Symbol of heroism and a divided nation

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THE loss of a hero, the Prime Minister’s popularity and a divided nation were the topics discussed by columnists and contributors in the newspapers.

The Daily Express

Leo McKinstry said, with the passing of Captain Tom, a symbol of heroism had been lost.

“The flame may have gone out, but the light of his indomitable spirit remains, illuminating our path through the present crisis,” he said. “His modest dignity touched our hearts. His granite courage inspired our generosity.”

He said the 100-year-old had unified the country in lockdown and the huge sum of money he raised for the NHS was part of a rich legacy he leaves behind.

“But his magnificent work should also be marked in a more personal, tangible form, and the most fitting way to do that would be to erect a statue to him,” he argued. “Given his record of selfless service, it is impossible to think of any figure in recent civic life who would be more deserving of such recognition. Through his heroics, he showed us the true meaning of humanity.”

The Guardian

Martin Kettle said the vaccine roll out was the most significant achievement over which Boris Johnson has presided since the pandemic began.

“ It is also an undeniable political boost for Johnson,” he said. “Whether it is the proverbial gamechanger is harder to say. After long months of generally negative ratings for Johnson’s handling of Covid, approval for the vaccine rollout soared to over 60% in late January and looks set to continue.”

He said the credit for the vaccine, of course, extends far beyond Boris Johnson.

“Only the NHS, with its public service ethos and its reach, could have done this,” he added. “The mind boggles at how a private sector body like Capita or Serco might have approached the task. Politically, though, there is no doubt about the beneficiary – it is Johnson.”

The Independent

Alan Milburn said the pandemic had exposed and exacerbated inequality in the UK.

“Health inequality is but one symptom of a country fractured by income, class, race and gender. Inequality hurts people not just places,” he said. “ If older people have been on the health frontline of the pandemic, it is the young who seem doomed to suffer the biggest economic and social consequences. More than half of under-25s had been furloughed or lost their jobs by last June.”

He said the question will soon change from how to get the UK out of the pandemic to how to make a better Britain to emerge from it.

“With the government up to its eyes in pandemic crisis management, Keir Starmer should spend these next few weeks and months working out how to make that happen.”

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