It’s time to stop fighting and focus on saving all our futures

Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest r

Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally. Picture: Ben Birchall/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Tribalism seems to be dividing us more than ever, says Rachel Moore, just at the time when unity is possibly the most important thing on the planet

Never in my lifetime has this country cried out so loud for a national government.

Combining the expertise and energy of those elected to represent us in parliament to work together for the national good is the only way any sort of recovery from this mess is vaguely imaginable.

But the very concept of unity at the top is so far-fetched; with partisan politics sapping the life from the nation in the closest situation to war we have known for 75 years.

Unity means compromise and consensus, and the UK has never been so tribal.

Division won’t heal us. Leadership will - but every week two people who should be collaborating to rebuild a sick, economically wrecked and riven nation spat at the despatch box as if there’s nothing more pressing to do.

Fiddling as Rome burns because that’s what the prime minister and leader of the opposition have always done, point score and play to the gallery. But we’re in the middle of a pandemic, economic meltdown and social unrest about racism that has remained as endemic and engrained as it ever was.

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The Covid crisis has shone a light on so much wrong with our society. The black versus white debate, although coincidental in timing, is tied inextricably to the crisis. The BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community has been affected by the virus most.

The virus has highlighted the extent of division in the UK - the government versus the other parties, the government versus the scientists, black versus white, parent versus parent about whether to send children to school or not.

These divisions are fundamental.

The virus might not discriminate between rich and poor, but its effects illuminate the chasm that exists between those who have and those who don’t - from those living nine floors up with no outdoor space condemned for wanting sunshine and fresh air by people with gardens, to the lockdown educational poverty, abuse and neglect of children who have never done a Zoom class or have access to any learning resources or study space. 

This division is reflected in the tribalism of opinion. 

When did belonging to one side or another of a debate become compulsory? Any sense of middle ground in views has dissolved. It’s hard-line or no line.

You either have to completely agree with one group, party or view or the other, or you’re accused of betraying both. All sense of consensus and nuance has been lost to a position when only polarisation of views are acceptable and issues are black and white (literally) and you have to take a side.

It’s time to stop the combat and find consensus to save our future.

This week has been one of changing goalposts and making u-turns on the UK’s reopening and, to some, rewriting history by taking down statues celebrating slave traders.

Of course statues on our streets should not celebrate slave traders, but focusing on the past is doing nothing to address racism now and making life better for those who face discrimination every day of their lives, and will continue to until radical action is taken.

Neville Lawrence, whose son, Stephen, was killed in a racist attack 27 years ago by a gang of white youths said this week black people were still treated as second class citizens - in the UK and all over the world.

Remedying this is what we should be focusing on.

But this, itself a virus in society, and recovery will only come with concerted consensus.

Maintaining curbs on our freedom and saving the economy are challenges to be faced together without the distraction and delay of partisan politics.

Diktats and guidance from a national united government diktats about will have far greater effect on our recovery that political point scoring.

It’s not too late. We’re at the start of living with covid-19 and feeling our way on untrodden ground to getting the country running again, effectively and successfully, albeit it differently.

Yes, it’s absurd that bookies and beer gardens, drive in cinemas will be before schools - theme parks before classrooms - and car showrooms and Primark feel more important than the education of a generation.

The government has had three months to prepare for schools going back but it feels bottom of the priority list.

The bigger issue is the untold damage wreaked on a lost generation that will be left damaged, educationally, psychologically and socially, by being deprived of the sanctuary of school and learning.

Teenagers especially need to be at school, not at home in bed missing six months’ schooling. By their nature, especially boys, will be disengaged, and lost.

On top of educational failure and economic collapse, hospital waiting lists could double to 10 million.

The scenes on the streets at the weekend show people are angry, the people flouting social distancing rules are angry, business owner who want to save jobs are angry. Anger brings change.

Rather than fight each other it’s time to call with one voice to those we elect to lead us and navigate us safely through crises like this, to stop bickering and fighting and come together to lead as one.

A national government by August, please.