All capacity of the state was put towards fighting the virus. Soon, equal efforts must be made in building a post-pandemic societyby Stephen Wright / June 19, 2020 / Leave a comment
For the rest of 2020 Boris Johnson’s government has its hands full, grappling with coronavirus and its economic impact, and getting Brexit “done.” It’s not surprising that we hear less about the climate and decarbonising industry or building HS2 when the pandemic has already cost more than 40,000 lives and is not yet over, and when nothing has yet really changed in our involvement with the European Union.
But come the spring of next year, things should look rather different. The Covid-19 infection rate should have dropped well away in the summer of 2020 and even with a resurgence in the autumn and winter should be falling again by, say, May of 2021. The economy should be coming back to life. And we shall finally have left the EU single market and customs union. We may have reached a future agreement on trade and other relations with the EU or we may not, but for better or for worse we shall be out.
What do Johnson’s Conservatives do then? Their temptation might be to sit back, proclaim success and wait for the tigers of free enterprise to spring free from their cages of EU-imposed red tape to capture new markets around the world. Johnson will have time to visit the re-elected President Trump and other world leaders to introduce them to the new Global Britain. And at home his ministers will mop up after the pandemic, and otherwise resume the previous agenda of reducing the deficit, keeping taxes down and limiting immigration. Promises have been made to new Conservative voters, and perhaps the government will launch some shovel-ready projects in the midlands and the north, but experience tells us these are unlikely to amount to much.
The trouble with this is that, long before Brexit and coronavirus, the voters, especially in the midlands and the north, were already angry and frustrated by their lack of opportunity, lack of control over their own lives, the declining public services around them and their despair about leaving a better life for their children. Being able to go on a package holiday or see their friends in the pub again will be a pleasant relief but won’t change those problems. Nor in fact will…