Britain is angry and divided, and the Tories don’t get it

People need food. They’re instead being fed nationalism by an authoritarian government misreading the public mood.

There are reasons why half a million people are on strike in Britain. The reasons are low wages, poor working conditions, poverty and stress.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, public sector workers, particularly health service and local government, worked incredibly hard in often very difficult conditions in order to deliver a health service, and were applauded by everybody.

They are now being told: “We can’t afford to pay you properly. We’re going to continue underfunding all those services. And you are now officially an enemy of what the government is trying to achieve.”

Well, people do not like that. And people are very angry about that.

It is an unhappy, unsettled and divided country being fed a diet of excessive nationalism and excessive patriotism. This needs fixing as a society — not by individual endeavours and sharp elbows.

You go to people’s homes, and there is hardly any food in the house. They cannot afford to keep the lights on; cannot afford to heat the house. Children go to school hungry. There is a real issue of injustice and inequality. There is no shortage of food in the country. There is a shortage of the ability of public services to ensure that people can survive. And it all basically comes down to the level of wages that we have.

We are obsessed, as this government is, with the privatisation of public services, with disempowerment of working-class communities and the promotion of the individual at the expense of the collective. They have tried to turn Britain into an individualistic society rather than the post-war consensus, which was much more of a communal society.

Parliament has passed a bill that gives the government the power to enforce people to go to work, even though they are exercising the rights that they have to take industrial action. That to me is a threat to the rights and liberties of people.

The government has completely misjudged the public mood and many people who themselves are either unemployed or not in a union feel that the union leaderships are acting for them.

The government’s retreat into authoritarian legislation rather than negotiation is one of the big problems.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.