20 January 2022, The Tablet

Nation is in need of policies that heal

Post-traumatic Britain


Covid has traumatised whole societies. It is as if an outer layer of skin has been peeled off the human psyche. People are more vulnerable, less trusting, more easily angered, more volatile. This significant psychological change may explain why Boris Johnson is not the only political leader in the world who has felt the ground giving way beneath their feet. The prime minister is said not to understand why his thoughtless attendance at a rule-breaking event in the garden of 10 Downing Street, for which he has half-apologised, has weighed so heavily against him. He knows he got away with worse, in the blithe days before Covid.

But the public is not in a forgiving mood. The Australian reaction to the Novak Djokovic affair is a sign that intolerance of other’s faults has become common across the world. It partly explains the collapse in popular support in the United States for Joe Biden. Yet policy moves designed to shore up political support, in Britain and elsewhere, are likely to be based on a model of public opinion that is no longer valid.

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