ALLAN WILKINSON in “Pull together” (HAS, Feb 2) refers to the wartime coalition as a way to fight the Covid challenge.

I’m sure that Keir Starmer would welcome the opportunity to engage positively in the national interest.

The problem is that our hapless Prime Minister shows at every Questions that he would rather hurl pointless insults at Keir instead of engaging with him.

In a pluralist democracy, the role of opposition is to scrutinise government and hold it to account.

So when you have a government that has failed to act swiftly on scientific advice then the opposition is duty bound to point that out.

The list is endless: too slow in initiating the original lockdown; repeating the same mistake in the autumn and again in mid-December; failing to provide proper PPE to staff on the front line; decanting vulnerable elderly people into unprepared care homes and, as a result, thousands died prematurely; ignoring international examples of effective border control until far too late; giving lucrative contracts to friends to set up a woefully underperforming test, track and trace system; and putting in place the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme which exposed the whole nation to the virus.

How can government expect the opposition to work with it when, on the occasions when opposition calls debates, the PM instructs his MPs to abstain?

And these are not irrelevant debates. In recent weeks Tory MPs, including those from this region, have refused to engage on issues as serious as the provision of free school meals; the extension of the paltry £20 addition to universal credit and – disgustingly – this week they sat on their hands in a debate about the horrendous fire at Grenfell Tower and the desperate position of lease holders up and down this country.

Working together is a fine principle but it needs two to tango and, sadly, that is beyond our hopeless Prime Minister

Dave Anderson, Middleton in Teesdale.