Instant Opinion: A national government now ‘is a dangerous idea’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 26 March

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn
(Image credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

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

1. Robert Saunders in the New Statesman

on the importance of opposition

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Why a national government now is a dangerous idea

“In times of crisis, there is a romantic allure to the idea of old enemies forging new alliances, of statesmen and women sinking their petty differences and standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the face of danger. But governments of national unity (or ‘national governments’) come at a price. They override the verdicts of elections and suspend the normal working of democracy. By bringing opposition parties inside the government, they prevent the opposition playing its crucial role of probing and contesting the government’s decisions. At the very moment when the actions of government are most momentous – when lives are at stake and the economy in the balance – they shut down the part of our system that exists to challenge the exercise of power.”

2. Matt Chorley in The Times

on Jeremy Corbyn’s achievements

Let the fizz explode as Corbyn steps aside

“At the end of it all, what was the point? What did he achieve? As a long-standing Eurosceptic who wanted a massive expansion in the size of the state funded by huge government borrowing, and the nationalisation of the railways and private hospitals, he could look around now and think job done. Albeit, none of it actually down to him.”

3. Tom Harris in The Telegraph

on the Labour leader’s legacy

It's farewell, then, to Jeremy Corbyn after his final PMQs. Or is it?

“Corbyn and the years of his leadership have been significant, one way or the other. The last four years have divided the party and the country and all the signs are that Corbyn will continue to perform that service in the years ahead. As for his legacy, there are competing contenders: Labour’s renewed commitment to public ownership, Brexit, a party membership of more than half a million. But his defining legacy will surely be the fact that at PMQs today he was still standing on the opposition side, with his opponent, the prime minister, enjoying an 80-seat Commons majority and 50 per cent support in recent polls.”

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4. Sheona York in The Independent

on working immigrants

Under the Home Office’s hostile environment, surviving coronavirus is a luxury reserved for UK citizens

“Though Boris Johnson has referred to helping ‘British citizens’, nothing has been said of a crucial group in the population – working immigrants. Hundreds of thousands of workers and families present in the UK are on time-limited visas, permitted to work but with no recourse to public funds, and may find themselves denied sick pay. Many are working in essential services like the NHS, social care and child care, as well as in hospitality and food processing. If these people stop work in order to self-isolate, they will be unable to claim any benefits without a complicated application to the Home Office, which could take months. From a public health perspective, the Home Office should assure workers and families that they, as equal contributors to society, must be protected and supported through our crisis.”

5. Jonathan Portes in The Guardian

on the economic trade-off of halting coronavirus

Don't believe the myth that we must sacrifice lives to save the economy

“It wasn’t the sharp fall in GDP in 2008-9 that reduced, over the course of the next decade, life expectancy for the poorest in our society. It was how the government chose to address the economic fallout of the global financial crisis – by underfunding and understaffing the NHS and social care, and by eroding the basic welfare safety net that people depend on when times are hard. As we are now discovering, these were false economies that left us less, not more, prepared for this crisis. Similarly, if we allow Covid-19 to permanently damage our economic and social fabric, it will be our own fault, not that of the virus. This time we can, and must, do better.”

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