Lies and deceit from the Conservative government is nothing new — so why are we shocked at the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s always been one rule for them, another for us.
From many believing the announcement of lockdown happened too late, to the incredibly slow roll out of coronavirus tests, the government has faced a vast amount of scrutiny from both the left and right side of the political spectrum. However, it was Boris Johnson’s chief advisor and right-hand man deciding to seemingly break lockdown rules he himself helped advise on that lost a monumental amount of public trust.
With over one million signatures calling for the resignation of Dominic Cummings and 61 MPs defying Boris Johnson’s stance on the matter, such immense distrust of the government has been the norm to a vast amount of Black Britons and other ethnic minorities for a long time, especially those who are working class and underrepresented.
The government’s response and lack of pre-emptive actions with Grenfell and Windrush displayed similar traits of gaslighting. With the Grenfell disaster, there were countless ways the government failed the residents of the tower, from neglecting to listen to the warnings of the local community way before the fire actually took place, to failing to re-home all the survivors despite a broken promise from the Prime Minister to be “housed within three weeks”. The inquiry subsequently left many questions unanswered and a massive breach of trust with the local community.
Although the events of the Windrush scandal were not as fatal as the Grenfell fire, it became normal practice for Windrush citizens to over time be lied to, mis-led and ignored by the Tory government with then prime minister, Theresa May, refusing to apologise for her “hostile environment” immigration policy. Black individuals who over a span of decades paid taxes, built families and considered themselves British were alienated and in some cases sent to islands they did not know without the possibility to return home. It’s instances like this along with countless other experiences of ethnic minorities being told one thing and the government doing another that makes the experience with those in power different to others on the basis of skin colour and socio-economic background.
There is also the question of why more people from ethnic backgrounds are dying from COVID-19. According to reports from Public Health England and the Office for National Statistics, black people were more than four times as likely to die from the virus, compared to white people of the same age. Within the reports there is little explanation as to why this is, however research found that once admitted to hospital ethnic minorities were more likely to be placed in the intensive care unit. It could be the fact that one in five of our NHS workers are from an ethnic background — with even higher numbers when looking exclusively at nurses and doctors, or the fact that the majority of our essential jobs are occupations held by black or other ethnic minority individuals. Though the infection rate has begun to decrease, it’s still an extremely scary and unpredictable time for many across the country.
With this being the case, it’s intriguing to see how Boris Johnson’s unrelenting defence for Dominic Cummings, along with negative views of the government’s handling of COVID-19 has led millions to distrust the government. These actions have led to some lifelong Tory voters denouncing their membership and vowing to never vote for the party again. Others are hoping that things will change and that the government learn from their mistakes. However, it’s clear that errors will not be corrected and the prime motive is not serving best interests of the public, but instead covering their own backs — difference being instead of just gaslighting small communities of colour, it’s now the entire British public, as they jeopardise the wellbeing of the country. A shocker for many, but for us? Nothing new.