In Depth

Instant Opinion: England had time to prepare for lifting lockdown - ‘our leaders wasted it’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 3 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. Chris Ham, chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Health and Care Partnership and former chief executive of the King’s Fund, in The Guardian

on the failure to prepare for the end of lockdown

England had the chance to prepare for lifting lockdown, but our leaders wasted it

“Much more needs to be done to strengthen the testing regime before it is fit for purpose... These issues should have been resolved before the lockdown was relaxed. Instead, the government wasted valuable time in understanding what needed to be done after the lockdown was imposed, and has been playing catch-up ever since. Rather than bringing local authorities on board and consulting expertise already available in the NHS during the initial stages of the outbreak, the government chose to rely on the private sector, outsourcing testing facilities to Deloitte and contracting Serco to deliver a tracing system... Relaxing the lockdown in advance of having an effective and fully integrated system of testing and tracing in place creates unacceptable risks to the public’s health.”

2. Alex Massie in The Times

on eroding our faith in government ministers

Boris Johnson’s team is squandering public trust

“Public confidence is key but it has to be based on the government’s decisions and, crucially, on an understanding of why those decisions have been made. Last month ministers argued that relaxing lockdown measures ‘must be warranted by the alert level’. No details of the criteria used to calculate the alert level have been released to the public — why would we be interested in such a thing? — and on Monday, even as some of the lockdown restrictions were eased, the prime minister could only say the level is “moving towards 3”. Which means it remains at 4 and the relaxation measures are not warranted by the alert level. This being so, it becomes necessary to retrofit the reasoning to today’s shaky version of reality. The government contradicts itself on a near-daily basis. At a time when it sorely needs the benefit of the doubt, it continues to deplete its stocks of that precious commodity. They are making it up as they go along.”

3. Paul Mason in the New Statesman

on the president’s response to national uprising

Donald Trump has declared war on US democracy. Can he be stopped?

“Trump’s presidency, as I argued in Clear Bright Future, is a classic iteration of what Hannah Arendt called ‘the temporary alliance of the elite and the mob’. Its aim, as with the authoritarian governments that preceded Hitler, is to roll back history – in this case to roll back all the gains achieved for women, minorities and the labour movement since 1968. In the face of this, especially when the elite/mob alliance controls the state, the only rational form of defence is an alliance of the centre and the left; and in the US context, an alliance of all communities facing racism, poverty and repression. But to achieve what? Having sunk all their energies into the Democratic primary process, both the centrists and the left now face an evolving emergency. No matter how strong the need is for community-level self-defence against police violence, for bail support, for food banks and self-help, as millions face unemployment, the strategy has to focus on government.”

4. The editorial board of The New York Times

on the US police’s approach to the George Floyd protests

In America, Protest Is Patriotic

“When George Floyd died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, the scourge of police violence, festering for generations, became a rallying point for Americans yearning for the fulfillment of this country’s founding aspiration to promote life, liberty and happiness. Yet as they turned out to exercise their most basic rights as citizens, these Americans have often encountered only more contempt for those rights from the people who are supposed to protect them. Some protesters crossed the line into violence. Some people took advantage of the chaos to loot. But all too often, facing peaceful demonstrations against police violence, the police responded with more violence — against protesters, journalists and bystanders.”

5. Jess Phillips in The Independent

on yesterday’s comical scenes in Westminster

The images of MPs queuing are ridiculous. But this is what the government wants you to think – that parliament is broken

“Make no mistake, those pictures of MPs queueing for hours to vote are as ridiculous as they look. That is the point. The government refusing to allow the continuation of remote voting while the coronavirus pandemic rubbles on is done only, to completely degrade parliament. They want us to look silly and for people to look on in horror at the stupidity of the system. The government want you, the general public to look at the queue which they devised and think that politics is broken. They want you to hate the establishment, well the bit of the establishment that puts them in their place. The fact that they are the cream de la creme of establishment, do as I say not as I do, that bit they are fine with. They did this to degrade parliament. I don’t mind waiting in a long queue, I’ll do it all day long if I have to, I do mind an arrogant government wanting to degrade democracy.”

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