As we get further into 2020, the unity that characterised the early stages of lockdown – ‘Clap for the NHS’, anyone? – has generally faded away, and have been replaced by political conflict and division.
It wasn’t too long ago that people labelled their politics based on how they voted in the 2016 Brexit Referendum. It now seems a new dividing line may be in the making – anti-lockdown vs. pro-lockdown.
Initially, one would imagine it’d be easy to characterise the anti-lockdown group a certain way. Opposing government regulations and restrictions is straight out of the libertarian playbook. So, are the anti-lockdown crowd a bunch of rabid right-wingers?
Jake Bowen would certainly call himself as a libertarian, but he doesn’t see the anti-lockdown movement as a right-leaning phenomenon.
“I don’t think many of the people involved with the anti-lockdown movement are very politically inclined,” Bowen said, “This is a working class issue, it’s not a political issue.”
Bowen thinks that the vast majority of people were in agreement over the initial lockdown being justified, but is now apprehensive about what the future holds: “We’re just being battered with this information constantly. I believe it’s to keep us scared, and keep us in the same place, so we can be manipulated easily.”
Something that becomes apparent when speaking to more people grouped under the ‘Anti-Lockdown’ banner is that there are a range of opinions. Alexander Candlin, for example, generally doesn’t mind wearing a mask and isn’t a fan of many of the protests that have been taking place up and down the country as he believes they are counterproductive.
When asked why he is skeptical of lockdowns, Candlin pitches a economic argument over one based on civil liberties: “People who have been furloughed, or who have lost their jobs, will need an economy to return to…one that will cushion the fall, you could say.”
Candlin cited the UK’s £2 trillion debt as a point of concern, and dismisses arguments from the pro-lockdown crowd that economic arguments place value money over lives.
“Without the economy, that medicine you ordered last week isn’t going to arrive. The doctors aren’t going to be paid, so they won’t see you next time you go in. Good luck getting a dentist’s appointment, or heating your house. These are people’s lives. Economy is not a byword for ‘take the money and run’, it serves a purpose.”
When the economy ranks highly among the priorities of the movement, it’s easy to understand why they’ve so often been characterised as ‘right-wing’. Nigel Farage relaunching the Brexit Party as Reform UK, with anti-lockdown firmly one of it’s priorities, hasn’t done much to change popular perception.
But a representative for Stand Up Manchester – who appeared at the recent protest in the city – affirmed that the movement was more about ‘the people’ than politics. He said he’d voted for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, but generally didn’t consider himself to be left-wing or right-wing.
“You’re seeing people losing their livelihoods, so I’m for the working people,” The representative said, “Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. We’re all one, at the end of the day.”
Maddy shares similar sentiments, as a fellow left-leaning ‘anti-Lockdowner’. Having previously voted for the Green Party, Maddy now has a more skeptical view of Britain’s political system.
“I don’t support any political party right now,” Maddy said, “If I was going to back any, it’d be Labour, but only because I’ve met Piers Corbyn and he leads a lot of these protests.”
“So on that ground, I think Labour would be good for leadership on this. But it’s still corrupted, and it still serves the mirage that people have a say in what happens higher up.”
Maddy’s assertions that politics are thoroughly corrupted seem to sum up the foundation of the anti-lockdown coalition, whether the members be on the political left or right – a lack of trust in government.
Whether it be through the constant bombardment of bad news or the increasing number of government fumbles and U-turns, those who find themselves against lockdown have been left feeling fatigued.
Whether or not this movement will gain momentum is hard to ascertain, as polls currently indicate that a majority of Britons support lockdown measures to contain the virus.
But a week is a long time in politics – especially in 2020.