In Depth

Instant Opinion: the Right ‘plans to profit from the pandemic’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 1 June

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

1. Quinn Slobodian, associate professor of history at Wellesley College, in The Guardian

on the disaster capitalists circling the crisis

How the libertarian Right plans to profit from the pandemic

“It’s easy to imagine how a particular breed of investor could see this pandemic as an opportunity that will accelerate existing trends. The loose attachments that investors feel towards this or that nation will grow even looser as capital becomes more mobile, and a sorting process will separate the productive few nations from the malingering many. States that don’t fall in line with the demands of this investor class will be starved by the voluntary expatriation of the wealthy, with their assets and abilities in tow. If you assume this is merely a pessimistic vision, you’d be wrong. In fact it accords with a long-cultivated ideology that Srinivasan shares with a group of like-minded venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who subscribe to variations of the radical libertarian philosophy known as ‘anarcho-capitalism’. The idea at its root is that a wealthy class of investors and entrepreneurs should be free to exit nation states and form new communities whose members can choose which rules (and tax laws) they’re governed by – as if those rules were products on a store shelf.”

2. Jennifer Senior in The New York Times

on the relationship between the White House and violent police

What Trump and Toxic Cops Have in Common

“In his first Inaugural Address, and hopefully his last, Donald Trump talked about American carnage. He got it this week. What we couldn’t have known in January 2017 is that he wasn’t here to save us from this carnage, but to perpetuate it; that incitement wasn’t just a feature of his campaign, but of his governance. When historians look back at the Trump era, they may very well say his presidency was encapsulated by this moment, when a sadistic cop knelt on the neck of an African-American man for almost nine minutes in plain view and the streets exploded in rage. Derek Chauvin was by no means the first cop to gratuitously brutalize and lynch an African-American. But he embodied something essential about Trumpism: It’s us versus them. That’s the poison ethos at the heart of police brutality, and it’s the septic core of our 45th president’s philosophy. Neither a toxic cop nor Donald Trump sees himself as a servant of all the people they’ve sworn to protect. They are solely servants of their own. Everyone else is the enemy.”

3. Steven Fielding in The Spectator

on whether the Labour leader could borrow from the Johnson playbook

Could Keir Starmer become a populist politician?

“It might seem unlikely that the Labour leader can emerge as a populist, but that is only because we are accustomed to a particular right-wing and nationalist version of the elite/people divide. Historically the Labour Party has often dipped its toes in populist waters. As one 1944 party document declared, ‘Labour Politics are the People’s Politics’. The ‘people’ of which Labour then spoke were the productive and ‘useful’ members of society willing to contribute to Britain’s development... In the mid-1960s Harold Wilson revived this progressive populism by famously declaring that the energies of blue and white-collar workers were being held back by an incompetent elite that only controlled company board rooms because of privileged family connections. According to Wilson the enemies of the people were the unproductive, those who either through interest or incompetence stood between a virtuous people and their rightful reward... It helped turn a podgy economist with a penchant for big cigars and whose natural world was the Oxford Senior Common Room into a sassy, pipe-smoking tribune of the people. Thanks to Johnson, Starmer also has the opportunity to undergo a similar, unlikely, transformation should he wish to seize it.”

4. Claire Foges in The Times

on the Tories’ need to debate their manifesto pledges

Tories shouldn’t protect their sacred cows

“A category four tornado tears through the Little Blatherington summer fête, sending marquees sailing through the air and sweeping up stalls like confetti. Out crawls the vicar from the wreckage, insisting that the wonky vegetable competition must go ahead as planned: ‘We’re not going to be blown off course!’ These were also the words of Boris Johnson last week when he assured the liaison committee that despite the pandemic and its trail of economic destruction, pledges made before last year’s election would not be blown off course. The prime minister’s promise: ‘We are going to meet all of our manifesto commitments.’ As you were! Some will admire his defiance. This is a country that fetishises the Keep Calm and Carry On slogan; central to national pride is the belief that plucky Britain can thumb its nose at world-devastating events and continue as before. But there is determination, and there is delusion. The Conservative manifesto was written in a different age. It is a document from the Before Times, before whole sectors lay comatose, before nearly a quarter of employees were furloughed, before the government was borrowing over £60 billion in a single month.”

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5. Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, in The Daily Telegraph

on the educational impact of missed term time

Pupils need schooling this summer to help them make up lost ground

“Most teenagers are now looking at the very real prospect of being out of the classroom for a full six months of this year, something that is likely to have huge consequences for all children, but especially those who are vulnerable, with poor mental health or at risk of grooming and exploitation. That’s why I want to see a national effort to provide a summer programme of education, sport, art, volunteering and support for these children. Based in school buildings and running throughout the holidays, summer schools could provide activities of all kinds, meals and potentially some learning, too... What we can’t do is sit back and look at more children returning to school today and think that the job’s done. We need government focus and funding, local authority drive, and community determination to put the best interests of children among the top priorities for the recovery. This crisis has reminded us that, while most children live happy and healthy lives, far too many don’t. It has also shown us that, with the right will, we can tackle some enormous problems – saving jobs, restarting the economy, and bolstering the NHS – with unprecedented measures that were imagined and put in place at dizzying speed and scale.”

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