“Boris Johnson is in a political crisis. But the population of this country is experiencing a catastrophe.”Diane Abbott MP
By Diane Abbott MP
Boris Johnson is in a political crisis. But the population of this country is experiencing a catastrophe.
So, while much of the media is focused on the (so far) very limited fall-out from partygate, the misery of millions of people is being overlooked or downplayed. For the left and the labour movement as a whole, it is the issues that are afflicting the mass of the population which should be uppermost.
The situation is extremely bad. Plan B was adopted too late and abandoned too early. We are told now that all restrictions on the spread of the virus will also go in a few weeks. This includes even the rudimentary precaution that infected people should self-isolate for a short period.
All restrictions are actually safeguards to stop the spread of the virus. When Boris Johnson & co. announce ‘freedom day’, it is the virus they are freeing. There is also no freedom for the vulnerable or immuno-suppressed under those circumstances. They are themselves forced into long-term self-isolation.
The policy of letting the virus rip is not unique to this country. In the US, and in many European countries where cases and deaths are soaring, they have also abandoned any efforts to contain the virus. They have in turn abandoned their own populations to fate, in the face of a deadly pandemic.
These governments have given up on trying to fight the virus with their inadequate measures. They have instead shifted to not fighting the virus at all.
The same is happening here even though we already have a catastrophic outcome here, 180,000 dead and with no end in sight. The pandemic is far from over here.
This is the primary cause of Boris Johnson’s political difficulties. The commentators suggest that this is a result of ‘partygate’. It is certainly true that people hate being lied to. But the commentators are quite wrong to suggest that this is the sole cause of the government’s woes. Government popularity has been falling along with Boris Johnson’s poll rating since April 2020. This is long before ‘partygate’.
By March 2020 the public had to endure the second big wave of deaths, even greater than the first. The second thing that happened was the 2020 Budget, which cut Universal Credit, and government announced it was ending the furlough scheme (although they had to retreat). In addition, income taxes for the low paid were effectively increased. In short, ordinary people were being made to pay for the crisis.
It is false that the ‘public are giving Boris Johnson the benefit of the doubt’ on his handling of Covid. Less than one-third of the population supports the government’s handling of Covid, according to YouGov. 75% oppose the ending of compulsory self-isolation, with only 17% in favour. It is clear the public opposes the government, and that its fall in popularity is at least in part driven by this issue.
These twin issues, Covid and the cost of living are both very big attacks on the population. Huge numbers of people have died, leaving behind an ever-greater number of grieving loved ones. Even greater numbers are struggling with the effects of Long Covid. And millions of the vulnerable and immune-suppressed live in fear of contracting the virus.
On top of all this there are literally tens of millions who are struggling with the cost of living. Over a million people have been added to those receiving Universal Credit. Foodbank use has soared. People are faced with ‘fire and rehire’ and young people in particular have had zero hours imposed on them. Real wages are being sharply cut. And all of these factors, both in terms of the pandemic and the cost of living are being allowed to hit Black and Asian people harder.
But people are stirring to oppose the government. We need to be clear that the attacks on their living standards are being facilitated by the fear, the confusion and the chaos caused by the pandemic itself. People whose wages were cut, or the half a million who lost their jobs, those who have been evicted or who have lost loved ones are not best placed to stand up for themselves, their co-workers and their rights. They are under attack.
It also explains why the government have been able to push ahead with a nationality policy Enoch Powell would have been proud of, or why voting and other rights are being suppressed, or how the police and armed forces personnel have effectively been placed above the law in a new authoritariainism.
As a result, the government must be resisted on all fronts. We must oppose their attack both on lives and on livelihoods. They are clearly linked and that we cannot let them get away with either.