The idea of Coronavirus as the great leveller, uniting the country and indeed the world in this ‘new normal’, has been prevalent since the outset of this pandemic. When the country went into isolation, the idea that this suffering and uncertainty would unite the country was certainly an attractive one. Despite this, coronavirus has undoubtedly exacerbated the existing inequalities present across our country; perhaps creating an even wider divide than was thought possible or has been seen for years. Instead of uniting, there has been an overt sense of ‘them and us’, aggravated by the comments of the UK government arguing that Covid has hit rich and poor alike. The government have perhaps been the biggest pushers of this fallacy of a united nation and have received considerable backlash for this.
Indeed, the BBC’s Emily Maitlis hit back at this, arguing that Covid as a leveller was ‘a myth which needs debunking’, with the inevitable economic crash looking to affect most those already in precarious positions, such as the young and the low-paid. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, many better off people look to be advantaged financially, with savings on luxuries they would otherwise splurge on, such as holidays and meals out. In direct contrast, it is those who are already struggling, both financially and mentally, who will bear the brunt of the fallout.
The platitude of this pandemic as being the great leveller becomes even more insulting when looking at how it is not only financially that coronavirus has widened the divide between rich and poor, but also in the significant discrepancy in who is getting away with breaking the rules. The idea of ‘them and us’ has never been more overt, evidenced throughout the whole timeline of the pandemic; this has been seen from Dominic Cumming’s infamous trip to Durham in March, to the SNP MP’s breaking of isolation rules just a few weeks ago. This issue is not isolated to a few rule- breaking politicians, as the lack of action sets a precedent that those found to be breaking lockdown will not be punished, prompting an inevitable surge in public distrust of the government, and the idea that if they can do it, so can we. There is yet to be a resignation from a politician found to have been breaking the rules, making the government’s platitudes of how ‘we are all in it together’ extremely insulting to all those struggling. In contrast, students are being fined £10,000 for house parties.
IWGB’s general secretary Jason Moyer- Lee argued that “History will look back on this moment, and those who had the means but nevertheless failed to do everything possible to assist and protect the most vulnerable, will be judged harshly”, and this seems primarily aimed at the government, and those pushing the idea that this pandemic is pulling the country together. Instead, the divide between rich and poor has never been greater. If the government wish to continue pushing this fallacy of Covid as the great leveller, they need to address the growing divide between ‘them and us’, illustrated not only financially, but also in how those amongst the highest in power, seem not to be held accountable to the rules the rest of us are tied to; it is one rule for them and another for us. If not addressed, Covid will not unite the country, but continue to divide it, perhaps irreparably.
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