Coronavirus has confirmed that men and women truly are from different planets – at least when it comes to their leaders

What has most clearly distinguished Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern from Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, writes Matthew Norman, is a willingness to listen rather than talk, and to face reality rather than hide from it

No brainer: Merkel, a trained scientist, wins out over Trump
No brainer: Merkel, a trained scientist, wins out over Trump

If that book about men being from one planet and women from another was right, I believe I’ve discovered a thrilling new psychological condition. Venus Envy, according to a world-renowned Viennese institute I invented some moments ago, is the intense jealousy felt in Covid-stricken countries when citizens compare their male leaders with female leaders elsewhere.

The varying national responses to Covid-19 will occupy public health experts for years. It’s much too early to make grand generalisations about why some countries fared so dramatically worse than others. It may turn out to be pure coincidence that the two countries with the most exemplary reactions are governed by women – and the two engaged in a transatlantic scrap to top the per-capita death league are not. One wouldn’t want to extrapolate from such a bare statistic by calling for an indefinite moratorium on the possessors of gonads holding the highest office. Then again… Look upon the works of Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern, ye mighty of 10 Downing Street and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and despair. As Merkel and Ardern start reopening their economies, they bestride the globe like twin colossi of effective crisis management.

New Zealand’s statistics are just astonishing. Even allowing for its remoteness and the relative ease of securing its borders, no one will feel any pressure to mimic Boris Johnson by qualifying its success with “apparent”. Its success is as close to absolute as the circumstances allow. In a nation of about five million, fewer than 1,500 have been infected (the vast majority now recovered) and 19 souls lost. Transposing those numbers to a country of Britain’s population, they equate to total infectivity of about 20,000 and some 260 fatalities.

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