Instant Opinion

‘People are being economically penalised for being disabled’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Lucy Webster in The New Statesman

Ending free lateral flows implies that a disabled life isn’t worth living

on health discrimination

The ending of free lateral flow tests (LFTs) “will undoubtedly be annoying for everyone”, says Lucy Webster in The New Statesman. “Suddenly we’ll have to pay for something we’ve become accustomed to receiving for free… But for disabled people, who have already paid the highest costs in terms of both money and lives during the pandemic, this moment puts both our finances and health at risk.” The provision of “free LFTs have allowed some disabled people a little leeway to have a social life and feel safe when receiving vital care”. But more vulnerable people will now be forced “back into semi-permanent lockdown”. It is an “inherently ableist” belief that disabled people can “just live in isolation if they’re worried”. Disabled people “simply can’t live in lockdown forever”. And “even the economic case for ending free testing is a false one”, she adds, warning that it “should be obvious” that vulnerable people becoming sick and suffering from long Covid “will be more expensive” than providing free tests. But there’s also “a fairness argument” that “people are being economically penalised for being disabled”. A “simple solution” would be continuing free tests for anyone who was eligible for priority vaccination.

2

Emma Duncan in The Times

Macron has dragged France off its sick bed

on reform and recovery

“The label ‘sick man of Europe’ has done the rounds,” writes Emma Duncan in The Times. “In the 1970s, the grisly combination of inflation, stagnation and militant unions known as the ‘British disease’ earned us the title.” By the 2000s, “it was Germany’s turn”, the “costs of reunification, an excessively generous benefits system and over-regulation dragged their economy down”. Ten years on and “France was looking distinctly peaky. High taxation and over-regulation crushed the private sector.” London became France’s “sixth biggest city” as business people “flooded” to the UK capital. Then came Emmanuel Macron. Since taking office in 2017, “he’s done the obvious”, moving France towards a more market-based system. Taxes have been lowered, redundancy payments capped and eligibility for benefits have been tightened. “These measures have made Macron plenty of enemies”, but he “held firm and is getting results”. Unemployment is at its lowest level for 13 years and GDP per head is ahead of Britain’s. “It’s not surprising he’s on course for re-election.” So if France does “rid itself” of the “sick man” label, “who will it stick to next?” asks Duncan. “Britain is looking a bit pallid these days.”

3

Lionel Shriver in The Spectator

How to avoid heating your house

on getting used to the cold

Spring “coincides with a chilling marker” for Brits this year – a 54% rise in the energy price cap, writes Lionel Shriver in The Spectator. Shriver’s “annoying eccentricity” – a “refusal to switch on the heating” – may “soon become standard practice”. The American writer’s “prescient cultivation of a lifestyle many Europeans will shortly have to embrace… isn’t motivated by environmental fervour. I’m cheap,” she writes. “I revere hardiness” and she is “seduced by the rational efficiency of bundling up individual occupants rather than warming all the spaces they traverse”. Shriver, who lives in London, has “never recovered” from the fact that her wood-burning stove “heats barely more than the sitting room” and “makes no economic sense”. So now she lives in “thermals”, “stained knockoff Ugg boots”, “a generous selection of indoor coats” and types wearing gloves. “As many of you will soon discover, the body gripes at first, but eventually becomes so accustomed to being cold that it gives up complaining”. She concedes that the “frail, elderly and infirm” may “have a tiny problem getting with the Arctic programme”, the result of “policies far more idiotic than my boiler boycott”, like lockdowns, and “see-no-evil UK energy planning – or lack of”.

4

Elona Sekiraqa in The Daily Mirror

We must do more to tackle the negative stigma around bipolar or schizophrenia

on embracing mental illness

“We are making so much progress when it comes to mental health,” writes 17-year-old student Elona Sekiraqa in the Daily Mirror, “but more needs to be done to tackle the stigma around serious forms of mental illness.” There’s “a long way to go” in “unpacking the negative and often inaccurate stigma” around conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia, which are “much more common than we think” – 1% of the population is affected by schizophrenia. “The representation we often see in the media bears little resemblance to reality”, and social media platforms have “exposed” audiences to content that presents mental health “in a particular shape or form”. But these platforms “can also be a force for good”, with users sharing their experiences with digital audiences, though people “need to take care” using the internet for self-diagnosis. “Before jumping to conclusions”, Sekiraqa encourages readers to seek medical help – and “remember” that we are “more similar than we are different”. Let’s “embrace this” and “set a healthy example for the younger generations”.

5

Sunny Hundal in The Independent

Of course we should have a Margaret Thatcher Day – let it be her legacy

on a day of celebration

“There’s no escaping the Iron Lady,” says Sunny Hundal in The Independent. Almost a decade on from Margaret Thatcher’s death, “it seems we are doomed to argue about her until the day we die, in a special version of hell reserved for people obsessed with politics”. The Conservative Party is talking about having a national day to commemorate the former prime minister. Hundal says he’d “welcome a national Margaret Thatcher Day, provided we were allowed to remember her as the polarising figure she was, and we are able to celebrate” both the good and the bad. “This is why Tories still love her,” Hundal suggests, because “she was willing to stick it to the left in ways they can only dream of”. He goes on: “Allowing people to burn effigies of Thatcher would be the perfect illustration of the freedom we have to say whatever we like in this country,” and adds: “Any day that doesn’t celebrate the full extent of all the feelings she evoked won’t do Thatcher justice at all.”

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