In Depth

Instant Opinion: Covid-19 shows EU’s ‘lack of solidarity’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 28 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. Shahin Vallee, former economic adviser to Emmanuel Macron, in The Guardian

on the European Union’s vital shortcoming

Coronavirus has revealed the EU’s fatal flaw: the lack of solidarity

“Behind a political debate that has turned somewhat hysterical in recent weeks lies a set of rather fundamental questions. Are European countries prepared to truly share some of the burden of this crisis? Are they prepared to politically underwrite this burden-sharing or would they rather have it happen by stealth, with technocrats at the European Central Bank purchasing each individual European government debt without an explicit political agreement to do so?... The eurozone needs to move towards a true form of fiscal federalism under the democratic control of the European parliament with taxing, borrowing and spending powers, which the current EU budget doesn’t permit. Short of that, the EU will carry on on its crutches, medically assisted by the drip-feed of a central bank that is forced to provide the vital energy to a political project that has lost its soul.”

2. Rachel Sylvester in The Times

on the PM’s transformative health scare

Reborn Johnson can make the hard choices

“Those who have spoken to the prime minister in recent days say he has clearly been altered by his life-threatening struggle with Covid-19. ‘There’s no doubt it has changed him,’ one member of the cabinet says. ‘He now has an emotional connection to the NHS that you don’t get from anything except a near-death experience. There’s also a real understanding of just how serious this is.’ Mr Johnson’s statements since leaving hospital have had a new, more sombre tone. The clown who suggested only a few weeks ago that the search for ventilators should be called ‘Operation Last Gasp’ has not been making such jokes since he had to breathe through an oxygen mask. After spending three nights in the intensive care unit of St Thomas’ Hospital he will not return to the lackadaisical approach he showed at the start of the year when he did not attend five Cobra meetings that discussed the coronavirus.”

3. Martin Fletcher in the New Statesman

on the weakness in the UKs government

The coronavirus crisis has exposed Boris Johnson’s cabinet as the weakest in living memory

“There was a time when ordinary citizens could name most members of the cabinet, but no longer. This lot are largely faceless. It is the cabinet of a party that purged any number of decent, thoughtful, independent-minded MPs last year for challenging the party’s Brexit extremism – the likes of Rory Stewart, Dominic Grieve, Philip Hammond, Justine Greening, David Gauke, Oliver Letwin, Sam Gyimah, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and Philip Lee. The last two, incidentally, were doctors whose insights would have been valuable in the present crisis... At its first meeting Johnson conducted a bizarre call-and-response exercise in which cabinet members dutifully chanted the numbers of new hospitals, nurses, buses and police officers he planned to deliver. The subliminal message was that they were not there to question policy or use their own judgement.”

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4. James Kirkup in The Spectator

on a much-maligned group of hacks

In defence of political journalists

“If you haven’t been inside a newspaper or big broadcaster, you might not understand the role that political correspondents play. They are very often Everything Correspondents, the people who get called on to cover every aspect of government policy, public services, politics, public opinion, diplomacy, the constitution... everything. And there aren’t very many of them either. In a ‘normal’ week, many newspaper lobby reporters produce anywhere between 10 and 30 stories, often on the full range of topics I’ve listed above, and more besides. This is one of the things that makes the job tough but fascinating. But it doesn’t produce expertise. Isaiah Berlin said there are foxes (who know many things) and hedgehogs, who know only one. To survive as a Lobby correspondent you must be a fox not a hedgehog.”

5. Elizabeth Bruenig in The New York Times

on why parents should cut themselves some slack

Quarantine parenting doesn’t have to be perfect

“When [my daughter] looks back on this strange interlude in our history, with the four of us locked up in our small apartment together for weeks on end, I want her to remember it fondly — or at least to see, with advancing age, that I tried to make it fun for her, in spite of everything, even myself. Quarantine parenting is ordinary parenting at maximum intensity, with quadrupled stress; but it doesn’t have to be perfect, I think, only loving, only kind.”

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