Can we trust our governments?
The north no longer trusts the government. The north thinks that the south gets all the investment. Northerners are feeling that they are guinea pigs to be used in some larger social experiments. The north deeply resents the south and thinks the capital city gets all the support from national politicians whilst the north sinks deeper into poverty.
A familiar story?
It certainly is in the United Kingdom today as large swathes of the north go into Coronavirus driven local lockdowns (known as Tier Three lockdowns). Resentment has been running deep in the north, especially in Manchester where the Greater Manchester Mayor has been fighting a political, economic and moral battle with the national government. Elsewhere, Liverpool is also in Tier Three and soon South Yorkshire (all of them are in the north) will also go into Tier Three. In Scotland (further North), over the past ten months the provincial government there has been acting increasingly like it is running an independent state and in Wales (admittedly not in the north but the west) the provincial government there has declared a two-week ‘fire break’ lockdown and has told foreigners (the English) to stay out of their country (my interpretation on a Welsh government comment).
The problem has arisen from a second wave of infections rising dramatically in all the areas mentioned. In London we find ourselves in Tier Two, heightened infections, but not yet serious enough to cause a major lockdown. The scientists, to whom the government tells us they are listening, have been appearing on television painting pictures of an Armageddon-like catastrophe if we don’t behave ourselves.
And yet – there is something that doesn’t quite add up.
Deaths, the main focus upon which all government action has taken place, do not appear to match up with the siren voices spreading fear and despondency around the country. Yes, there was a dramatic spike in deaths between weeks 10 and 20 (March/April), but prior to that deaths were much lower than the five year average and even now they are only just at the upper end of the yearly average. In Greater Manchester, one of the reasons why the national government has forced the people into Tier Three is because they fear the National Health Service locally will be overwhelmed. They quote the number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds being occupied (above 87%) but actually this is lower than at the same time last year before the pandemic had struck. Even more perplexing, Researchers at Oxford University have suggested that ‘people who would normally die of flu or pneumonia are instead dying of Covid-19’.
Why should any of this be of interest to you? Because it all comes down to a question of trust.
Many people in the UK are now asking themselves the question – can we trust the government? Have they lied to us? Have the scientists lied to us? Have we gone through ten months of torment, all for no purpose?
Once the people conclude that they can’t trust their politicians then they move on to the next stage, which is to ignore them. In many parts of the UK that is what is happening right now. People have adapted to one new normal instigated earlier in the year, but now they are starting to resist any moves to force them into another new normal, especially as the festive season of Christmas and the New Year approaches. Prior to each of the recent lockdowns, the government has given two or three days’ notice and in that time there has been a partying spree in many cities. In Liverpool the police totally failed to stop a mass party in the streets of the city centre. In London, prior to our less severe lockdown, in the area around Soho and Piccadilly Circus, which are the centres of social activity in central London, the streets resembled something more like a pre-Covid New Year’s Eve celebration party.
This situation is not unique to the United Kingdom. In very many countries the same story has played itself out in different ways but the end result, erosion in trust in government, has been the same.
The thought had crossed my mind that perhaps it would be a good time to move to Sri Lanka. After all Sri Lanka is a great place with great people. You seem to have survived the pandemic rather well although your economy is in a heck of a mess. But I have one niggling concern. In the UK we don’t have a written constitution; or rather our written constitution is spread across many different laws built up over several centuries. It means that our politicians can tinker, but they can’t change the fundamental direction of the constitution of our country. In Sri Lanka you have had three constitutions since 1948 and twenty (or is it twenty-one) amendments since 1978. It seems that with each new government the politicians want to change the constitution to serve their own ends.
In the end it all comes down to trust.