The government must do more to provide economic security for those suffering from Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns, or risk a breakdown in social cohesion
The weekend video in which Nigel Farage laid the ground for the relaunch of the Brexit party as an anti-lockdown movement was recorded in the main lounge of Donald Trump’s Washington DC hotel. It was an appropriate location. With characteristic opportunism and cunning, Mr Farage has spotted the potential for channelling the same kind of economic insecurity that helped deliver Brexit and Trump into a popular rebellion against Covid-19 restrictions this winter. Other populist politicians of Mr Farage’s stamp are spying similar openings. In Italy last week, Matteo Salvini threatened a legal challenge against 6pm curfew restrictions on bars and restaurants. In Germany, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland has described a partial lockdown that came into effect on Monday as excessive and inappropriate.
These are signs of the times that Boris Johnson must read correctly, ahead of a winter in which maintaining social cohesion will be both vital and challenging. The prime minister was right to belatedly announce a lockdown in England at the weekend, just as he was wrong not to impose a shorter “circuit-breaker” in October. The unarguable evidence, presented again on Monday in parliament, is that Covid-19 is once again threatening to overwhelm hospitals. Unchecked, this second wave could exact a greater toll in lives than the first. But having finally acted, Mr Johnson and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, must now do more to mitigate the economic pain that is about to be unleashed on communities driven to the limits of their endurance. For countless households, this new lockdown will be a blow upon a bruise.