In Depth

Instant Opinion: Keir Starmer’s ‘level-headed Labour’ not enough to ‘skewer’ Boris Johnson

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 9 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. Zoe Williams in The Guardian

on the Labour leader’s first months in charge

Keir Starmer’s level-headed Labour is not enough to skewer this chaotic government

“It is understood that an opposition must craft itself as a government-in-waiting. But how long is it prepared to wait? ‘Fixed-term Parliaments Act,’ people will say, rolling their eyes, as if anyone who doesn’t accept the current reality until 2024 must be naive. We’ve had three elections in the nine years since that act was passed, so it’s really no more meaningful than a debating point. Starmer and his shadow cabinet all seem focused on presenting their level heads, rather than their blue-sky thinking, and the message discipline is, I suppose, laudable. But when you bring a mature eye to a shambolic government, it becomes frankly irresponsible to abide by these conventions of realism and sobriety. You can’t ‘hold to account’ a government that isn’t truthful. You can’t ‘not interrupt your enemy while he makes a mistake’, when that mistake is measured in deaths. You have to think bigger than critique.”

2. Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, in The Daily Telegraph

on Black Lives Matter protests and Britain’s monuments

Our craven leaders are failing to stand up to a Marxist mob which wants to tear down our history

“The appalling scenes of violence and disorder in London and Bristol at the weekend should not have surprised anybody. A few days earlier, the first of this series of Black Lives Matter gatherings had taken place and by early evening, it had escalated into an aggressive encounter between protesters and police outside the gates of Downing Street. Because of the way Wednesday’s incident was handled, the message to anarchists and vandals was clear. In effect, the authorities said: ‘Nobody in this country has the moral courage to stand up to you, so please do as you wish.’ The BBC and much of the mainstream media (with a few exceptions) may wish to portray these protests as ‘peaceful’ but they have not – and will not – convince me or millions of others. As far as I am concerned, the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol on Sunday, amid hysterical screaming, marked the birth of the British Taliban.”

3. Jamie Beauvais in The Independent

on the PM’s appeal to migrant workers

Boris Johnson says migrant workers are ‘welcome’. It’s so hard to believe him

“For all the patriotic bravado that encapsulates Johnson’s government, we are weaker alone, physically, economically and in other ways. The government’s decision to go into lockdown long after our European neighbours and the poor handling of the coronavirus crisis have led us to the highest death toll in Europe, the daily total of the UK on 3 June exceeding all other EU nations combined. The ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign which sought to get British workers to replace EU fruit and vegetable pickers was also met with a meagre response, with EU nationals reportedly being flown in to fill the jobs that British people refused to do. With the continuity of nationalistic jingoism, anti-EU sentiment and the revelation of the government’s ineptitude in the midst of a crisis, one question remains. Why on earth would migrant workers want to come here?”

4. Rachel Cunliffe in The Times

on what Brits really want from the next easing of lockdown rules

Sex for singletons should be a higher priority than cars

“What matters more: sex or a new car? Never mind, the government has chosen for you. Good news if you want to upgrade your motor, bad news if the lockdown has put your sex life on complete (and legally enforceable) hiatus. As the government eased restrictions last week, including reopening car showrooms, the fact that sex between consenting adults can now be a crime went virtually unnoticed. For ten weeks it was illegal to venture outside without a reasonable excuse. From last Monday the law changed to prohibiting indoor ‘gatherings’ of ’two or more persons’ who are not in the same household. The police can arrest you for sex in your own home if it’s with someone you don’t live with. Regulations throughout this pandemic have been drafted as though single people and non-cohabiting couples do not exist. According to Office for National Statistics figures from 2017 almost 40 per cent of the population aged over 16 did not live in a couple. Assuming this proportion has stayed roughly the same, that is 21 million adults who have been banned from any form of physical intimacy for more than two months. According to Matt Hancock, we’re not even meant to hug until there’s a vaccine.”

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5. Bruce Bartlett in The New Republic

on the overestimation of the US president

He Is Even Dumber Than We Thought

“From the earliest days of his administration, it has been obvious to everyone who has come in direct contact with him that Trump knows very, very little about any policy issue or even how the federal government operates. Among those most alarmed by Trump’s ignorance and incompetence were those in the military and intelligence community. After a National Security Council meeting on January 19, 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis told aides that Trump had the understanding of ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ To this day, Trump pays very little attention to his intelligence briefings... Trump’s mental failings are also painfully clear to foreign diplomats, who are professionally obligated to be frank and clear-eyed about him. Among themselves, diplomats early on shared tips on meeting with Trump: Don’t assume he knows anything about your country, flatter his ego, and be mindful of his extremely short attention span. It often appeared to aides that Trump didn’t even understand that other countries are in different time zones.”

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