In Depth

Instant Opinion: Is Boris Johnson a ‘war leader’?

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 23 August


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

1. The editorial board in The Times

on Boris Johnson and coronavirus

War Leader

“The coming weeks will be critical to preserving public confidence. The death toll will rise and many will fall sick. If the NHS is overwhelmed, forcing doctors to deny potentially lifesaving treatment to those who need it, the public may come to ask why schools, pubs and restaurants were not forced to close sooner. They may ask why there was no action to order new ventilators and protective equipment two months ago rather than waiting until last weekend. And if the government is forced to introduce even more stringent restrictions to halt an escalating epidemic, they may ask why they weren’t introduced sooner, as they have been in much of the rest of the world. The country needs to know that Mr Johnson has a coherent strategy. Otherwise the prime minister who dreamt of being Churchill may find himself cast as Neville Chamberlain.”

2. Nick Timothy in The Telegraph

on community and the coronavirus

From work to education to politics, nothing will be the same again

“We are, in different ways, showing that we understand that we depend on one another and, while we are all individuals with our own wants and needs, we are also members of something bigger. We are remembering that national life is not about the individual stories of some 60-odd million people, but the challenges we meet together. We are rediscovering the importance of community, institutions and the state. When this is over – or more accurately, when we are over the worst of something we might need to continue to live with – there will be no going back. And not just because, after bailing out business on an unbelievable scale, taxpayers will demand a different future. It will simply be impossible for ministers to return to the politics and economics of individualism after exhorting us to play our parts in a collective national effort.”

3. Nesrine Malik in The Guardian

on a ticking time-bomb

This virus is ravaging rich countries. What happens when it hits the poor ones?

“If we are concerned about the failure to contain the virus in western Europe and the US, multiples of that horror await in the developing world. With few means of medical intervention, and several other risk factors such as malnutrition, high population densities, communal living and lack of access to water and washing facilities, the rates of mortality could dwarf what has been seen so far in the west. And economically, the virus risks ushering in an ice age. There are no war chests, no stimulus packages, no insurance payouts.”

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4. Neve Gordon and Catherine Rottenberg on Al Jazeera

on the role of government

The coronavirus conundrum and human rights

“As governments attempt to address the pandemic, we are beginning to witness a twofold approach characterised by governmental overreach on the one hand and by insufficient governmental reach on the other. Both approaches are likely to have a dramatic effect on basic human rights for hundreds of millions of people. Indeed, it is no hyperbole to say that more people will suffer and even die as a result of the way governments choose to handle the crisis than from contracting the virus.”

5. Ivan Krastev in the New Statesman

on the anti-globalisation virus

The seven early lessons of the global coronavirus crisis

“It is still early days in speculating about the long political impact of Covid-19. But it is already clear that it is an anti-globalisation virus, and that the opening of borders and mixing of peoples will be blamed for the catastrophe. Historically, one dramatic aspect of epidemics is the desire to assign responsibility. From Jews in medieval Europe to meat mongers in Chinese markets, someone is always blamed. This discourse of blame exploits existing social divisions of religion, race, ethnicity, class, or gender identity. The coronavirus crisis has justified the fears of the anti-globalists: closed airports and the self-isolated individuals appear to be the ground zero of globalisation. It is ironic that the best way to contain the crisis of individualistic societies was to ask people to wall themselves in their apartment. Social distancing has become the new name for solidarity.”


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