People want fundamental change coming out of this crisis and neither the piecemeal Tory measures nor Labour's weak response are adequate, writes Lucy Nichols
Last Sunday, an Observer article revealed that only 12% of people want to return to ‘normal’ after Covid-19 has passed. Of those polled, the vast majority favour a kinder, more equal society. Priorities included better pay for essential workers, fairer treatment of all workers, higher employment rates, and support for those with mental and physical health difficulties.
Six out of ten people would happily pay higher taxes if it meant a properly funded NHS (including 54% of Conservative voters), and just 17% were in favour of introducing austerity measures to aid the recovery from the pandemic. People want to see a Covid-19 recovery plan that is not just focused on London, and a government that takes the environment into account.
Although it remains unclear what our ‘new normal’ will be, it is obvious that the majority of people do not want a return to the ‘old normal’. Prior to the Coronavirus, the NHS was dangerously underfunded: it only just survived the peak of the pandemic (by cutting almost every other service). We faced rising poverty levels, thousands relied on food banks, and austerity had left vital public services unable to support those most in need.
The disastrous Tory response to the Coronavirus has made matters far, far worse. Thousands of workers face job insecurity or have been forced to work under dangerous conditions. We are seeing local outbreaks of the virus in some of the poorest areas of the country; instead of blaming this on the premature business-led reopening, the government is pushing blame on the actions of individuals, especially the working class and ethnic minorities.
This poll should surely be a gift to the Labour Party; it suggests that the British public want more progressive, left-wing policies, and that people no longer believe in the neoliberal lies the government has been telling for so long. In fact, all of the policies put forward by the poll appeared on the Labour Party’s manifesto for the 2019 General Election.
But the Labour Party under Keir Starmer is very different to the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn; Starmer is unlikely to push for the radical change we so desperately need. He is deliberately shifting the party rightwards and pushing socialists away.
Given the totally inadequate government plans to bring us out of the crisis, and the fact that the Labour leadership is unlikely to fight for working people, an extra-parliamentary left is crucial. The last few months have seen mass mobilisations and huge increases in union membership; clearly politics does not just take place inside parliament. The focus now should be to harness the anger felt by so many and push for a society based on equality, compassion and solidarity.
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