In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘British hypocrisy to blame’ for migrant deaths

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 24 August

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

1. Nesrine Malik in The Guardian

on failing to oppose the anti-migrant politics

British hypocrisy is to blame for the deadly plight of migrants

“It is often argued that once it became clear that the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting wasn’t going to tip the United States towards adopting national gun control laws, that was the moment the gun control argument was lost for good. The equivalent moment, as far as British and European attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers is concerned, was when the body of Alan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Turkey, almost five years ago. Despite the global grief, the front pages, the renderings of Kurdi’s little body in paintings, his elevation into a symbol of a world that had lost its way, nothing happened. In fact, EU migration policies became even harsher. Last week, the British public was again moved when the body of a Sudanese migrant, Abdulfatah Hamdallah, was found on French shores, drowned after trying to make it to Britain. In the same time frame, another more fortunate migrant made it safely to Kent, and was immediately assaulted. This duality lies at the heart of our attitudes towards migrants, asylum seekers and refugees: an outpouring of grief one minute, a political pummelling the next.”

2. Alastair Campbell in The Independent

on political long-term planning

Boris Johnson’s ‘mend and make do’ approach to government just won’t cut it anymore

“Nobody expects the government to cure every ill, and everyone appreciates this crisis has thrown up a stack of off-the-scale hard challenges, and put enormous pressures on the public purse. But we are entitled to expect the government at least to be aware what the challenges are, and think of how to deal with them before a problem become a crisis. That we are heading to a homelessness crisis, and a mental health crisis, seems fairly evident. The problem here is not just government competence, woeful though their performance on so many aspects of Covid-19 has been; it is a question of values. When it comes to problems facing people at the wrong end of the economic and social scale, or those deemed ‘weak’ – the homeless, the mentally ill, the victim of domestic violence – from Johnson down, they seem to have a blind spot.”

3. Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph

on the president’s fight against the establishment

Don’t write off Trump – he is the candidate of unfashionable America

“In 2016, Trump was the candidate of the unfashionable Americans, particularly the working-class, and the growing social gulf between the two parties is stark. The Democrat convention was hosted by actors, rock stars and comedians. Who has Trump got? A couple famous for defending their property with guns; the widow of a cop murdered during the riots; a school boy who was slandered by the media; and a black grandmother who was given life for drug trafficking, and who Trump set free. The breadth of this coalition is extraordinary, yet the more the media laughs at Trump, the more coherent it feels. Many Americans, even if they didn’t like Trump to begin with, have come to see his fight against the establishment as symbolic of their own alienation. If he loses, they lose - even if, by some metrics, he’s letting them down.”

4. John Prideux in The Times

on ways the president could challenge the result

Trump could dispute a defeat into a victory

“Now imagine that on election night Trump starts with a narrow lead in Florida. This is quite likely: suburban and rural Republican counties often count faster. Then as results from urban counties and postal votes come in, a ‘blue shift’ takes place. What if Trump declares himself the victor before all the votes are in, or claims that the blue shift is a result of massive voter fraud? This is not far-fetched either. Trump claimed that there was widespread fraud in 2016, even though he won. And on election night in 2018 he did call for Florida to certify its midterm elections before all the results were in (and when Republican candidates, including DeSantis, were in front). What would happen next? Would Florida’s Republicans put principle ahead of loyalty to Trump? Would they even see it that way? DeSantis and his secretary of state would have a decision to make. Depending which way they went, one of the parties might sue. If that happened the case would probably come before Florida’s supreme court, all seven members of which were appointed by Republican governors.”

5. Jennifer Senior in The New York Times

on historic echoes at the Republican convention

Let the Culture Wars Begin. Again.

“The Republican convention at last begins this week, and much of it will be virtual, which makes it very 2020. Yet as strange as it is to say - and bear with me here - something about this moment brings to mind the Republican convention of 1992. Does anyone remember that dark pageant of apocalyptica? The parallel circumstances are worth noting. Like Donald Trump, George H.W. Bush was a Republican incumbent with pitiful approval ratings and terrible poll numbers compared with his moderate challenger (then a young Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton); like Trump, Bush presided over a nation scarred and exhausted by a recession. They were very different men, Trump and Bush. A decades-long public servant, Bush believed in international alliances and the power of our institutions; he was a hard worker, a courteous colleague, a modest fellow — the superego to Trump’s id, the string trio to Trump’s death metal band. But he always had a goon squad on hand to fire up the party’s base of religious conservatives and social reactionaries, which lived in a curious coalition with the party’s elite cadre of internationalists seeking lower taxes.”

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