are actually representative of the parts of the country that elect them.
But parliament largely excludes such people. It remains a bastion of white upper middle class, male privilege.
After the 2015 General Election, 99 MPs had previously worked as a Barrister, Solicitor or a Doctor. Just 19 had done Manual labour jobs. The 2011 Census states that women make up 51% of the UK’s population. In the corridors of power however, since the 2019 election, only 37% of members are women.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has shown exactly who we are as a nation. On the one hand, We have the dominance of Lord and Lady Privilege at the head of our ancient class divisions,their sense of entitlement intact and snobbery still evident, inhabiting a closed world which means they have no insight into how the bulk of the population live.
But when the chips are down, it’s the other Britain which rolls up its sleeves, looks danger in the face and gets to work.
There has been much debate and re-evaluation about the kind of country we are and the kind of country we want to be after all this. It’s about time that our ruling class consisted of the kinds of people we live alongside, instead of the kinds of people who don’t and could never understand us.