Lockdown and Out – A Fragile Consensus
Emma Newson explores the politics of the second national lockdown, which has proven to be far more controversial than the first.
Like many sequels, the second national lockdown has been far less popular than the first. Resentment at having to return to our mundane lockdown routines of daily walks, home baking and endless hours on Tik-Tok is tangible, especially amongst the student population. For many students this resentment has turned especially sour as young people are consistently and continually blamed for creating a second lockdown. Despite students across the country having already had to isolate for weeks on end, being told they could not return home for Christmas and sacrificing their £9000 education for an online substitute, they have still been scapegoated as feckless, alcoholic super-spreaders, and this has been met in turn by an increased hostility among students to the government and its rules. Indeed, in many areas of the country, this anger at both the media and government’s blame game has spilled over into full blown resistance to government guidelines.
The first day of lockdown in Manchester saw the University of Manchester’s security teams at Fallowfield halls of residence erect large metal barriers around the accommodation, giving it an uncanny resemblance to a young offenders institution. Within hours, this fence was not only taken down but trampled and destroyed by the very residents it was feigning to ‘protect’. Footage that swamped social media showed masses of students protesting against the measures with social distancing long forgotten. It seems the government’s heavy-handed approach to the second wave has discouraged young people from following the very measures set to protect them in the first place.
Returning home for Christmas will be the polar opposite of last year
Boris Johnson’s announcement of a revised tier system to follow the end of lockdown has caused further controversy over the legitimacy and effectiveness of the official guidelines. More than 55 million people will enter the two toughest tiers this week, which after the promise of a working vaccine seems rather an anti-climax. For most people, the nightmare that is lockdown will not end in December as promised but effectively carry on throughout the Christmas holidays, and with the North faring far worse than the South in the new tier system, it seems the tier status has been unfairly divvied up. The questionable exclusion of London from tier 3 has caused Boris Johnson to come under fire from a number of MPs, including those in his own party, with many believing the city has received ‘special treatment’ despite having a higher COVID incidence than many of the areas now shackled under tier 3. The vote on Tuesday will prove just how unpopular Johnson’s new policies really are, with some speculating a rebellion of up to 100 MPs depending on the scale of tier 3 measures announced. One central element of dispute is the size of the geographical locations assigned to one tier status. Counties such as Kent, which has a vast disparity in cases from north to south, have been lumped into one tier causing major backlash from MPs and locals alike.
So, what does all this mean for young people up and down the country? Returning home for Christmas will be the polar opposite of last year. No longer will we be able to meet freely with school friends, see extended family or even go out on New Year’s Eve. In fact, the Christmas of 2020 seems rather a gloomy prospect.