This article features in Bournbrook’s tenth print issue.

It is alarming to anyone who holds remotely conservative beliefs that the traditional family’s place in civil society is diminishing. After a long string of degradation, Britain now places little emphasis on familial associations.

Much is to be said about the recent Tory-backed “no-fault” divorce reforms which send another cudgel to the wrecked legs of traditional marriage. And yet other recent events have called for even more concern – yet again, at the hands of the Tories.

Family life has been disrupted – perhaps even fractured – by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But it is not the pandemic itself that is to blame. It is, in fact, another blundered Tory policy which assaults British life.

The presiding social and economic lockdown, framed by Boris Johnson’s government as an appropriate reaction to the coronavirus, has sent the country into a dizzying stillness.

The economic effect of this policy is not to be understated. In June, the Office of National Statistics reported a 20.4 per cent slump in overall GDP in April, with most industries failing to escape the tidal wave of economic ruin set out by the lockdown. Most alarming is the fact that such shrinkages have been unwelcome in British economics for as long as records have been kept.

Of course, the government has instituted a furlough scheme, which pays eighty per cent of millions of workers’ wages during the pandemic – a useful but ultimately futile gesture during the collapse of the once-lucrative dominant services sector.

When Boris Johnson and his Chancellor engage in talks concerning Britain’s economic “bounce back”, one can only wonder what it is like to shoot oneself in the foot and then claim that a doctor will save the day as one bleeds out.

Economic misery is not confined to the public sphere – it ostensibly bankrupts family life, too. The Great Depression saw increased spousal abandonment rates (as many could not afford a divorce), higher suicide rates, and family members leaving home in search of work. Remiss comparisons are too often drawn between our current circumstance and the Great Depression, yet this one holds true; that the coronavirus crisis should be seen as a grave wound to family life.

We do not yet know the full effects of the economic crisis we are in, but seeing Depression-era breakdowns should be no cause for surprise.

Parents across Britain have found themselves out of work due to mass business closure from lockdown. This places a worrying strain on family life. No longer able to provide lucrative benefits to their families, parents have to become frugal carers, educators and workers within the space of their own home. With parents having to play dual or even triple roles, one can possibly see this harming familial cohesion.

It is human nature which drives humanity to its altruistic familial tendencies. And yet, in a bankrupt house smothered by lockdown, people face the challenge of keeping their sense of self intact. Children have to adjust to their parents’ roles, who have suddenly become more present in the household. They are also having to avoid the petulance that often marries itself with boredom – the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that children are struggling to cope with their new living situations.

Parallel to the challenges faced by children is the plights facing parents. The newfound positions which they’re adopting suggest roles of equal distribution, yet most statistics tell us that fathers are more likely to work (and concurrently work from home). This leaves parental duties largely to the mothers, and in a climate where more women are entering the workplace, this involves a reasonable change in lifestyle.

The unpredictability of most scenarios drives families into economic fallibility, strained relationships and incoherence.

This new model isn’t working too well for child education, either. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has shed light on the fact that most families are suffering from a reduction in school resources and children are finding less time to study due to distractions. This can possibly increase inter-generational wealth disparities, exacerbating pre-existing issues with educational quality.

Given the mounds of information which suggests that lockdown perhaps wasn’t the most helpful policy for British people and business, it is astounding that the government, and many of whom they’ve duped, still support it.

Many people don’t tend to passionately defend the family model, and yet most are dramatically affected by its plight. When civil association at the personal and familial level dies, we begin to see its effects on larger society – through communities, businesses and so on.

The British family will need time to heal after the lockdown, but even that opportunity has been thwarted by the Tories, who recently announced a poorly-timed lifting of Sunday trading laws. No doubt this will ensure the continuation of family struggle, as those who own small businesses will be required to dedicate more time to work in order to satisfy economic demand.

The tale becomes even grimmer when one takes into account the increase of certain crimes. Families are now mired with domestic abuse problems, according to the United Nations – which has claimed that worldwide instances of domestic abuse have risen by as much as twenty per cent during the lockdown. One can see an ongoing trend here: lockdown measures are worsening pre-existing issues which place
families in dire circumstances.

The ruinous lockdown has clearly endangered society in a myriad of ways. It is alarming that we do not see much outcry in face of this fact, but just like any governmental catastrophe, history may judge this period very poorly indeed.


Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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