In Depth

Instant Opinion: Boris Johnson ‘undercooked his Covid plan’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 23 September

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

1. Daniel Finkelstein in The Times

on balancing the economy with health

Boris Johnson has undercooked his Covid plan

“At the root of the Covid-19 problem is a simple choice: the crisis won’t pass until we either have a successful treatment or vaccine, or natural herd immunity so that if someone gets it they can’t really pass it on because such a large proportion of the population are immune. We must choose. We can allow the virus to spread, aiming to achieve herd immunity as quickly as possible. Or we can try to hold it off until we get a vaccine or treatment. The choice may be simple but that doesn’t make it an easy one. We can’t know for certain when an adequate treatment or a vaccine will be available. If we hang on for science to rescue us, holding back the economy and social life, we can’t be sure the cavalry will ever arrive. And at some point we will have to give up and allow natural herd immunity to develop after all, with all the deaths that involves, meaning that much of the effort and sacrifice we made was in vain. Nevertheless, I believe this risk — putting much of our economic and social lives on hold — is still the right one to take.”

2. Julian Baggini in The Guardian

on an old conservative trick

‘Freedom-loving Brits’? It’s not that simple, Prime Minister

“When freedom simply means the absence of the state, there are always trade-offs between liberty and security, individual freedom and public health. But when we also think of the freedom to eat, to work, to have an education, to determine your own future, the only trade-offs are between different kinds of freedom, or the freedoms of different groups of people. Make people freer to mingle and you decrease the real freedom of the old and vulnerable to live their lives in safety. Give businesses the right to demand their employees go back to their workplaces and you increase their freedom to trade but not the freedom of employees to protect themselves and their families. Withdraw state support for the furlough scheme and you may cut people free from the ties of government but leave them penniless and powerless.”

3. Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College, London in The Independent

on an oncoming crisis

A no-deal Brexit would be twice as damaging for the UK economy as coronavirus in the long term

“Will Covid-19 mean that we don’t notice a no-deal Brexit? The continuing effects of the pandemic may mitigate or obscure – politically or economically – the impact of no deal.  Whatever the headline growth figures in early 2021, it will be very difficult to attribute economic outcomes to Brexit. However, assuming a reasonably strong recovery, and that government policies succeed in avoiding persistent mass unemployment, Brexit is likely to have a more significant impact in the long run. Our modelling with the London School of Economics of the impact of a no-deal Brexit suggests that the total cost to the UK economy over the longer term will be two to three times as large as that implied by the Bank of England’s forecast for the impact of Covid-19. No deal will result in immediate and substantial tariff and non-tariff barriers on UK exports to the EU. And the UK will apply the new UK Global Tariff to imports from the EU and other countries with which it does not have a trade deal. Free movement will also come to an end.”

4. Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, in The Daily Telegraph

on tackling crime against women

Making misogyny a hate crime has nothing to do with wolf-whistling

“Recognising misogyny as a driver of crime doesn’t create any new crimes or criminalise anything that isn’t already an offence – but it does change the seriousness with which it is treated and so addressed. As the Met Police says of other forms of hate crime: ‘If it happens to you, you might be tempted to shrug it off. But if you report the hate crime, we can investigate and stop it from getting worse – either for you or someone else.’ With reports during lockdown of sexual harassment and domestic violence soaring there has never been a more important time to change our approach to the abuse women face. This isn’t just about a change in the criminal justice system. As with other forms of hate crime, it sends a message about the kind of society we want to live in and how to ensure everyone is free to be who they are. Overlooking the harm done by hostility based on sex creates a culture in which crimes involving violence and the abuse of women can flourish. Misogyny is so ingrained that we discount, rather than counter, it – telling women how to keep themselves safe rather than those responsible that they will be held accountable.”

5. Frank Bruni in The New York Times

on appointing politicised judges

The Special Hell of Trump’s Supreme Court Appointment

“It was almost inevitable that President Trump would get one Supreme Court appointment during this four-year term. It was always possible that he’d get two. But three? Seldom has a president’s impact been so inversely proportional to his warrant. Trump, with his nonexistent mandate, reaches extra far and wreaks extra damage. That’s what makes his reign so perverse. That’s the special hell of it. Almost instantly after the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, I checked how many Supreme Court justices Trump’s immediate predecessors had appointed, because I knew how fast he and Mitch McConnell would move to fill her seat. When it comes to this sort of unabashed power grab, they’re conjoined twins, connected by their contempt for fools who get hung up on hypocrisy and prattle about fairness.”


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