The “New Normal”?
The “New Normal”?
1. Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

The ‘new normal’, a term we are hearing more and more, as we respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The words and language being used sanitises the idea that what we are going through and how we are living at present is okay, because normal is regular, normal is standard, normal is what we are accustomed to.

The furore of the last few weeks over ensuring children eligible for free school meals continue to be fed, has highlighted exactly what the “new normal” has become.

The new normal is a reliance on charity while government continues to strip the state and transfer billions of pounds from the public purse to private organisations, many of which have direct links to Tory Party members.

While the efforts of Marcus Rashford have been rightly publicised nationally, closer to home across the Liverpool City Region there has been an amazing response from people and businesses to come together and support each other in response to the government’s failings.

This is what we do, come together in times of adversity to support those who need help in our communities, but it should not have to be this way.

In 2010 when David Cameron’s Tory Government launched the “Big Society” ideology it was basically a call to volunteers to support communities because the state had no intention of doing it, while they slashed their way through a decade of Austerity.

This half term week has seen a number of independent businesses and community organisations feed thousands of young people across the City Region. Truly awe inspiring.

At the same time, these community groups and local businesses have stepped into a void left by a lack of government support, there have also been initiatives from large and in some cases multi-national organisations to support children.

During the half term holiday, McDonalds were committed to giving away 1 million free meals to support children. Regardless of the nutritional content this could be seen as a great gesture to support those who need it most.

Mcdonalds tax optimisation strategies have potentially cost European governments over €1 billion in tax revenue over the five years from 2009 to 2013.

That is until you look closer at tax avoidance claims that are regularly directed towards McDonalds. If this multi-national company paid the right amount of tax, this would be available to the public purse to fund vital services. But then there would not be the PR exercise of 1 million free meals.

Feel free to have a detailed look at McDonalds approach to tax in the UK from the Unhappy Meal report outlined in detail the tax avoidance strategy adopted by McDonald’s and its tax impact both throughout Europe and in major markets like France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

The new report ‘Unhappier Meal’ is co-authored by EPSU, EFFAT, and SEIU– the coalition of European and American trade unions, representing 15 million workers in different sectors of the economy across almost 40 countries.

Since the European Commission launched its state aid probe, McDonald’s has moved from Luxembourg to Delaware in the USA using intermediate companies in Singapore, Hong Kong and the UK while making use of companies in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Guernsey.

Foodbank use is higher than ever this is the new normal. As a City Region and a country, we should not be reliant on the charity of individuals and independent business to feed the most vulnerable, while big business avoids paying tax.

The “new normal” also includes the growing confidence Tory MPs have in voicing opinions on social media, opinions which previously would have been kept private for fear of public backlash, but are now promoted as part of the ongoing division of communities.

This week saw several Tory MPs make and endorse social media posts alleging free food vouchers are spent on drugs and alcohol. This was combined with the insinuation that people on low incomes should not have phone contracts, gym memberships and TV subscriptions.

The “new normal” is Tory MPs feeling emboldened to voice all of this on social media, while at the same time the very same MPs who voted down the recent Free School Meals bill are claiming for their own TV Subscriptions out of MP Expenses. Marcus Fysh, MP for Yeovil who voted against funding free school meals over the half term, claims MP expenses for his Amazon Prime account.

The “new normal”.

The charity of “new normal” is not only expected to cover feeding vulnerable people but is also expected to stretch to our National Health Service. Earlier this year as NHS workers on the front line worked night and day to care for Coronavirus patients, news stories highlighted the weekly clap from the public to show our gratitude.

During lockdown people where encouraged to show their support for the NHS.

The other headline story linked to the NHS was Capt. Tom Moore, a 100-year-old gentleman who became a national lockdown hero when he raised over £32 million pounds by walking laps of his garden.

While this was a welcome area of focus during the height of the first lockdown, we cannot afford to forget that the NHS is a public service, not a charity.

It does not run on donations and kindness: it runs on public funds. It runs as a universal service that is there to protect all of our lives.

A service this Johnson government and previous Tory government’s have been happy to underfund while privatisation looms. Let us never forget George Osborne’s 2015 spending review, with “disastrous” plans to scrap £6,000-a-year grants for student nurses and midwives

It was supposedly done to allow more training places to open up. But hours after the policy was announced, unions warned us it could prompt a recruitment crisis. Figures from February 2019 showed that applications had dropped by 30%.

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research 130,000 deaths in England since 2012 (Prior to COVID 19) could have been prevented if public health policy had not stalled as a direct result of cuts. The think tank claimed that had progress continued at pre-2013 levels around 131,000 lives could have been saved.

The NHS is not a charity, yet this is the new normal.

As the Johnson government preside over a failing response to Coronavirus, preceding Tory governments have overseen a decade of austerity, poverty and death. Where is the opposition holding them to account?

As all this unfolds the Labour party eats itself up with infighting, reliant on local leaders to fight for communities while national leadership look to focus on cancelling socialism within the party.

At a time when communities need strong elected leaders they can hold to account, when did it become normal for the leader of the opposition to not vote against a bill that allows the authorities to legally murder and rape? The new normal.

So, if this is the “new normal”, let’s see the position society has moved from to get to this new version of how we live, what was the old normal?

Before Coronavirus changed the world, what were some of the things the government were fine about as it was perfectly normal? What was standard policy for this government, some of the things we the public become accustomed too?

  • 10 years of Austerity placing millions into poverty
  • Foodbank use at record levels
  • Failure to invest in public health services
  • Bedroom Tax
  • The benefit change that affected almost 600,000 children
  • MP Expense Scandal
  • The handling of Brexit
  • Failure to investigate Islamophobia in the Tory Party

The definition of normal includes “typical or expected”. On the back of a decade of Tory government cuts and austerity, the failure to respond to Coronavirus in a way that protects people and the economy is sadly to be expected and typical of this government, the “new normal”.

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Founding member and former Chair of the Liverpool Supporters Union. Supported and campaigned with Anne Williams in her Hope for Hillsborough organisation.