In Depth

Instant Opinion: No. 10 worried as Britain ‘not going on a summer holiday’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 20 May

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Katy Balls in The Guardian

on the government’s hopes that Brits will be happy to holiday at home

We're not going on a summer holiday – and that's why No 10 is worried

“Even if talks of ‘air bridges’ – allowing quarantine-free travel to and from low-infection countries such as Greece – come to fruition, the general sense in government is that the bulk of Britons will not be jetting abroad this summer. As well as quarantine and safety concerns, the economic reality means extravagant holidays just won’t be an option for many. With unemployment set to increase even further and many on reduced household incomes, holidays are likely to be a luxury that people cannot afford. Social distancing practices mean that budget flights, too, could soon become much harder to find. As a result, ministers have begun to work out what they can do to keep morale up over the long summer months. While public support is now very much for lockdown continuing, the worry is what happens when other countries enjoy breaks with more ease. ‘If the R number rises in these countries as a result, we’ll be praised for our response – if it doesn’t, we might start to get some heat,’ explains one government figure.”

2. Simon Woolley and Imran Sanaullah on HuffPost

on the diversity issues illuminated by the pandemic

Coronavirus Shows Diversity Isn’t Just A Nice To Have – It Is A Matter Of Life And Death

“The... uncomfortable truth, as highlighted in the government’s Race Disparity Audit, shows a poverty trap, that could get even worse as we face the biggest economic downturn for 300 years. Before Covid-19, one in four children in Asian households, and one in five children in Black households lived in poverty, in comparison to one in ten children in White households. Young BAME men and women are more likely to be working on low wages and or on zero-hour contracts, with little or no working rights... If there is one silver lining in this crises, Covid-19 has laid bare our structural inequalities that leave some communities much more vulnerable than others. We strongly believe that if we are bold and brave enough, we can build something positive from the despair of this virus. We must formulate a Covid-19 Race Equality Strategy, that will do more than save lives, and mitigate the worst effects of the economic downturn. Out of this crisis, with all the deaths and heartache, we must construct something worthy in which we can say to future generations: Covid-19 forced us to rebuild a fairer, more dynamic and inclusive society, education system and workforce.”

3. Daniel Finkelstein in The Times

on the influence of a controversial lawyer on the US president

Roy Cohn, the man who taught Donald Trump to win at all costs

“It’s election year in the United States, so it’s time to discuss Roy Cohn. In the last few weeks of Cohn’s life, in the summer of 1986, he told his friends that whatever else he had done, his obituary would lead with the 18 months he spent as an adviser to Senator Joe McCarthy. His tenure as anti-communist witch-hunter-in-chief had ended when he tried to swing favours for a friend while threatening the US Army. The scandal brought down McCarthy too... Yet I suspect that if Cohn had died in his nineties rather than his fifties, something else would have come first in his obituary. It would instead have started in 1973 with an accidental meeting between him and a young property developer in a Manhattan discotheque called Le Club. When Donald Trump met Roy Cohn, Trump was in a tricky legal situation. He and his father were being accused by the justice department of discriminating against African Americans trying to rent Trump apartments. They were being urged to admit the violation, settle the case and move on. Cohn gave Trump the advice he wanted to hear. The advice that set him up for life. Admit nothing. Don’t give in. Don’t settle. Fight back.”

4. Ian Acheson in The Spectator

on the Conservative government’s new terror legislation 

Tougher terrorism laws are popular. But will they actually work?

“I’m not convinced that extra time in custody alone would have changed the homicidal determination of London Bridge attacker Usman Khan one jot. His participation in the prisons ‘Healthy Identity Intervention’ programme certainly didn’t. We must assertively engage and challenge violent extremists from day one in custody where we have the best chance of reducing their dangerousness and supporting a better identity to emerge. We must tailor the response to the individual offenders extremist pathology, including theological deformities; not ‘sheep dip’ generic solutions. After all, national security doesn’t stop at the prison gates. There are British citizens behind those high walls as well – prisoners and staff – who need to be protected from terrorists who might regard them as an easy target for retribution against extended sentences. A terrorist attack on officers in a high security prison in January by convicted jihadis in January came within seconds and inches of a fatal incident. This is not a fanciful scenario. The Justice Secretary has more to do to convince front line staff that their senior management have the appetite and the capability to manage an influx of prisoners caught up in an extended range of terrorist sentences.”

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5. Jennifer Senior in The New York Times

on nightmare celebrity patients

What Elvis, Michael Jackson and Trump Have in Common

“Well, well. The president says he’s spent the last week and a half enjoying his hydroxychloroquine, presumably neat. It’s impossible to say whether it’s true; as doctors on Twitter were quick to note, Sean Conley, the White House physician, said in a memo that he discussed the drug with Trump, not prescribed it, though together he and the president concluded it was worth the risk. But if you take the president at his word - something I admittedly almost never do, but let’s just say - it does make perfect sense. In Donald Trump, you have the patient perfect storm: a science denier, a devotee of medical quackery, and - above all else, I cannot emphasize this part enough - a powerful and narcissistic celebrity. This is what happens when your rich and famous V.I.P. client (think Michael Jackson, but with nuclear codes) also has a nutty perspective on medicine and an even nuttier one on facts. You get a statin-taking, extravagantly overweight man demanding a drug that increases the risk of a heart attack.”


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