In Depth

Instant Opinion: Keir Starmer’s first 100 days

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 6 April

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

1. John Rentoul in The Independent

on the new Labour leader

Keir Starmer’s first 100 days: How can he make a mark in a crisis?

“The huge scale of the post-corona recession will make it possible to forget most of the policies he has inherited from Corbyn without ever needing to reject them explicitly. New priorities will overwrite old ones. So it may be that the Blairites and the Corbynites who are waiting to see which of them he will betray are asking the wrong question. Faced with calls from one side to ‘break with Corbynism in all its manifestations and fancies’, and warnings from the other to keep the ‘socialist policy consensus’ inherited from his predecessor, it could be that Starmer in his first 100 days will be a Blairite, but only in the sense that he will probably take a middle course – the third way.”

2. Nick Timothy in The Telegraph

on Starmer’s next moves

The Tories mustn’t allow Keir Starmer to turn the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity for Labour

“Starmer will do what he can to neutralise the cultural dividing line that Boris used to smash through the Red Wall of Labour seats. He has apologised for his party’s anti-Semitism scandal, made nods towards small business owners and referred conspicuously to the interests of England, which has long been a blind spot for Labour. Instead, he has shown he wants to campaign on economic issues: taxing the rich – promising a ‘reckoning’ – and increasing benefits and public sector pay. The Tories cannot afford to give Starmer what he wants. When the worst of the coronavirus crisis passes, the Government will need to focus on getting economic growth – and employment, pay and tax receipts – back up and running. But it will be vital for Boris to continue with his pre-crisis agenda of levelling-up the regions and investing in services. This will be the right thing to do in its own terms – bringing opportunity and prosperity to the whole country – but it will also have the political benefit of forcing Labour further to the Left on the economy, adopting unpopular and unrealistic policies such as a Universal Basic Income.”

3. Libby Purves in The Times

on rural communities

Countryside needs a way out of lockdown too

“There are two kinds of precariousness. Some locals, working from home or pensioned in supportive communities, applaud government strictness and would ban all arrivals and maintain this strange quietness for months. Others, less vocal, obey the rules but flinch at the wreckage of a tourist-friendly economy. Which shops, pubs, businesses, nurseries and cafés will ever rise or employ again? The eerie silence of the cities is more dramatic but foreboding looms equally over resorts, which, for all the routine grumbles about ‘emmets’, depend on them. On top of that, an innate rural practicality about risk - farming and fishing and fixing your own fence - feeds particular impatience with the indefinite lockdown. If the frustration of trapped urbanites will explode soon into defiance - and it will - the countryside will too. We need a credible forecast for release.”

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4. Eli Mitchell-Larson and Kaya Axelsson in The Independent

on learning from the coronavirus outbreak

The world will recover from coronavirus – but unless we learn from the pandemic, it won’t recover from climate change

“This pandemic is personal. We empathise with the most vulnerable and with those suffering in viral hotspots, and also fear for ourselves and our loved ones. Consider how quickly governments have acted, asking citizens to radically shift their ways of life and fast-tracking billions in bailout funds and relief packages, and justifiably so. This kind of emergency mobilises us. The climate emergency is more insidious. Where the impacts of Covid-19 are rapid and easily identifiable, climate damage is gradual and multifaceted. Many scientists have criticised governments’ Covid-19 responses as slow or inadequate. But the response to climate change has been even more negligent by comparison, the damage more permanent.”

5. Karsten Noko for Al Jazeera

on police states

The problem with army enforced lockdowns in the time of COVID-19

“Building the confidence and trust of those affected and those at risk is inextricably intertwined with a public health approach. If we expect people to voluntarily come out when they have symptoms of COVID-19, and to expose their travel history for contact tracing - this can only work where the community is an ally in the control of the pandemic, and not a source of a problem whose solution is a lockdown. As the [World Health Organization] chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, explained, lockdowns and movement restrictions only buy us time by slowing the pandemic, but they are only useful if accompanied by rigorous testing, contact tracing and isolation of those infected. At this stage, the security forces can be repurposed as a useful asset for many states who find themselves having to throw the kitchen sink at the pandemic. But this repurposing cannot be separated from a public health approach that puts communities at the centre of the response.”

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