In Depth

Instant Opinion: Boris Johnson ‘sacrificed too much’ for Dominic Cummings

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 29 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. Philip Collins in The Times

on what the PM lost by sticking with his senior aide

PM has sacrificed too much for Cummings

“The prime minister has clearly decided that it is a passing storm. He refuses to countenance that Mr Cummings might have done anything wrong, even when the Durham constabulary politely disagrees. A rare insight into Boris Johnson’s thinking was supplied by Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes and, until the 2019 election, Mr Johnson’s political secretary, in a letter to new Conservative MPs. Mr Kruger’s case was that the combination of Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings is the only way the Tory party can complete Brexit, the reason they won the general election and their route to winning the next one. Mr Cummings is, he was in effect saying, indispensable to Tory fortunes. It cannot be done without the consigliere. The fallacy in this analysis is the vast, awestruck over-statement of Mr Cummings’s powers as if he won the 2016 referendum by himself and as if election victories were won in a few weeks of campaigning at the end. Around Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings, lots of male Tories gather like the nerdy boys briefly allowed to fraternise with the cool kids. The man who claims to be a disciple of the data is now the subject of a personality cult.”

2. Andy Beckett in The Guardian

on half-life of the Cummings scandal

For years, the Tories have banked on impunity. Is their luck finally running out?

“Wll the Tories get away with it? In many ways, it’s been the central question in our politics since they squeaked back into government in 2010. Ever since they used the power vacuum after that year’s hung-parliament election to quickly cobble together a coalition with the Lib Dems, the Tories have been careering from one narrow scrape to the next. Calling and losing the Brexit referendum, conducting a failed austerity experiment, constructing a Brexit deal out of U-turns and procrastination, and now trying to bluff their way through coronavirus, the Conservatives have taken huge, often disastrous risks, and yet have remained in office throughout. They have maintained that ascendancy, in large part, by ignoring the usual rules of political accountability. They’ve succeeded by being shameless... This week, this contempt for accountability reached its logical conclusion, in a way, with Johnson’s refusal to sack the unelected Dominic Cummings for clearly breaking their own government’s lockdown rules, or even to respond to many of the allegations against him.”

3. Leo McKinstry in The Daily Telegraph

on the futher relaxtion of the UK’s pandemic response

These new lockdown rules will fast become a bureaucratic irrelevance

“Battered by public disdain, undermined by hypocrisy, the Government is in no position to deliver nuanced lectures about how many people are allowed in a garden or how private barbecue should operate. Few are inclined to listen any more. Trust, that vital ingredient in upholding the lockdown, has evaporated. Boris Johnson is like an Anglican bishop in an empty cathedral, delivering a sermon on the importance of sexual restraint after the Dean has been caught at a drug-fuelled orgy. Indeed, there is an academic, almost theological air about the latest pronouncement on outdoor reunions. At least the original lockdown had clarity. Now, confusion reigns as the strategy unravels... Even worse, its advice is effectively meaningless because the rules are completely impractical and unenforceable. Not only will it be impossible for the police to monitor compliance without huge numbers and a brutal invasion of privacy, but, post-Cummings, officers will be reluctant to impose fines for any breaches. This weekend, before the new freedom has even taken effect, millions will flock to beaches, beauty spots, parks and each others’ gardens. By Monday, the changed rules will look redundant, a bureaucratic irrelevance.”

4. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in The New York Times

on the death of George Floyd at the hands of a US police officer

Of Course There Are Protests. The State Is Failing Black People.

“Ready or not, life is returning to some sort of normal in the United States, and normal inevitably includes police officers killing an unarmed black man in their custody, followed by street protests. The country is working its way back into its familiar groove. This time it’s Minneapolis. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd by a police officer who pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck for a breathtaking seven minutes as he lay pinned on the ground in handcuffs. Mr. Floyd’s pleas for help — repeating that he couldn’t breathe, calling out for his dead mother — were ignored. The three other police officers who watched seemed uninterested in the life they were violently snuffing out in front of a crowd gathered in disgust... In a rare rebuke, the four officers involved have been fired. But the fact that Mr. Floyd was even arrested, let alone killed, for the inconsequential ‘crime’ of forgery amid a pandemic that has taken the life of one out of every 2,000 African-Americans is a chilling affirmation that black lives still do not matter in the United States.”

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5. Chris Stevenson in The Independent

on the president’s spat with his favourite website

Twitter is right to finally take a stand

“Donald Trump always enjoys a fight that will fire up his supporter base – and Twitter has just handed him one. In response to protests in Minneapolis, Trump tweeted that he would send in the National Guard, and added, ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’. Twitter hid the second tweet, claiming it ‘glorifies violence’. For almost the entirety of Trump's time in the White House there have been calls for social media companies to moderate the language used by the president. If another user had tweeted content similar to Trump, they would have likely faced the prospect of having their account suspended, at the very least... However, Trump is the establishment and is a man with incredible reach via his various platforms. Twitter is right to take a stand, in fact it should have done so years earlier. Some will want them to go further in reducing Trump’s platform, but flagging content like they have will at least give the reader pause to think. The president's supporters will think the same way they always have, but if Twitter’s move can make someone deliberate about Trump's words and assess them critically, then that is better than what we had before.”

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