In Depth

Instant Opinion: Sweden’s anti-lockdown stance ‘a lesson for Britain’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 28 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. Clare Foges in The Times

on quality of life during a pandemic

Sweden’s Covid stance is a lesson for Britain

“I’m not here to make some political statement on Covid-19 but because my husband arranged a work exchange in the Before Times, back when Whitty and Vallance might just have been a TV detective duo. An accident, then, that we are here as restrictions tighten in Britain, and frankly a happy one. Since arriving we have felt the weight of the pandemic response lift from our shoulders. It began in the taxi from the airport, when we were cheerily told we could ditch the masks, and continued with the mildly thrilling experience of perusing the supermarket mask-free. Sure, there are stickers on the floor requesting a two-metre distance but the whole thing is handled so breezily that the slight tightness in the throat I developed in British shops is gone; the flashing red danger alarms have dulled and the cortisol levels are down. We grab cutlery from a shared pot in cafés, collect change without thinking of invisible germs. One can almost forget the oppressive corona cloud we have lived under for six months.”

2. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

on the Tories taking back control

The Tory revolt against new coronavirus rules shows Johnson is not secure

“[Boris Johnson’s] support within the Tory hierarchy is based purely on his 2019 success in securing a Commons majority of 80. But these are not normal times. Johnson’s rating is falling. One poll at the weekend showed his popularity and that of his party falling for the first time behind Labour and its leader Keir Starmer... Finding a focus of power in Britain at present is hard. There are rumours of rifts between Johnson’s secretive government scientists and his popular chancellor Rishi Sunak. His powerful aide, Dominic Cummings, is toxic to both the cabinet and parliament. As happened under May, a leadership vacuum in Downing Street sees power inevitably drift towards the Commons. Brady’s amendment is hardly outrageous. It offers reassurance to the nation and thus a safety valve to Johnson. It would give parliament some steerage over a government that is now all at sea. It would give Johnson some space to breathe. He needs it.”

3. Ross Clark in The Daily Telegraph

on a sneaky return to Covid restrictions

We are being taken into another lockdown by stealth

“I am beginning to feel like a frog in the proverbial experiment – the one where if you lower the animal into a pot of boiling water, it will leap straight out, but if you raise the temperature gradually, it will just sit there and get boiled alive, not realising the danger it is in. First, we were banned from socialising in groups of more than six. Then the pubs were told to close at 10. Now, it transpires that ministers have been considering closing pubs and restaurants for two weeks across much of Northern England and possibly London, and banning all social interaction. Meanwhile, the areas under local lockdown are steadily growing larger, and merging to cover much of the country’s population. At the same time, the number of countries which Britons may visit without having to spend two weeks in quarantine on their return shrinks by the day – it is now down to just eight. At this rate, within a week or two everything will be in effective lockdown except for the grouse moors.  But ministers will still be trooping into radio studios telling us ‘we want to avoid a national lockdown at all costs’.”

4. Sean O’Grady in The Independent

on the president’s latest controversy

The Trump tax revelations will make no difference to the US election

“It’s odd that Trump has forgotten his own playbook, and now says the stories about him paying little tax are ‘fake news’, adding ‘I pay tax’ (implying more normal levels), and looking to the Inland Revenue Service to vindicate him. A lawyer for the Trump Organisation said that Trump ‘has paid tens of millions of dollars in personal taxes to the federal government, including paying millions on personal taxes since announcing his candidacy in 2025′. Logically, Trump can’t have it both ways. Either he was smart and didn’t pay tax or he did pay tax and he’s not so smart. Not that it matters though, in stark political terms. The American people made their minds up about Trump and Biden many months ago. Trump’s contempt for paying for ‘the swamp’ is shared by his fan base, and most Americans (like most folk anywhere) try to minimise their tax bills as far as possible.”

5. Charles M. Blow in The New York Times

on the worth of head-to-head events

We Don’t Need Debates

“I’m not looking forward to Trump making a scene and telling lies. I’m not looking forward to the assessments of the moderators. I’m not looking forward to hype. We may learn things. We often do. And those things are worth learning. But, what is most important is policy and character. Indeed, we don’t need a debate. What will it really tell us that we don’t already know? What will it truly reveal? The debate will show us how the candidates converse and clash. It will show how they respond when attacked and how they recover - or not - when bruised. But none of this, at this late date, should be the determinant of how one votes. Trump is actively threatening to assault our democracy by refusing to say that he will accept the results of an election if he loses, by refusing to say that he would ensure a peaceful transfer of power from him to Biden. He is assaulting our democracy by undermining confidence in the election and by lying about mail-in voting, a necessity for many during a pandemic.”


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