Opinion: Karen Constantine- Whatever it takes?

Cllr Karen Constantine

We are weeks into the Covid-19 crisis. The Government’s announcements on Friday were the most profound yet, at last some much needed support and reassurance for people. Sadly I have to agree with many commentators from a variety of viewpoints, that the U.K. Government has dragged its feet. It is in fact still dragging its feet but we are moving in the right direction.

The scale of the response indicates that the Government, no doubt pushed hard by the unions has recognised both the scale of the problem and the human pain.

This is not the time to try to score cheap political points. That would be facile and unproductive. Public health and well-being comes first. So a few thoughts.

It’s absolutely time to move to a Universal Basic Income, (UBI). A regular amount paid to everyone. A guaranteed income, which was first mentioned in Thomas More’s 16th century Utopia. Those that don’t need the cash, can donate their share elsewhere. Implementing UBI could be done with the minimum bureaucracy. We need to dispense with the complex, patchwork and frankly failing, benefits system. Think of UBI as quantitative easing for the people. We’ve seen first hand the dehumanising and demoralising impact of scraping by in poverty in Thanet and elsewhere. So let’s aim to end subsistence living. Let’s get in step with our EU neighbours. Let’s value everyone, the sick, the unemployed, the WASPI women, part-time workers, everyone. Let’s give poverty the boot.

We now urgently need to look after the self-employed and those on zero hour contracts. There’s nothing yet, for them. In the prevailing ‘gig’ economy we can’t afford to exacerbate the gap between employees and workers. All workers are valuable. I hope the Government will move fast to offer reassurance and financial help to the self-employed.

Self-care. Look after yourselves. You are precious, others no doubt depend on you and love you. So take small and regular steps to safeguard your health and well-being. Don’t feel guilty about looking after yourself as then you can better look after other people. This isn’t a sprint it’s a marathon.

Get ready to start asking your politicians hard questions, about everything, but especially about our NHS. Many have said the NHS is being stripped out for privatisation. That is true. Our vital staff have been working ‘to the max’ for a long time. Staff shortages have made a difficult job really difficult. These staff shortages were always avoidable. The internal supply chain buckled long ago, as non-clinical staff were stripped out and budgets were driven down. When we all get through this, and we will, we must re-balance and reinvest in this great institution and our NHS workers.

It might sound strange but do compare yourself to others. Particularly Syrians and other people living in war zones. Refugees trapped on Greek islands, those people desperately trying to get on to lorries, crossing dangerous stretches of water in flimsy boats. Let’s compare ourselves to economic migrants, to millionaires, even royalty. Is there any reason for living with such glaring inequality?

Going forward let’s fight together to keep our all our current rights at work and to improve them. How on earth did we end up in a situation where people have to live and plan lives on zero hour contracts and do not know when they will next work? This is a return to the 1930’s, where workers queued daily for work. The current crisis shows clearly this is a system which isn’t fit for purpose.

Last but not least. We can’t always choose what happens to us in life, but we can choose our response. That sounds so simple, but in reality it’s the hardest most challenging thing to do. I for one, am going to try to stay positive and resourceful. By being positive I hope I influence others to be positive. This is the most difficult challenge but our fantastic local community is pulling together, is being kind, is both thoughtful and creative. We can all play our part in  looking after those that need more help and support.

Coronavirus help groups, advice, shops and information for Thanet


  1. re:Cllr. Karen Constantine.
    BRAVA !you my Lady are a shade too left-wing for my palate … so why do I say BRAVA ? Because you have shown the fighting spirit in these troublesome times which our Leadership clearly hasn’t recognised it’s Citizenry seeks .

  2. 100% agree – there are many, some in most need that will slip through this net. For example, its all very well giving relief on business rates and paying employees but what about all those of us that work at or from home, pay our taxes but no longer have revenue… the peripatetic chiropodists, hairdressers beauticians and the like and what about those who run on-line businesses reliant on advertising? Just like the self-employed and the zero hours workers they pay their dues but will not be helped one whit by the announcements so far!

