Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
The Tories seem to have found their scapegoat for the seemingly “inevitable” second wave of Covid-19. Young people. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has said that the rising number of coronavirus cases is due to young people who he claims are failing to observe guidelines and rules; rules that the Deputy Mayor of Manchester, has pointed out are almost impossible to enforce.
This blame game comes after the government urged the young to get out and restart the economy. The well-known “Eat out to Help out”scheme, aimed to kick-start the struggling restaurant industry through subsidised meal plans. People who weren’t at risk, such as young people, were begged to go out and eat in packed indoor spaces by the ageing and incompetent government. It’s no surprise that people like students (who are known for being broke) took advantage of the offer. And it’s also no surprise that encouraging indoor dining whilst there were still several thousand active cases in the country (with an ineffective test-and-trace system) led to an increase in case numbers. This is all without even mentioning that young people make up a disproportionately large number of hospitality and service workers. Despite making up only 11% of the total workforce, 16-24 year olds in the UK make up 20% of customer service roles and 31% of sales jobs. Service workers should have been kept on furlough in a similar vein to French government’s response but the government doesn’t want to fund this. This has left service workers choosing between returning to work whilst risking their lives (and their household) or out of their jobs and losing income. For many young workers, including students who rely on part time work to support their studies, there was little choice other than to work any and all available hours, serving hundreds of people daily.
The demographic that the Conservatives have chosen to scapegoat fit perfectly with the party’s purposes. Young people are the age group that are least likely to vote Conservative anyway and they are often poorly portrayed and represented in both politics and media.
Scapegoating is a favoured tactic of the Conservatives. There are countless examples of them accusing someone else for their failings (Blamed the obese on the number of Covid-19 deaths, blamed BAME communities for the number of cases, blamed the NHS for not having proper equipment, blamed PHE for the Covid-19 response). The Prime Minister’s newest shirking of responsibility epitomises the government’s attitude during this health crisis: a rejection of responsibility and accountability. There have been countless examples from Cummings going on a mid-lockdown wander to Durham, to accusing the carers in retirement homes for high numbers of cases, despite the lack of PPE equipment. Regardless of future investigations into the Tories’ handling of COVID-19, there are thousands dead and the blood is on their hands. They are not only guilty of these current deaths, but also for what may come in a potential second wave. This ploy of distraction through blame is nothing but another attempt to shift blame away from the negligent government and Boris Johnson. This Prime Minister, the absentee Etonian, cares about keeping the death toll down about as much as he cares about stopping a no-deal Brexit.