Support 100 years of independent journalism.

How the loss of confidence in the government could lead to a second wave of Covid-19

The perception that ministers have lost control of the disease could be the biggest problem since lockdown began. 

By Stephen Bush

Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, has gone into quarantine and is awaiting test results for the novel coronavirus. 

Sharma’s illness, whilst unpleasant and worrying for him and his family, also underlines two things: the known risks of reopening businesses and workplaces as far as a second wave of infections is concerned, and the continued hit to the economy until British consumers feel safe to return to normal. 

Another outbreak in parliament wouldn’t, by itself, be enough to cause a second wave on its own, just as that other recent ill-advised conga line to celebrate VE Day in Warrington may have caused a small increase in cases locally but did not trigger a national uptick, and just as the largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests outside parliament won’t cause a national increase.

But the growing perception that the government is doing the wrong things is dangerous itself. The polling consistently shows most people think it is too early to ease the lockdown, then there’s the 76 per cent of people telling YouGov that MPs should simply be able to vote online until the pandemic is over. And there’s also the belief that parliament’s return will cause lockdown to “end”. 

As Tom Chivers explains over at Unherd, the data shows it is simply untrue to say that lockdown observance is a thing of the past. The problem is that the public perception that “everyone else” is breaking lockdown – making a second spike and with it a second lockdown inevitable – is that people take more risks now, while being more reluctant to return to normal later. The perception that the government has lost control of the disease, which a fresh outbreak in parliament would surely trigger, might cause more damage than any other misstep the government may have made since the start of the lockdown. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy