Public attitudes in an era of crisis
Being in government has perhaps never been more challenging in the post-war era. Even though the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic now seems to be behind us, the new administration headed by Liz Truss is having to deal with a series of actual and potential crises that, between them, would seem to leave little room for the pursuit of its own policy agenda. How well it meets those challenges is likely to determine the future of the government and of the country.
The most immediate of these challenges, of course, is a ‘cost of living crisis’ that threatens a severe drop in living standards, especially for the less well off. Yet, at the same time, the health service is still recovering from the pandemic, the integrity of the Union is under threat from developments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, reducing regional disparities in economic and social well-being remains unfinished business, the deep political division over a Brexit that is still not fully ‘done’ now seems to be part of a wider ‘culture war’, while a summer of unprecedented heat has been a sharp reminder that climate change potentially poses an existential threat to the whole world. Between them these issues suggest a divided and buffeted country that perhaps is at risk of being labelled ‘Broken Britain’. The job of the new administration will be to persuade voters that it has taken the action needed to avoid that fate.
This year’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) report provides a wealth of evidence on where the public stand on the various challenges that the new government faces.