A new Survation poll published today (Thursday, May 7th) shows just how much the coronavirus crisis has transformed public opinion.
The survey – commissioned by Unite the union and conducted in the run-up to May Day – asked 2,000 Britons their priorities for the country during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
74 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “the government should do more to rebalance the economy and ensure that key worker jobs are better valued,” with 76 percent supporting raising the minimum wage to living wage levels, 67 percent in favour of eliminating zero hour contracts and majorities also supporting increases in sick pay and “guaranteed job security.”
In the wake of the scandals over personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing, 58 percent also said that the government’s measures to protect key workers during the crisis have been inadequate, while 60 percent say the pandemic has changed their perspective on who amounts to a key worker.
A New Economic Consensus
Further headline figures from the poll indicate the emergence of a post-coronavirus economic consensus that supports the redistribution of wealth, higher wages for workers, an end to tax avoidance and investment in the NHS.
81 percent of the British public believes that companies which operate in tax avoidance schemes should not receive government bailouts, while 71 percent believes the government should tax the wealthy rather than cut public spending to pay for the measures necessary to support business and workers during the crisis.
In fact, by 60 to 28 percent, the public believes that “years of cuts to public services” has had a negative impact on the UK’s ability to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Asked to identify priorities for the government following the crisis, the public overwhelmingly chose investment in the NHS – with wage increases for key workers and getting on with Brexit in second and third place respectively.
Hungry for Change
The Survation poll also suggested significant public support for British manufacturing. By a margin of 67 to 21, respondents said the UK was too reliant on importing goods from abroad.
Responding to the poll’s findings, Unite the union general secretary Len McCluskey said the coronavirus crisis had “exposed deep faults in how our country works” and that “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.”
McCluskey also said that the British public had 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. With our manufacturing sector under huge attack from the virus and its fallout, we urgently need government to engage with us on renewing and reviving this vital sector.
“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.”