It seems that the Conservative government’s approach to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has paid off. Because the latest YouGov polling shows the majority of the public would blame each other if there was a second wave – not the Tories’ chaotic handling of the crisis.
The coronavirus blame-game has reached its climax
On Tuesday 4 August, YouGov released the results of its “daily question” survey. And as it tweeted, 52% of people ‘would hold the public most responsible’ if there was a second coronavirus wave:
Who Britons would hold most responsible if the UK was to suffer a second wave of coronavirus:
— YouGov (@YouGov) August 4, 2020
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By The Canary‘s calculations, if you removed the “neithers” and “don’t knows”, this would mean that the polling would be 62% blaming the public and 37% blaming the government.
Looking at the YouGov survey in detail, and across age groups the ‘blame the public’ answer had the majorities, albeit very slim ones for people between 18-49 years. The results across political parties were predictable. Most Tory voters blamed the public, most Labour voters blamed the Tories, and the Lib Dems sat on the fence; much like the years of the coalition government, then. EU referendum ‘Leave’ voters blamed the public by 67%, while ‘Remainers’ were divided – 42% the public and 44% the government.
Chaotic Tory ‘leadership’
The results are not surprising. Because the Tories’ handling of the pandemic has been driven by three main mantras:
- ‘Do as I say, not as I do’; Dominic Cummings’ road trip to Durham being the prime example.
- ‘More flip-flops than Brighton beach’. The government’s chaotic approach has seen it repeatedly send out mixed and muddled messages and contradictions. For example, the switch from “stay home” to the meaningless “stay alert” catchphrase.
- ‘That’s another fine mess the public have got us into!’. The Tories have repeatedly rolled out narratives that the pandemic is our (the public’s) responsibility to manage, not theirs.
So, it seems that for many people, the rot has sunk in – and that we’ve only got ourselves to blame if there’s a second coronavirus wave. But breaking the YouGov results down into social grade, and they show an already worrying trend across UK politics that has developed further. That is, the divide and conquer of the working classes.
Divide and conquer
Social grade is a way of splitting society into different social and economic groups. As UK geographics describes, there are four brackets of social grade:
- AB: “Higher & intermediate managerial, administrative, professional occupations”.
- C1: “Supervisory, clerical and junior managerial, administrative, professional occupations”.
- C2: “Skilled manual occupations”.
- DE: “Semi-skilled and unskilled manual occupations, unemployed and lowest grade occupations”.
The YouGov survey showed that the majority of people in the poorest social grades (C2 and DE) would blame the public if there was a second coronavirus wave:
All sewn up
This is the result of peak ‘divide and conquer’ from the Tories. We’ve historically seen it with the Brexit vote and its accompanying narrative about immigration; a similar, government and media-pushed agenda surrounding social security claimants being ‘scroungers’ and ‘benefit cheats’; the switching of working-class voters from Labour to the Tories, and the legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme carving up working-class communities.
Now, when a second coronavirus wave hits, the Tories have it sewn up: we’ll all be too busy blaming each other to notice their catastrophic failings. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has done little to stop this toxic narrative from sinking in further. And as the ‘new normal’ sets in, it seems that the UK is going to be a more divisive and fractured place than ever before.
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