Without a doubt, of the strangest occurrences of the past year has been the left’s failure to care about the damages of the lockdowns. I had always believed that whilst occasionally misguided or over-zealous, most people believed in the ideas of the left because they genuinely cared about people. Yet, throughout 2020 I saw, time and time again, those who were lamenting the effects of the lockdowns upon mental health, suicide rates, poverty, domestic violence, loneliness, cancer treatment, children’s learning and social development and small businesses being destroyed struck down or waved away as not really caring. They were seen as being disingenuous in their opposition to locking down, perhaps rightly so, but that does not mean that the human costs that they were identifying wasn’t real. The real cost of this experiment may not become apparent for years, but after a year of shutdowns a tight restrictions on every aspect of our lives, we know that advancing unscathed is impossible.
I never thought I would see the day when extreme right-wingers are the only ones asking about the damage being done to our mental health or the lack of treatment for cancer patients. Up to 2000 excess deaths from cancer alone were predicted for 2020. Jeffrey A. Tucker of the American Institute for Free Enterprise suggested to me during a podcast that the class that has come to dominate the covid conversation is an elite class of zoom workers, making demands of those who work with people all day long. Taxi drivers, hospitality workers, and hairdressers. The working class, who have been slowly deserting a Labour part that has come to represent the “Anywheres” of David Goodhart’s Road To Somewhere (the liberal elite that the Brexit vote rallied against), are no longer represented by the political or media establishment. Though divided by Brexit, they have been reunited through their love of a crisis and there is no greater crisis in living memory (save for the war) that has kept people glued to their screens and given politicians so much power.
During a particularly series of lockdown meetings in Northern Ireland, where a mere 24 hours before a lockdown was set to end, bars and restaurants had no indication whatsoever whether they would be allowed to open. This entire affair was punctuated by a moment of panic when it became clear that the NI Executive were unsure on which day their own legislation was set to expire. Amidst the chaos a number of bars declared that the NI Executive had failed them and they were going to open regardless. Social media was soon flooded with people decrying that these awful business owners were forcing their workers back into a cauldron of death and disease. Yet quite a number of hospitality workers who I spoke to (with whom I used to work) wanted to get back to work. They were missing out on tips and 80% of a small wage does not easily cover living expenses – many full-time hospitality staff rely on tips to supplement their income and they had gone without for months on end.
The left has forgotten to care about these workers. It’s not the first time either. Brexit saw the Labour party tussle with it’s identity, for years it was caught between a student dominated membership and trade-union, working class traditions. This had been held together by Jeremy Corbyn, seemingly one of the only men capable of walking that line, though he still lost seats in the previously unassailable northern “Red Wall” in 2019.
Post-Corbyn, it is clear which of the two identities has won out. Sir Kier Starmer is the head of the supposed party of the working class. The Anywhere, liberal elite takeover of the Labour party is complete. They have failed to care about the cost to the working class, the effect of lockdowns on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society; those forced to stay inside the smallest flats, single parents trying to work from home whilst home-schooling several children and keep their minds stimulated during zoom classes and through the long evenings. Despite understanding that they care about putting people at risk to covid, about opening up society fully, I cannot comprehend why they do not care about the human cost.
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