In Depth

Instant Opinion: Labour ‘needs to be braver’ to win back Britain

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 30 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. Frances Ryan in The Guardian

on Keir Starmer’s cautious approach

If Labour wants to win back Britain, it will need to be braver than this

“After Corbyn’s landslide defeat last December, Starmer’s Labour is clearly tentative about lifting its head above the parapet. This is understandable – the psychological impact of such a loss shouldn’t be underestimated – but caution soon has its dangers. An unspoken consequence of Labour’s election annihilation is convincing large sections of the party that any support for human rights or display of basic compassion has to be traded off or muted to win back the phantom bigoted red wall voter... [And] neither can it sacrifice or dilute its social and economic values. They are, after all, its purpose: the only parliamentary political force with a chance at challenging the structural inequalities that are leaving millions without decent housing, secure, well-paid jobs, or even enough food for their children. This has only become more pressing with coronavirus. In an era of soaring joblessness and crumbling living standards, few families are crying out for the status quo in a good suit.”

2. Holly Baxter in The Independent

on the first US presidential debate

Trump skewered himself at the first presidential debate while Biden watched and smiled

“The moment when Trump knew it really wasn’t going his way must have been when he started producing such weak comebacks as, ‘I bet you play more than me, Joe,’ as Biden described how the president had gone on golfing vacations rather than address issues of mounting political urgency. Without a group of supporters, he bounced from one familiar topic to the next — socialism, Antifa, fake news, Hunter Biden, law and order — with an increasing look of panic in his eyes. ‘You used the word smart? Graduated almost the lowest in your class. Don’t ever use the word smart with me,’ he said, but nobody in the audience (who had been told to stay silence) or onstage reacted. He cancelled mandatory racial sensitivity training for public servants because the training was ‘radical,’ spread ‘very bad ideas and frankly very sick ideas’ and was ‘teaching people to hate our country,’ he claimed, and again, no one waved an American flag and cheered. Biden kept on smiling, smiling, smiling through it all.”

3. Frank Bruni in The New York Times

on why there shouldn’t be a second debate

After That Fiasco, Biden Should Refuse to Debate Trump Again

“No matter how Wallace pleaded with Trump or admonished him, he couldn’t make him behave. But then why should Wallace have an experience any different from that of Trump’s chiefs of staff, of all the other former administration officials who have fled for the hills, of the Republican lawmakers who just threw up their hands and threw away any scruples they had? Trump runs roughshod over everyone and everything, and on Tuesday night in Cleveland he ran roughshod over the idea that two presidential candidates presenting rival visions for America should do so with at least a small measure of dignity and an iota of decorum. Almost from the start, he talked over Biden, taunting him, demeaning him, trying to provoke him. He interrupted him and interrupted him and then interrupted him some more, all the while complaining that he, Trump, ever the martyr, was being persecuted once again.”

4. Daniel Finkelstein in The Times

on socialist school teachers

Enemies of capitalism have no place in school

“It’s eighty years since Stalin attempted to starve my father to death in Siberia. Perhaps that’s why I think as I do about the latest controversy over capitalism. A row has broken out over new guidance from the Department for Education. Teachers in England developing their school’s relationships, health and sex curriculum are told that they ‘should not under any circumstances use resources produced by organisations that take extreme political stances on matters’. The guidance says that such stances include a desire to abolish democracy and free elections, using racist language and opposing free speech. These examples have been relatively uncontroversial though it isn’t hard to imagine individual cases causing controversy in the future. There is, however, already a row about another example. ‘A publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow... capitalism’... Now, it’s easy to dismiss this as overheated. Teachers are not being banned from teaching about the history and deficiencies of capitalism, nor from making students aware of the activists and dreamers who wish to abolish it.”

5. Mark Brolin in The Daily Telegraph

on the case for looser restrictions

The Scandinavian coronavirus story really does suggest it is time to ease restrictions

“As fatality numbers shot up, Boris Johnson deserves credit for overriding his non-interventionist instincts (even though it is easy to argue, especially afterwards, that it would have been even better if lockdown had been orchestrated more quickly). Yes, life in the Nordics has over recent months been more free and pleasant than in the UK, but unfortunately the UK natural disadvantages have merited a stricter approach. As always, the silent majority appears to understand the complexity of the situation much better than the angry dogmatics. There is still reason to think that the positive effects of the fast learning curve are now vastly underestimated. Those of us who suspect that the time is ripe to ease rather than tighten UK restrictions should do so not by pretending - like the Swedish Public Health Agency - that the fatality risk is and always has been largely static. The case for easing restrictions is much stronger if arguing - like in much more successful Denmark, Norway and Finland - that the coronavirus fatality risk really has diminished considerably. That case is stronger simply because it is true.”


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