The British public backs an ambitious transformation of the UK into a greener, fairer more equal society as it emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, according to an inquiry by a cross-party group of MPs.
The consultation exercise, which involved polling, in-depth workshops and telephone conversations with a representative sample of the public, found support for ambitious plans on equality, the future of work and the environment.
The findings come amid growing concern that the government is attempting to rush the country back to a pre-Covid “business as usual” model, rather than learn the lessons from the pandemic and build a more resilient “fairer, greener Britain”.
The inquiry was conducted by the all-party parliamentary group on a green new deal. One of its co-chairs, the Labour MP Clive Lewis, said the coronavirus crisis appeared to be driving a widespread desire for change.
“The findings of our research show that – almost irrelevant of age, sex, class or ethnicity – people want a fairer, greener, more community-oriented future. They do not want to see society go back to how it was.”
Another member of the group, the Conservative peer Lord Randall of Uxbridge, a former environment adviser to Theresa May, said people across the county were “remarkably united” in their desire for change.
“Contrary to the perception of the UK as nations riven with division, we found common aspirations in all of the communities with whom we engaged, marked by an overwhelming public appetite for a fairer, greener Britain after Covid. We sensed a new mood, and it’s one that the government can, and should, listen to.”
Among the report’s key findings was a desire to transform the world of work. The study found that two-thirds of people support a “jobs guarantee” and 57% back some form of guaranteed monthly income.
Participants backed better pay and improved conditions for key workers – from NHS staff and care workers to supermarket staff and delivery drivers. And after the huge changes to working life during lockdown, they wanted more flexibility to work from home and a broader definition of what constitutes work so that caring and volunteering roles were equally valued.
On housing, fewer than one in five thought the government’s housing policy was working and there was strong support for rent caps and more investment in social housing. Participants were also concerned about homelessness and, having seen government intervention during lockdown, want action to end street homelessness permanently.
Those interviewed also felt more connected to nature after lockdown and prioritised giving everyone access to green spaces. People felt more attached to their neighbourhoods and wanted more time to volunteer and for their local high streets to be mixed with car-free zones, green spaces, community hubs and cultural venues – and not just shops.
Polling for the group by Opinium underlined the findings with two–thirds calling on the government to intervene to make society fairer, and a similar figure calling on ministers to prioritise the “health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP growth”.
The Green party MP Caroline Lucas, the co-chair of the group, said the UK was at a crossroads with decisions taken in the next few months determining the future of the UK for decades to come.
She said: “This is not a moment for timid tinkering with the status quo, it’s the time to build a fairer, greener Britain where the national effort is focused on health and wellbeing. There is a popular mandate for deep-rooted changes in our economy and society. The government must seize this moment and deliver on people’s hopes for a better Britain”.