Instant Opinion: ‘poor lives matter whatever their colour’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 25 June

(Image credit: Jeff J Mitchell/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. David Aaronovitch in The Times

on Britain’s working-class communities

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Poor lives matter whatever their colour

“According to Lancashire county council, on an index of multiple deprivation Burnley is the 11th most deprived area in England and Wales, out of 317. A higher proportion of adults are reliant on benefits, recorded crime is ‘noticeably higher’ than for Lancashire as a whole, and the proportion of residents hospitalised due to alcohol is above the average. Figures for infant mortality and physical exercise are ‘significantly worse’ than the average for England. Educational attainment is the lowest of the 12 Lancashire districts. Finally, whereas the population of England as a whole is projected to grow by more than 12 per cent by 2041, Burnley’s is projected to fall. There is a lot to be said for Burnley — it has some great buildings, is set in gorgeous countryside and of course its people can’t be summarised in a series of average stats. All the same, those figures tell us something about lives in Britain. Too many of them don’t matter enough.”

2. Martin Kettle in The Guardian

on the lessons Brits can learn from Germany’s response

On different planets: how Germany tackled the pandemic, and Britain flailed

“Why can’t Britain do things more like Germany? The question remains an absolutely crucial one. It affects not just the handling of Covid-19, massively important though that was and still is. It also affects many other vastly significant strategic challenges facing modern Britain too, especially in the aftermath of Brexit. These include the nature of Britain’s post-Brexit economic model, its social welfare system, its environmental approach, its governance, its values system and its international role. Johnson leads a government that is defined by the fact that it seeks ‘world-beating’ nationally focused solutions to modern problems. That’s why it rejects the European Union. Yet the curious thing is that Johnson’s government also simultaneously rejects all the national models that have underpinned most politics and economic thinking in western Europe since 1945. It is just as scornful of suggestions it has anything to learn from Germany’s national success as it is of post-Brexit working with the EU. As a result it sets itself up to be world-trailing rather than world-beating.”

3. Madeline Grant in The Daily Telegraph

on sustaining Britain’s public houses

It’s our patriotic duty to go to the pub, and save one of Britain’s last great institutions

“For a nation of boozers, the opening of the pubs next month brings glad tidings, and a dystopian ‘new normal’. Patrons could soon be queuing, supermarket-style, outside, before listing their personal details on arrival (for contact-tracing purposes), navigating one-way systems and dodging hazmat-suited barmaids. They may order their G&Ts through apps, and sit inside perspex booths to drink them. Outside, social distancing Stasi could patrol the beer gardens for signs of non-compliance. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? And yet, I miss the pub so much, I don’t even care. When they are finally liberated, I’m half-tempted to pack a deckchair and thermos, and queue up overnight, swathed in a Union Jack, like those starry-eyed monarchists at the Lindo Wing whenever a new royal baby arrives. The PM insists supporting pubs is a ‘patriotic duty’, and so it is – not because this timid Government says so, but because, through no fault of its own, a great British institution is in mortal peril.”

4. James Moore in The Independent

on Brits flocking to the seaside

The scenes on Bournemouth beach make Britain look like the jackass of the world

“It might be the case that the beachgoers of Britain represented a lumpen minority. Trouble is, that’s all it takes. Some of them may pay a fatal price for their anti social behaviour. But the problem with coronavirus is they might just drag Mr and Mrs Nelmes, innocently picking up their groceries in Tesco without realising that they’re standing uncomfortably close to an (expletive deleted), with them. The government is at least partly at fault, and there is no escaping that. It’s messaging, something we keep being told that the government’s chief advisor and lockdown breaker Dominic Cummings is good at, has been problematic to say the least. When Boris Johnson puffed out his chest, smiled his cheeky smile and started bloviating about the end of the ‘national hibernation’ too many people took that to mean it’s over. They turned a tin ear to the words of caution about rowing back if the infection rate takes a turn for the worse.”

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5. Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, in The New York Times

on how US senior citizens could be Biden’s secret weapon

Who Are the Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

“Democrats have a secret weapon in 2020 on the other side of the age spectrum: senior voters. Among this age group — voters 65 and older — polls so far this year reveal a dramatic shift to the Democrats. That could be the most consequential political development of this election. The bipartisan States of Change project estimates that Mrs. Clinton lost this group by around 15 points. By contrast, the nonpartisan Democracy Fund + U.C.L.A. Nationscape survey, which has collected over 108,000 interviews of registered voters since the beginning of the year, has Mr. Biden leading among seniors by about six points. We are looking at a shift of over 20 points in favor of the Democrats among a group that should be at least a quarter of voters in 2020. That’s huge... Who are these seniors who are turning against Mr. Trump? As you might expect, the racial composition of the 65 and over population is majority white — about four in five. And among white seniors, we see the same shift as among seniors as a whole, over 20 points. The movement of white seniors against the president is clearly driving this trend.”

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