What is Britain’s obsession with leading? We should be learning from other countries during this crisis

If nothing else, coronavirus should force this government to take a cold hard look at itself in the light of how other nations organise themselves, writes Mary Dejevsky

Thursday 26 March 2020 19:47
The prime minister has spoken about the UK leading efforts to fight coronavirus
The prime minister has spoken about the UK leading efforts to fight coronavirus

arlier this month, when announcing the move from the initial “containment” response to the coronavirus pandemic to “delay”, Boris Johnson said: “Over the last few days, I have been comparing notes and talking to leaders around the world and I can tell you that the UK is now leading a growing global campaign amongst all our friends and allies, whether in the G7, the G20, the UN, the IMF – all those bodies in which we play a significant role. We’re leading a campaign to fight back against this disease.”

Now, I’m sorry, but this grated. The UK may have the fifth or sixth-largest economy in the world (depending on how you calculate); it may be one of only five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and it may belong to more international organisations than many other countries. It may, and we are going back quite a long way here, have been part of the victorious alliance that overcame fascism. But why the compulsion to “lead”?

What is it with the UK and “leadership”? Can we never be just part of a collaborative effort in a laudable common cause, rather than always having to “lead” it?

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