  3. Whilst I am sure that the unions have had a positive influence, the other stakeholders such as the CBI have also contributed but the most important group are the scientists and medics and these latter groups have been critical in persuading the government to minimize Coronavirus transmission risk by closing pubs, cafes, restaurants etc. That and preventing any other unnecessary travel and social interactions are key in dealing effectively with this crisis.
    Interesting that Karen says:
    ‘ This is not the time to try to score cheap political points. That would be facile and unproductive. Public health and well-being comes first.‘ and then goes ahead and does just that.
    Clearly more needs to be done by Government , particularly for the self employed but I have no doubt that this will be addressed once a mechanism is developed that can deliver it. For once politics should be left out of this and we should all encourage the government to do what they can to protect people’s lives and jobs.
    All we can do is follow the official advice and be sensible unlike the selfish idiots stripping the supermarket shelves on a daily basis.

  4. Re UBI,I understand the State of Alaska does that from the oil industry income. We should have done something similar,perhaps, with the income from North Sea oil.

  5. I personally think the government got it right few ends to tie up such as self-employed and other low-paid workers. I think in the next 6 to 8 weeks this will be proven by the downturn that will eventually come. I’m sorry to say Karen I think you’re the one looking to score cheap political points I do not like our Prime Minister speak as I see I think he has got it right.

  6. Government should pay couuncil tax to local authorities,allowing people to save £30 to £60 a week on council tax payments. This is easy to administrate and quickly improves everybody’s cash flow

  7. Well at long last the unions doing what’s right for there members instead of playing corbinista politics.wonders never cease about time I worked in the mines and been a union member all my working life and know the first hand they lost there way ages ago polits is what we don’t need just now

  8. It sounds like a lot of money being spent to pay employers to then pay their staff 80% of their wages. But it is still voluntary for the employer! So, if they just decide to end their business and lay off the workforce, they can! So the workers have to claim Universal Credit which only comes to about £98 per week. Nothing like most peoples wages.

    This money should be paid to the worker, NOT to the employer. As long as the worker gets 80% of their previous wage, it won’t matter so much if the employer abandons the business.
    I worry that a lot of small businesses will go under quite quickly as we are now discovering just how so much of the economy was being run ie on a shoestring, week to week with almost no reserve finances. Take away just two weeks income and the place closes. I am tempted to say “You wouldn’t run a whelk stall like that!” but, I suppose that you COULD , just about, run a whelk stall like that but, surely, we expect serious businesses to be a lot more sensibly planned.

  9. Yes it is time to score political points! Johnson is trying to “tell” people to close their businesses, or as I have seen in print, the “Government has ordered! etc. Johnson lied to the Queen, and attempted to become a Dictator, and he is using this crisis to do the same. He cannot “tell” or “Order” businesses to close, as a police officer instructed my local café to do over the weekend. The owners will not have committed an offence if they stay open, as no law exists to stop them, yet! Why hasn’t Johnson done anything about the hoarding of household goods, that people are re-selling on E-Bay? That would be a start, get the police to check peoples shopping, so if they are buying more than they possibly need, to confiscate it, that would soon put an end to the Black Market!

    • Dumpton, what a load of drivel. No wonder you hide behind a pseudonym I too would be ashamed to put my real name if I spouted such rubbish.

      • I don’t see any drivel in Dumpton’s post. Even before this crisis the government behaviour indicated that it wanted to exert much more control than before . Look at what they want to do to the BBC and the legal system, for instance. A slow purge of those who disagree with them is already taking place.

  10. Good points Karen. The government spent billions bailing out the banks after they made reckless gambles and lost following deregulation of the financial sector. We all paid for that with austerity for over a decade, with the least able to afford it bearing the whole burden. We should not accept that happening again. A universal income at this time would make a good start, and also recognise the crucial role played by frontline workers. We should all be assured of living decently and comfortably without having to resort to food banks and benefits.

  11. How worrying to see Labour Lefties (and not just the author of the piece) politicizing what is a global pandemic.Good thing that the current government won the last election with a majority that means what needs to be done gets done.

  12. Over 26,600 people were seriously injured, and 1,770 died due to car accidents in 2018, clogging up hospital beds! Some 40,000 people plus, die each year from air pollution, about 800 a week (official figures), also clogging up hospital beds! So why isn’t there an outcry about that doctor? They are all preventable! After the war, because most people had to heat their homes, and sometimes cook with coal which was rationed, thousands died each week, yes each week, from Smog (smoke & fog) and it took an act of parliament (The Clean Air Act) to make people use more expensive smokeless fuel! Over the last 20 years we have had Avian (Bird) ‘Flu, Swine ‘Flu, MRSA, and thousands have died, so why is this any different, when so far less than 300 have died in the last 3 weeks in the UK doctor?

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