In Depth

Instant Opinion: Rebecca Long-Bailey sacking shows ‘weakness of the Corbynites’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 26 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. John Rentoul in The Independent

on the changing of the guard in the Labour Party

Rebecca Long-Bailey’s sacking has exposed the weakness of the Corbynites yet again

“It was Long-Bailey’s ideological refusal to compromise that doomed her. If she had deleted her tweet and apologised, as Starmer asked, he could not have sacked her – which puts paid to another conspiracy theory: that Starmer was looking for an excuse to purge his leadership rival. But she wouldn’t do it, showing poor judgement not just of how others might interpret ‘zero tolerance of antisemitism’, but of the strength of her position and of the faction that supports her. Her defenders continue to insist that Starmer’s decision was an overreaction, but John McDonnell, Len McCluskey, Jon Lansman, Ian Lavery, Jon Trickett and Owen Jones have all exposed their impotence by calling for Long-Bailey to be reinstated. They know it is pointless, but they can’t think of what else to do. Their group ran the Labour Party a few short months ago, with a supposed iron grip that prompted a lot of ill-informed commentary about how hard it would be to prise the apparatus out of their hands. But all it took was the party democracy that they venerated while they were winning...”

2. Philip Collins in The Times

on the issue the PM’s divisive adviser gets spot on

Dominic Cummings is right about civil service failings

“Mr Cummings is ready to have another go at the people Max Weber once called ‘the permanent residents of the house of power’. There is a lot of truth in the critique. It is true that the polished generalist prevails, that risk-taking is discouraged and that promotion is too slow for the gifted and too fast for the dull. The rewards for success are few and punishments for failure are rare. Secrecy is an obsession. There are legions of people who draft policy proposals and have little expertise in implementation. Serious problems, such as obesity and social care, fall down the cracks between departmental responsibilities. If Mr Cummings can do anything about any of this, then all power to him. It has to be thought unlikely, though, because plenty have tried before him and failed. The elixir of the civil service is its ability to roll with the punches and it will take more than the departure of the cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill to alter that. Mr Cummings ought not to have given advance warning of his intent. He will be met with surface compliance and deep subterranean resistance.”

3. Hanif Kureishi in The Guardian

on signs that things could be changing

Racism has been the grinding backdrop to my life. Is a different future now possible?

“I grew up in the world colonialism made, and I was taught to be ashamed of where we came from. My father, brought up in British India, used to say: we were told by the white master what a lavish favour they were doing us by colonising us. While they wouldn’t want to be colonised themselves, they were, in fact, civilising us – and more: bringing us education, democracy, trains! After so long, what a break this insurrection or uprising is. After Brexit, Trump, Orban, Le Pen and the escalation of fatuous populism with its scapegoating and persecution of minorities, this celebration of new voices looks like being our #MeToo moment, a paradigm shift, with some significant acknowledgement of how unalike the experiences of black and white people are, and of how traumatic the infliction of racism is. And of what a pleasure it is to inflict such a trauma on others.”

4. Jemima Lewis in The Daily Telegraph

on how lockdown was easier when it was hard

How can we obey the rules if we don't understand what they are?

“Is there anyone out there still following these rules? If so, I salute both your conscientiousness and your powers of deduction. Lockdown was so much easier when it was harder. With only one essential rule to follow (avoid everyone), a person knew where she stood. Since then, however, the Government’s policy of cautious relaxation has generated a succession of different guidelines, each layered over the last to form a bewildering palimpsest of amendments and modifications. You can see how it got like this. Everything about our predicament is messy: the politics, the science, the economic fallout, the human cost. Trying to give us back as much freedom as possible, while also keeping the R-rate down, was bound to be a knotty task. Most of the new rules, such as the injunction against singing in church, make sense individually. (Singing is a surefire way to blast saliva particles over your fellow congregants.) But put together they look byzantine, confusing and sometimes downright bizarre.”

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5. Paul Krugman in The New York Times

on how partisanship crippled the US pandemic response

America Didn’t Give Up on Covid-19. Republicans Did.

“It didn’t have to be this way. The European Union, a hugely diverse area with a larger population than the U.S., has been far more successful at limiting the spread of Covid-19 than we have. What went wrong? The immediate answer is that many U.S. states ignored warnings from health experts and rushed to reopen their economies, and far too many people failed to follow basic precautions like wearing face masks and avoiding large groups. But why was there so much foolishness? Well, I keep seeing statements to the effect that Americans were too impatient to stay the course, too unwilling to act responsibly. But this is deeply misleading, because it avoids confronting the essence of the problem. Americans didn’t fail the Covid-19 test; Republicans did... The really bad news is coming from Republican-controlled states, especially Arizona, Florida and Texas, which rushed to reopen and, while some are now pausing, haven’t reversed course. If the Northeast looks like Europe, the South is starting to look like Brazil.”

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