Harold MacMillan, in commenting about life and politics, once said “it’s not one damn thing, it’s every damn thing after another!” Of course he was right, just when we thought things were returning to “normal” and Stormont was back up and running, we have been hit by a deadly virus which has claimed the lives of our fellow citizens. Our National Health Service is ready to collapse with the strain of influx patients and we are deadly short of the equipment to keep people alive, many being in an induced coma state.
This lacklustre response is the result of a decade of neoliberal, Tory austerity which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, while stalling longevity for the first time ever. We have lived through really hard times these last ten years and suicide is rampant. As a community, we have nothing more to give and the government cannot simply cut its way out of this situation. So, we must ask, what is next for living standards and the economy?
Well, the state has now adopted some Keynesian policies of actually nationalising and managing key industries, coupled with guaranteeing the wages of employees and the self employed by 80%, while easing welfare provisions. Why would a Tory government do that? Simply because the economy would have collapsed if people had no purchasing power via money in their bank accounts, to spend on basic necessities which the government taxes through VAT. The state needs to tax to generate revenue to spend on the NHS and other vital services. Therefore, there needs to be economic activity, with the UK government now offering cheap credit on loans and grants to keep the proverbial ‘show on the road’. Slowly we are becoming a Nordic, Scandinavian style economy during this crisis, with so much community effort to help the vulnerable.
While I regret dearly that people have died and I fear more will, we cannot afford to waste the opportunity to ensure this does not happen again. Germany has a much larger population than we do yet their Intensive Care Unit capacity is four times that of ours, with a lower death toll. We as a society need to put immense pressure on the people who govern us to go back to an economic model where the state regulates and nationalises key parts of the economy and community services. We need to make it clear that we will not be paying for this crisis via cuts and further austerity when the money was simply printed from the Bank of England after being told there was no “magic money tree” for Nurses pay.
Put simply, there is no going back to the status quo! Once the crisis has passed and it will, there must be a continued effort by you to consistently tackle your elected representatives on the matter of restructuring the economy along Scandinavian lines. On the issue of endurance and can we beat this? Of course! Prior generations lived through Hitler and the tyranny of Nazi bombing in the Blitz for 6 long years. People survived the horror and misery of the Troubles, as well as mass strikes and industrial action during the 1970s. It’s a case of taking sensible precautions to protect one another and yourselves; as frustrating as they may be, they are essential to our survival.
Whatever you do, think of others and how to protect them; that’s your ultimate priority. This self isolation is depressing, so lift the phone and check up on friends and family. Your Your society needs YOU at this critical juncture, so don’t throw away the opportunity to be a hero!