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Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 3 February

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The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail

on the next recession

With the world’s second largest economy locked down by coronavirus, will China crisis tip us into recession?

“As if the public health impact of the coronavirus outbreak is not scary enough, the economic fallout from the disease could be just as contagious - and dangerous. The close-down of commerce in large parts of China threatens not just the output of the second largest economy on the planet but the whole world. The interwoven nature of global trade means that the business and economic consequences of the disease could move rapidly from the Asia-Pacific region, infecting the US and an already stagnating European economy.”

2. Clare Foges in The Times

on the myth of working-class heroes

Labour should ditch its obsession with class

“We’ve had Old Labour and New Labour; this is Retro Labour. Retro Labour is intensely nostalgic. It longs for Thatcheresque villains to give drama to its narrative and lend the glow of heroism to its fighters. It is hopelessly sentimental about Britain’s industrial past; misty-eyed over colliery bands and pit-town solidarity, boiler suits and steel capped boots, trade unionism and self-education, workers, as Philip Larkin put it, ‘who leave at dawn low-terraced houses/Timed for factory, yard and site’. Above all, Retro Labour is obsessed with class war, seeing 90 per cent of the British experience as a Ken Loach film made real, and the rest as Brideshead Revisited peopled by red-cheeked toffs. The trouble with Retro Labour is that it speaks of an imaginary country. In its appeal to ‘the working class’ as one monolithic entity, Retro Labourites are appealing to a bloc that no longer exists. Though around half the population will, if asked, define themselves as working class rather than middle class, this description is not central to the identity of millions, as it was in the heyday of friendly societies, working men’s clubs and trade unionism.”

3. Yuval Noah Harari in The New York Times

on why people vote

Elections are not about truth

“Elections are not a method for finding the truth. They are a method for reaching peaceful compromise between the conflicting desires of different people. You might find yourself sharing a country with people who you consider ignorant, stupid and even malicious - and they might think exactly the same of you. Still, do you want to reach a peaceful compromise with these people, or would you rather settle your disagreements with guns and bombs? Since elections are a method for reaching a compromise about our desires, in the polling stations people aren’t asked ‘What is the truth?’ They are asked ‘What do you want?’ That’s why all citizens have equal voting rights. When searching for the truth, the opinions of different people carry different weights. But when it comes to desire, everybody should be treated the same.”

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4. Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph

on the US election

If Brexit and Trump can win, then so can Bernie Sanders

“Trump’s victory has shown that anyone can win, that everything previously considered a roadblock to the presidency is a myth the establishment imposed on itself to justify the continuation of the status quo. Given that America has already voted for an African-American – overcoming centuries of racial prejudice – and a businessman with no political experience and a bucketload of bad press, Sanders’ radicalism not only isn’t a problem but roots him much better in the zeitgeist than old Biden.”

5. John Harris in The Guardian

on tech and healthcare

Will having longer, healthier lives be worth losing the most basic kinds of privacy?

“The biggest problem, perhaps, is that even the most trailblazing steps towards regulating the relationship between tech and health are just a start, and that governments and legislators will only firmly grasp the problem once the public pushes them. Therein lies one of the central tensions of our time: that more and more innovations are quietly revolutionising the most sensitive aspects of how we live, while most of us look the other way.”

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