To say that we are living through unprecedented times is an understatement.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to an abrupt halt, with the number of countries in lockdown growing week by week. Normal life is a distant memory of the past, and the only conflict in the news is the worldwide effort against COVID-19.
As for the United Kingdom, it feels like life has not been normal for a while. Brexit sent the nation into political turmoil for years, culminating in a historic snap General Election and our eventual departure on 31st January 2020. The same day Britain exited the EU, coronavirus arrived.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson already had the challenge of guiding the country out of the EU, but he now faces one of the most extreme health crises in generations. The government have a huge few months ahead, not only in protecting the health of the people but also that of the economy.
The National Health Service (NHS) is the key priority for Johnson, encouraging Britons to protect the NHS while preparing it for the inevitable peak of the pandemic. ‘Protect the NHS’ is one of the government’s main plea- and rightly so, as the already strained service faces an enormous test.
But why is the NHS already strained? A decade of austerity under the Conservative government has driven the 72-year-old institution to breaking point, which now faces its biggest challenge since its post-war foundation.
A report by The Health Foundation found that the number of GPs has fallen by 1.6%, while there are now 41,000 vacancies across the nursing workforce in England. The NHS has been on its knees throughout the last decade, and that has undoubtedly been thanks to the Conservatives.
The service’s future is far from resolved, and remains a key priority for the government. Yet, amidst the national health crisis faced by the UK, a sizeable proportion of the population are placing huge blame on Johnson for the consequences of the virus.
The government have been lambasted for not sufficiently investing into the NHS prior to the pandemic, failing the health service for years. They are blamed for the number of cases and deaths because they did not help the NHS beforehand- “This is what happens when you don’t invest in the NHS.”
The critics are right, but only to an extent. Yes, the government are accountable for the NHS’ weaknesses. Yes, there should have been and has to be more investment. Yes, they need to be held accountable for not supporting the NHS when they needed it most.
But now is not the time.
Britons are using the coronavirus pandemic to create a political agenda, but this cannot be taken as an opportunity to blast the government. This is not the time nor the chance to criticise Johnson, who is responsible for leading the nation through a global pandemic.
Whether you are a staunch Labour supporter vying for the Tories to be ousted, a Liberal Democrat waiting for their chance in power or an SNP voter continuing to strive for Scottish independence, we cannot let our political affiliations and loyalties tear up an already exposed nation.
There has never been a time in post-war Britain where we have needed to be more united. Whatever your political viewpoint may be, and whichever party you supported or voted for in last December’s General Election, we must become the United Kingdom once again.
“We cannot let our political affiliations and loyalties tear up an already exposed nation.”
The nation is already coming together to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Is dismissing our political beliefs in a time of crisis really too much to ask? We have to unite ahead of a challenging few months, and that continues by putting our politics aside.
With the health service under immense pressure and the government facing greater scrutiny than ever, there are testing times ahead. Johnson succeeded in his first task of guiding Britain out of the EU, and his second remains to unite a divided kingdom torn apart by a political revolution.
This is not asking you to become a Tory sympathiser, nor to accept the failings of the Conservative government. It is a plea to come together as a nation, set aside your politics and work together so we can find our way through the pandemic.
Britain has come together many times before, and we will get through this. In a time of darkness and uncertainty, it is time to show why we are the United Kingdom.