In France, the crisis has increased distrust towards the executive power. But in the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson remains popular even at the height of the Cummings scandal. How do you explain this?
Let’s not forget the Conservative Party’s performance in the last election in December. Boris Johnson helped secure the Conservative Party an 80-seat majority in Parliament as well as win in former Labour strongholds.
At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the Prime Minister was still very popular. But the Cummings affair has dented the government’s reputation. Suddenly, a Prime Minister who always presented himself as a man of the people, elected to serve the people, suddenly finds himself having to back his senior adviser who allegedly circumvented lockdown rules (which he himself had helped to draft). Of course, this episode could well be forgotten by the time of the next election; but until then, the challenge for the Prime Minister will be to try and regain the trust and support of voters. This will be far from easy...
The fiscal measures put forward by the government could also explain citizens’ high levels of trust in the executive branch in the first months of the pandemic. The UK government is expected to spend more than £80 billion (3.7% of annual GDP) over the next eight months to support the labour market. These measures are some of the most generous among developed countries. The Labour Party is also supportive of these actions. But the wage subsidy scheme has a downside for employers, confronting them with a difficult choice: the Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently announced that, from August, employers will start having to contribute some of the wages of furloughed employees. For the self-employed, he announced an extension of the scheme by 3 months, but in the next three months self-employed people will only get 70% of their average profits, not 80%.
The NHS is a pillar of the British social security system, as well as a national pride. How has it weathered this crisis to date? What impact will the virus have on this institution?