Every day we are bombarded with a flurry of newsreels that showcase the tragedy of this moment. Living through a pandemic is hard enough, but one fuelled by a digital age makes it even harder to escape from the grim reality. Of course, relying on the news and social media has been vital to staying in the loop with the latest government guidelines throughout the pandemic. Still, it has also drained my political energy.
Experiencing the UK’s handling of the pandemic has made me want to switch off completely – but I haven’t. Politics aside, the sheer lack of leadership, accountability, and integrity has made me question the validity of our political system and politicians’ intent. The UK reached the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths in January, and still, the Prime Minister claimed his government did all they could. This sheer lack of accountability and insensitivity made me crave for the days of Theresa May. Back then, I vehemently disliked her, but at least, she showed an ounce of emotion and wanted to improve the situation – even if it was in a way I disagreed with.
It begs the question; how did the UK ever end up in the hands of Boris Johnson during the worst public health crisis in a generation? His year-long mishandling of this crisis has made me want to switch off altogether. And I would – if it wasn’t for the burning need to stay informed of what’s going on. But these days, it’s more of a chore, rather than a sheer love, curiosity and interest to stay up to date.
The Conservatives have been in power for over a decade. During austerity (2010-2019) the then Prime Minister, David Cameron and his chancellor, George Osborne, ripped the country to shreds. In the Autumn of 2010, Osborne unveiled the highest post-war cuts in public spending, slashing funding to education, social housing and the NHS. It was terrible then, but the after-effects of this meant we were in the worst possible situation to handle a pandemic.
During the first wave, NHS staff didn’t even have adequate PPE to protect themselves from the virus. The UK would then become consumed with Brexit for nearly half a decade, which drained resources and political energy – when we could have been focusing on issues that mattered. Like rising homelessness, educational inequality and funding the NHS instead of taking chunks off for privatisation.
Then of course, Boris came along and promised that Brexit would be over in an instant, and that was wrong. It begs me to question the integrity of the politicians who have led this country for over a decade. Are they all merely motivated by self-interest? Or do they generally believe in improving the lives of people? Unfortunately, the former is more accurate. As a result, watching the array of Conservative leaders and politicians who have swept through the political establishment without a grain of understanding for the hardships of everyday people over the years, and especially now, has made me want to switch off altogether.
This lack of leadership, integrity, and motivation – has led to this moment. The UK comes seventh globally in excess death figures from the Covid-19 pandemic and is above Portugal and the United States. If you look at the death toll alone, we are the fourth worst country in the world based on deaths per million. Many are sympathetic to the government’s “unique” situation, but it comes down to a lack of competence. Lack of action, delaying and diverging from the science had led us to where we are today. And if you begin to think about it too deeply, and dwell on the what-ifs, it can make you want to lose hope altogether.
During the pandemic, I’ve felt the constant need to be switched on, looking out for developments as they happen. I’ve felt the pressure to write unique opinion articles about everything the government has done wrong, but often, the motivation falls short. How do you put everything that has gone wrong into a few crafted paragraphs? Where do you even begin? It’s no small feat.
My interest in politics and current affairs hasn’t gone away. But the UK’s lack of leadership and mishandling of the pandemic has made me question our political system’s integrity and those who lead it. It has made me question their motivations for the role, is it more about self-interest rather than improving lives? It seems that way. And when you dwell on that too much, you can start to lose hope in all senses.
Living through a pandemic and increasing dependency on social media, can leave our political energy depleted. But it’s about taking it in small doses and doing what’s best for our mental health. Politics and the news are essential – but so is switching off from time to time too.