The damage caused by this Government now includes psychological harm – we need them gone

This morning I was looking on Twitter at the heartbreaking messages from people who had not been able to see their loved ones before they died in May 2020 due to the Covid rules in force at the time, or to attend family funerals or visit relatives in care homes. These are deeply hurtful and scarring experiences.

I also thought to myself, how do most people feel about being told in the Spring of 2020 that they could, legally, only meet up with one person outdoors, now they know that there were parties with 30 or more people held in Downing Street at the very same time? Or about members of the public being fined by the police for breaking the same rules the Prime Minister introduced – yet broke – himself whilst, of course, concealing the truth from everyone?

I turned to thinking about Brexit and the damage and uncertainty caused to multiple interests, especially famers and fishing communities, but also to students and people who used to move regularly between the UK and the EU. This article is not about comparing the tragedies of Covid and Brexit, as Covid is infinitely worse due to the enormity of the loss of life and the associated heartache, but it is about the same way the Conservative Government has handled these two major catastrophes and continues to do so – and the kind of damage their duplicity has surely done to many people’s mental health.

How do so many who campaigned and marched against Brexit now feel, seeing all the worst predictions about the disruption it would cause coming true?  Without a single person in Government taking responsibility for the obvious failures and disruption including  more than five years of bitter division in society.

My take on this is that the Conservatives, but particularly the current Government, have psychologically harmed millions of people through their dishonesty and gaslighting. Saying one thing and doing another, consistently, over years, has worn people down.  This makes many of us lose hope and grow apathetic. Why bother to campaign, or complain, or march, when there are never any consequences for those in this Government? They either do the exact opposite of what they are asking the public to do or effectively lie about the benefits of a certain course of action for their own narrow political and ideological ambitions.

This speaks of a scale of psychological damage inflicted on a population that has never quite been seen before in modern times. This Government’s pronouncements are often contradictory or inaccurate with the Prime Minister telling Parliament and the people what we know to be downright untruths.

What are we to do? Firstly, we must look after our own mental health and trust ourselves to believe what we know to be true. We, somehow, have to hang on to reality. The Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire by-elections show that all is not lost.

I actually don’t know what psychologists would call the phenomenon where a ruling party behaves quite the way the Conservatives have done towards the electorate, but I know that the effects for too many include serious psychological harm.   

* Judy Abel has worked in the health policy field for around 15 years, including at the British Medical Association, for the All-Party Parliamentary Health Group, and in policy roles at Asthma UK, the Neurological Alliance and Versus Arthritis until the end of 2021. She was also the Constituency Office Manager and Senior Caseworker for former Lib Dem MP, Sir Simon Hughes from 2012 to 2014. All views are her own.

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  • Judy sees the main damage as psychological, but don’t really agree. I don’t think we’ve been gaslighted, we’ve simply been pulled out of the EU by a combination of outrageous lies told to voters, and voters who were far too gullible, and who in some cases were motivated by a xenophobic fear of immigrants; the normal stuff of politics, and quite motivating for us in the Lib Dem Party,
    Regarding the parties at Downing Street, the real issue is not the ‘parties’, it is that Johnson lied to Parliament, which is a sacking offence.
    Of course, the problem we all face now is do we really want to see Johnson kicked out? He would be a liability at the next election, which would suit us rather well.

  • Jenny Barnes 13th Jan '22 - 2:15pm

    It’s becoming ever clearer that the police are not neutral law enforcers, but the enforcement arm of the state – that’s why they wouldn’t apply the law to a No10 party.

  • @Andy, I meant that in addition to the obvious harms caused by Covid, the damage of being told that, by law, you cannot meet up with more than one family member, even outdoors , or see your loved ones in hospital by Government edict, when they themselves flouted the laws they made, is psychologically harmful and damaging to people’s mental health.

  • @Jenny – Yes I think the Metropolitan Police are too keen to overlook Government misdemeanours (when one thinks of the awful scenes at the Sarah Everard vigil in contrast) and I sometimes wonder how neutral the BBC really is these days.

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