Voters say austerity hit Britain's ability to tackle the pandemic - and they want to see major economic change.
Extensive new polling for the Unite union shows Brits want major change of how the economy works – and how key workers are rewarded – after this crisis.
The survey shows the British public wants a decisive reversal of the austerity and tax cuts for the wealthiest agenda, which has dominated politics for the past decade.
The poll of 2,000 people living in the UK also reveals the public has changed its perception on the value to society of people perceived as key workers.
Key figures from the Survation survey include:
- By 60 per cent to 28 per cent, the public believe that ‘years of cuts to public services’ have had a negative impact on the UK’s ability to respond to the crisis
- By 55 per cent to 38 per cent, respondents said the UK government’s measures to protect key workers has been inadequate
- 81 per cent of the British public believe that companies that operate in tax avoiding schemes should not receive government bailouts
- By 71 per cent to 13 per cent, the public believes the government’s response should be to tax the wealthy as opposed to another round of austerity cuts to public services
- 60 per cent to 36 per cent say the crisis has changed their view on who is considered a key worker and 74 per cent believe the economy should be rebalanced and key workers valued more
Asked to identify from a list of policy choices which should be the top priorities for the government following this crisis, the public overwhelmingly chose investment in the NHS, followed by more pay for key workers.
Large majorities want to see the minimum wage raised and zero-hour contracts banned for key workers.
Interestingly, only newspapers are regarded as more hostile to trade unions than the Conservative Party.
Commenting on the findings, Unite’s General Secretary Len McCluskey said: “This crisis has exposed deep faults in how our country works. The public can see that in this time of maximum economic and health strife it is our lowly paid key workers, not the super-rich, who are leading this country through this crisis.
“It’s the nurses, bus drivers, refuse collectors, food workers and delivery drivers and so many more across the economy who have put their lives on the line to serve the public, often without adequate safety equipment. The very least they deserve now is income and job security.
“By contrast, the British public has also delivered a withering assessment of tax avoiders, regarding them as deserving of little sympathy.
“The other big message is that the British people utterly reject another round of austerity, and see proper funding for the NHS as their number one concern.
“The best way to fund the NHS and our public services is through a strong UK manufacturing base, paying decent wages, supporting the crumbling service economy and generating income for the Treasury.
“This is a country hungry for change, hungry for a new deal for working people. My call to the government is to read the mood of the nation and work with us to set forth an ambitious plan to deliver just financial rewards and stability for the real wealth creators of this country, working people.”
Survation interviewed 2005 people online, a representative sample of people aged 18+ living in the UK, 27th April – 1st May 2020.
Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.