Updated: Apr 27
After a weekend of festivity and warm sunshine, I woke up today to the sound of a gale blowing outside which led to more sobering thoughts about what the current crisis has shown us about the awful way we lived before the pandemic. I have been really uncomfortable with the values we’ve been encouraged to espouse in recent decades. Libertarian ideals have run riot – a UK society where greed is valued above all else, where public services are degraded and vanish, in favour of yet more tax breaks for the wealthiest. Consumption is king, and never-ending economic growth the ultimate goal.
I’ve watched in horror as youth clubs and libraries closed with barely a whimper of objection and food banks became the new normal for many working people (how on earth did we allow that to happen?). Nurses and many public workers forced to use the afore-mentioned food banks, even as they are denied a decent pay rise to ecstatic Tories cheering in the House of Commons. Young and not so young people denied the shelter and stability of a decent home (whether purchased or rented at a reasonable long-term rate). No, instead, let’s make it easy and profitable for anyone at the top to become a landlord, never mind that these saintly paragons of capitalism are pricing workers out of a decent affordable place to live.
A culmination of this disgusting ideological ransack of our human values, has come in the stark declaration from the delightful and incorrectly named “Priti” Patel that the new UK immigration salary cap would assess the value of immigrants to the UK based only on the value of their future earnings. Anyone foreign-born and earning less than £30K per annum would not be welcome to settle here unless of course their poverty-wage gruelling job was judged important to the government’s economic plan. Consider that a junior nurse will typically start by earning £23K and a staff nurse £24K per annum. Eldercare staff might earn as little as £10K a year in the private sector. Contrast this with MPs whose basic salary was increased this year to £81932 with an extra £10K for costs related to working from home because of the virus. It’s absolutely crucial that in light of what we have learned from living with the pandemic, that we reassess who the real heroes and key-workers are. My heroes are all the ordinary workers who risk life and limb to help us carry on: the supermarket shelf stackers, the bin men, the care-workers, the food producers, the delivery-men and women. Their work is heroic and we should all recognize their worth and adequately remunerate them in this frightening time.