In Depth

Instant Opinion: Covid-19 is a ‘reminder the NHS is not the envy of the world’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 16 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. James Bartholomew in The Daily Telegraph

on healthcare

Covid-19 has been a reminder that the NHS is not the envy of the world

“For many years, public debate about the NHS has been conducted as if there were only two healthcare systems in the world: the NHS and the American one. The American system has been depicted as heartlessly demanding to see your credit card on arrival in hospital and, in the absence of one, turning you away. Not surprisingly, the NHS emerged in these debates as a preferable system. But the pandemic has been a vivid reminder that there are hundreds of other healthcare systems around the world and that many – or even most – have performed better than our own.”

2. Martin Kettle in The Guardian

on politics after coronavirus

After coronavirus, Boris Johnson's Tories will be a very different party

“The dissonance between the new realities and the recent past is now huge. Instead of the old contempt towards experts, competence and seriousness, there is now a craving for all three to help steer a safe course through the Covid-19 crisis. The idea that the government’s post-pandemic priorities might include lighting fires under the BBC, the civil service and the universities therefore seems even more destructive now than before. The idea that Britain should be a Brexit buccaneer, turning its back resolutely against Europe and throwing itself into the arms of Donald Trump seems even more irresponsible. As one former minister put it to me this week: ‘The party that was being created in the wake of the election was a new one. It was based on a cultural backlash against liberalism and established elites at home and abroad. But that doesn’t feel to me like what the country wants now. It doesn’t want divisive politics. It doesn’t want a culture war. This feels like a moment to step away from a lot of that.’ Whether to take that step away will be very much Johnson’s own decision. But it is a decision with momentous implications for the Tory party and for the whole of British party politics.”

3. David Aaronvitch in The Times

on hard-left politics

Labour still tainted by Corbyn’s grim legacy

“If we want a larger, more embracing state sector (which a lot of surprising people now do) to save the economy, and we want effective measures to end low pay without creating mass unemployment, then promising to bash up ‘the rich’, as the Corbynistas dreamt of doing, won’t cut it. Nor will subsidising middle-class students, nationalising broadband or abolishing universal credit. The country has to discuss moving to a society where most of us pay more in tax, some of it on wealth, to afford to be the post-virus society we aspire to. But Labour, possibly working with others, can only champion this successfully if people believe that the party is competent. That its leaders solve problems rather than spout slogans. The bring-your-own-loudhailer-and-placard party is over.”

4. Rachel Shabi in The Independent

on Brand Britain

The myth of Great Britain must finally end when our government has failed us so badly over coronavirus

“It is an extraordinary feat of PR that Britain has often gleaned international esteem, even begrudgingly. Brand Britain – all gloss, sharp humour and creativity – has camouflaged the real Britain of crumbling infrastructure, miserable neglect and inequality. Now a similar sleight of hand is playing out across sections of our media: the casting of a brave prime minister, a ‘Blitz spirit’ and soothing messages from the Queen combining to elide failures of government. Shocking death counts that surpass some of our neighbouring countries are cloaked in the illusion of a Great Britain, exceptionally so, even now – a terrible mythology built on inflated pride and lowered expectations.”

5. Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times

on the 2020 US presidential race

Joe Biden is the last, best hope for globalists

“The winner could decide for a generation the lesson of the coronavirus pandemic. Is it the innate danger of the outside world, or the indispensability of co-operation within it? He will have as large a say on whether US-China relations enter a froideur that splits the planet, or just settle into mutual vigilance. Even through his rhetoric, he will choose which of the two feelings that now pulse inside Americans to encourage: a fear of openness, or a pent-up yearning for the normality of travel and trade. Just as the presidency was worth more in 1945 than in 1960 — the second being trammelled by decisions made in the first — the policies of 2021 will set the tone for future governments.”

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