Great Britain

How come it’s the people with the LEAST to lose who keep calling for more lockdown?

WHEN opinion polls show support for “circuit breakers”, “firebreaks” or other euphemisms for lockdown, bear in mind that millions of people quite enjoyed the experience the first time.

The lockdown wasn’t all bakery and boxsets, but for a large number of people in secure jobs and on full pay, it gave a glimpse of a better work-life balance.

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Millions of commuters benefited from the cost of getting to work falling to zero.

Judging by the number of people on trains, which is still at a third of pre-Covid levels, most of them still are.

This, in part, explains why personal savings are at a record high.

Between April and June, the proportion of household income that was put away for a rainy day trebled from 9.6 per cent to 29.1 per cent.

The economy suffered its deepest recession in centuries, but — for now at least — many people feel better off than they have for years.

This has not been everyone’s experience, of course.

EXACERBATED EQUALITIES

Being furloughed during the sunniest spring on record was more agreeable to those who had a large garden than to those who were stuck in a tower block with an abusive partner.

The lockdown greatly exacerbated equalities in housing, employment and personal circumstances.

White collar managers on Zoom meetings were waited on by delivery drivers, shop assistants and other blue collar workers for whom lockdown never happened.

People working in precarious, low-paid jobs bore the brunt, socially and economically, particularly when the schools were closed.

A study published this week found that 43 per cent of working-class women saw their hours cut to zero in April compared to just 20 per cent of women in professional or managerial roles.

While 48 per cent of men in white collar jobs always worked from home in June, 93 per cent of men in routine or semi-routine occupations never did.

This is not entirely a class issue. I know a lorry driver who enjoyed the quiet motorways as much as my stockbroker friend enjoyed not having to get up at 5am.

Small business owners and the self-employed — the petite bourgeoisie, if you will — had a hard time if they fell through the cracks of the Government’s job support scheme.

The real divide was, and is, between those who have safe jobs and those who don’t.

The vast majority of MPs, public sector workers, trade union leaders, academics, epidemiologists and broadcast journalists have little to lose personally from a “circuit breaker”.

The campaign for a second lockdown is being ratcheted up by those who have the least skin in the game.

Lockdown was supposed to be a last resort. Until a few weeks ago, there was a consensus that it should never happen again.

DISASTER

Now, with infection rates rising, albeit much more slowly than in March, the trigger has been pulled in Wales and much of the North before existing measures have been given a chance to succeed.

Some local politicians are keenly aware of the risks.

Last week, the leaders of seven councils in the North East wrote to the Government to oppose being put into Tier 3, saying “the evidence does not support this, and the economic consequences will be devastating”.

As it happens, rates of infection have been falling in the region and the Government gave it a reprieve.

But isn’t it telling that the greatest resistance to lockdown-style measures comes from the very people who will supposedly be “protected” by them?

In Manchester, where the infection rate has been falling since the start of October, the Labour Mayor Andy Burnham found himself in the awkward position of opposing a local “circuit breaker” while his party lobbied for a national lockdown.

He settled on the strategy of accepting Tier 3 if the Government gave the area more borrowed money.

The £60million the region is now getting might be better than nothing as Boris Johnson’s Government was determined to close the region down.

Likewise, South Yorkshire’s settlement of £41million as it moves into Tier 3 on Saturday.

But we know from the first lockdown that no amount of government spending can save the economy from disaster.

We are likely to see record levels of unemployment, business closures and bankruptcies in the next six months.

Some of those who enjoyed their taxpayer-funded spring break may yet discover that they don’t have jobs to go back to.

All of us will be paying for the Government’s extraordinary borrowing splurge in one way or another.

Throughout the crisis, the problem has been that so much of the pain remains in the post or out of sight. People dying at home do not make the news.

Those who are hardest hit have the weakest voice while those who have the least to lose have a megaphone.

There are no easy answers in a pandemic.

But we should not allow the short-term benefits of panic measures to obscure the long-term pain they will cause.

Second coronavirus wave will peak at CHRISTMAS, warns Sage expert

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