Today, like every Thursday now, the country will come together to #ClapForOurCarers, to thank those at the frontline of this crisis, and to connect with one another even if only from their doorsteps, driveways or windows.
Holed up in our living rooms watching the death toll rise, juggling working from home with childcare and homeschooling, all while staring down the barrel of looming economic depression, nobody could be blamed for focusing on their own troubles – but that is not what Britain is doing.
Polling carried out by the HOPE not hate Charitable Trust last week, found that in the first two weeks of lockdown, a huge 55% of people came out to bang pots and pans and clap their hands in support of the NHS and those risking their lives on the frontline of the coronavirus outbreak.
Although we remain physically apart, 81% of people say that they are impressed with how communities are pulling together to support one another and stop the spread of coronavirus.
This isn’t just sentiment – people are putting it into action. In the last four weeks, more than a third of people (37%) have bought shopping for family or neighbours and 5% of people have volunteered to help the NHS.
The last few years have seen growing division, anger and resentment across society. The 2016 EU referendum restructured the political order, highlighting inequalities in place, education, and opportunity. The pushback against progressive values has gotten louder, as the anti-PC tide washed anti-migrant, anti-Muslim and anti-feminist views further into the mainstream. Standing on our doorsteps once a week may feel like a fleeting moment in dark and dangerous times, but it is a moment that shows the power in hope and solidarity.
This is not to gloss over the real difficulties many are experiencing, nor to downplay the monumental challenges we face in the coming months.
Britain will not suddenly overcome entrenched divisions overnight. Clapping for carers does not guarantee them adequate PPE or increase testing. Acknowledging the contribution of migrants working on the frontline is not enough to reverse the hostile environment in which they are living. Helping neighbours with food packages will not help to support those facing job losses down the line, and many already struggling to hold things together financially.
But right now the national conversation has moved away from ideas of shirkers and strivers, and centred around the dignity and value of everyone in society particularly those previously overlooked or undervalued, whether so-called ‘unskilled’ workers like cleaners and delivery drivers or the most elderly and vulnerable care home residents. In this moment of crisis, everybody counts.
In the days and weeks beyond this difficult time there will be much work to do to make sure this change is permanent but we should take hope for the future.
There is a place for anger and despair at injustice, but seeing how our communities have come together in support and solidarity should help us to see how things could be better. When given the option, even in dark times like these, people choose hope.
The polling on which this article is based was commissioned by the HOPE not hate Charitable Trust. This survey was conducted using an online interview of 2,032 adults 18+ who were sampled from across Great Britain, administered by Focaldata and weighted to be representative of the GB population. Fieldwork was carried out between 7th-9th April.