For the past month, the government has been running adverts on television and social media platforms based around emotional messaging of ‘look into my eyes’. The backdrop consists of Covid-19 patients coupled with a voiceover pleading the viewer to ‘never bend the rules’ or ‘always keep a safe distance’. These adverts, while seeming to promote an acceptable message of sticking to Covid guidelines in order to prevent further hospitalisations, in fact serve a more cynical purpose – shifting blame for the Covid disaster onto the general public.
The personal messaging of these adverts and the widespread placement of them, even appearing frequently on my For You Page on TikTok, highlight the importance the government sees in spreading this message. The advertising itself is designed to elicit self-responsibility and even shame from the person reading it. It is targeted in such a way that you yourself should feel guilty for each one of the Covid-19 patients across the country, and the now over 100,000 victims.
The Conservatives have much to gain from this. Half of healthcare workers say the public is to blame for rises in cases and the Tories polling remains around 40%, ahead of Labour, and even now steadily increasing with the recent vaccine development. This new campaign is not the first time the government has tried to shift the blame for their disastrous response to Covid-19 onto someone other than themselves. Throughout the last year we have seen Boris Johnson attempt to blame the poor pandemic response on care homes, Public Health England and students, to name a few. This strategy has culminated in this recent ad campaign telling us to look into the eyes of victims and begin to blame our peers for what seems like to be a recurring cycle of lockdown pain.
The advertising is designed to elicit self-responsibility and even shame from the person reading it
So, is it true? Are we as individuals to blame for the UK being one of the worst Covid affected countries in the world? Should everyone who goes round their mate’s house in Leamington be forced to stare into the eyes of a Covid-19 patient and repent for their sins? Of course not. The ones who should be asking themselves if they have done all they could to stop this national disaster are the ones who saw the reports of the pandemic coming in early 2020, and not only ignored it, but missed the meetings to discuss it. The ones who gave people discounts to go to packed public restaurants with no vaccine programme in place. The ones who have consistently given out billion pound contracts to their friends and buddies in high places and failed to set up any coherent, structured and functioning Track and Trace system. These are the ones who should be held accountable for a situation where over 1,000 people dying a day has become normalised.
The hypocrisy of the Conservative Party to use emotional manipulation does not simply stop at Covid, however. Perhaps the next advert campaign the Conservatives want to run should contain the backdrop of any one of the over 100,000 austerity victims families of the last decade. How about the Yemeni children who are being bombed by weapons from the UK government? Those involved in the Windrush scandal? Those made homeless by Grenfell? I somewhat doubt the Tories will want to remind the public of their involvement in these atrocities.
The Covid-19 debacle, from what the polls are telling us, is seemingly going to be added to the long list of what the Tories can do and face no meaningful consequences
Therefore, are we still meant to believe that a party and government responsible for all these scandals are simply blameless for the recent Covid crisis? That, instead of the government with the history of failure after failure, it is spotty school students and 40 year old mums who are to blame for over five figure excess deaths this last year?
The Covid-19 debacle, from what the polls are telling us, is seemingly going to be added to the long list of what the Tories can do to the electorate and face little to no meaningful consequences. However, perhaps next time you stumble across an advert from the government attempting to guilt trip you into accepting blame, you realise that there is only one group that should be taking responsibility – the Conservative Party.