FOR weeks I have seen headlines along the lines of “What the UK should learn from Italy” in the fight against Covid-19.
Two different countries, two different approaches.
Yet calls to learn from each other.
But if a couple of weeks ago many suggested Britons should or could have learnt from Italians, I wonder whether now it should be the other way round.
What am I talking about? Politics, of course.
Although the UK remains a few weeks behind Italy in the war against coronavirus, political parties in the two countries seem to be following two completely different lines.
One the one hand, in the UK the newly elected Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have pledged to work constructively together through this emergency.
At both national and local levels, politicians seem to be determined to put political differences aside.
On the other hand, in Italy, parties seem to be struggling to heal the divide.
Photo: Branimir Balogović
After weeks of tensions, attempts and pledges to work together, Italian opposition leaders continue to make the headlines with criticisms of the government’s policies.
The Prime Minister continues to ask Italians to stay at home.
Opposition leaders want the country to get back to normal.
Last week Matteo Renzi, leader of Italia Viva, called on the government to re-open factories before Easter.
Now it’s the turn of Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega, who has asked for churches to be re-opened on Easter Day.
He said it could be possible if people would follow social distancing requirements.
He asked why shops selling cigarettes can stay open and churches had to shut down and said science alone is not enough to fight coronavirus but people will also have to be able to pray.
Meanwhile – maybe because Boris Johnson himself is in hospital, or maybe because the UK lockdown started only two weeks ago – the approach adopted by opposition leaders in the UK seems to be different.
In his victory speech on Saturday Sir Keir said his party will engage constructively with the government, “not opposition for opposition’s sake. Not scoring party political points or making impossible demands.”
He pledged to “shine a torch on critical issues” and challenge mistakes, “but with the courage to support where that’s the right thing to do”.
Boris Johnson said the government will work with the opposition while Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said that at this moment of crisis, the role of all opposition parties “must be to support measures to tackle the coronavirus”.
So far so good.
It begs the question of whether British politicians will stick to their promises and whether there is and should be room for political opposition amid the coronavirus crisis.
Maybe this time, Italians should try to heal the divide and learn from the UK.
For everything else, timing is key.