In Depth

Instant Opinion: Britain’s quarantine rules ‘are phoney nonsense’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 27 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. Jenni Russell in The Times

on haphazard checks and individual conscience

Our quarantine rules are phoney nonsense

“The logic of imposing quarantine is that the threat of spreading the virus on return is significant, justifying drastic restrictions on freedom, havoc for the struggling travel industry and huge costs for those who must isolate but cannot work from home. Quarantine is not lockdown by another name. It is far fiercer. Those in it may not leave home, even to shop, exercise or walk a dog. They must ask others to buy food or medicine if deliveries can’t be arranged. Nobody may visit except to give care. Only a handful of reasons justify stepping beyond the front door: medical emergencies, a family funeral, imminent danger. People must isolate for 14 days but they have no right to be paid. You would assume that a government decreeing that these serious restrictions were vital would be monitoring them with equal seriousness. You would be mistaken. The system for overseeing and enforcing quarantine is a shabby, incoherent mess, because nobody has designed it to be anything else.”

2. Tom Harris in The Daily Telegraph

on why the UK has little to gain from Scotland

There are some things the English definitely shouldn’t want to copy from Scotland

“Historically, Scots were cynical and critical of their political leaders. A mountain range of comedy and literature was founded on ordinary people’s healthy mistrust of, and disrespect for, all kinds of authority. Deference was a dirty word. No longer. Devolution has succeeded in at least this respect: it has inculcated a mentality that was, in the days of direct rule from London, alien to Scots. While references to ‘Boris’ are looked upon with suspicion about the user’s political views, it is de rigueur to refer to the first minister as ‘Nicola’... A culture in which voters remain determined to vote for the party of government irrespective of that government’s actions or policies is the antithesis of democratic accountability. It gives ministers carte blanche to pursue any policy they wish while knowing that however ill-judged it is, it will have no impact on their electoral prospects.”

3. Daniel Trilling in The Guardian

on a continent acting in its self-interest

Greece has a deadly new migration policy – and all of Europe is to blame

“A vital part of international refugee law is the principle of non-refoulement: the idea that states should not push people seeking asylum back to unsafe countries. In a country like the UK, which does not sit next to a war zone, advocates of ‘tougher’ policies to deter asylum seekers will claim that the principle does not apply, since people who reach Britain’s shores will have passed through several peaceful countries before they get there. But if every country looks only to its own interests, and behaves as if asylum seekers are someone else’s problem, then you very quickly end up with a system that traps people in situations where their lives are at risk. That is the system bequeathed by Europe’s panicked response to the 2015 refugee crisis, and in recent months, partly under cover of the emergency conditions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, it has got worse.”

4. Charles M. Blow in The New York Times

on the role of black speakers in Trump’s Republican Party

R.N.C. Rewrites Trump’s Racism - and America’s

“So far the Republican National Convention isn’t so much presenting a record of America and an administration as it is inventing one. The speakers at the event haven’t admitted to the pathological pursuit of a white nationalist, white power agenda that has become a signature of Donald Trump’s presidency. So what we’ve heard bears little relation to the fullness of truth and is not the correct distillation of a record. Instead, we have been feted to a parade of Black and brown faces that have sought to soften or even erase Trump’s overt history of racism to falsify an American story into one in which liberals are worse racial offenders than conservatives. In this inside-out world, Trump has been an exemplar on racial inclusion and his defeat would usher in an era of racial division.”

5. Holly Baxter in The Independent

on the previously quiet vice president

It turns out Mike Pence is even more radical than we all feared

“It turns out that when Pence is allowed to open his mouth by the permatanned bully beside him, he is just as radical and unhinged as we always suspected. In fact, as he bellowed in an uncharacteristically uncontrolled moment that ‘we will have law and order on the streets of this country!’ I began to realize he’s probably even worse than we thought. Because the lies that stacked up were blatant, brazen and unabashed. ‘Democrats support abortion up to the point of birth’; ‘Joe Biden is for free lawyers and healthcare for illegal immigrants’; ‘Biden has been a cheerleader for communist China’; Donald Trump was singlehandedly responsible for the defeat of Isis, which happened without ‘one American casualty’; Obama caused a recession; the US is known the world over for its fantastic response to coronavirus. It was like a compilation of Trump’s own worst takes, and for the first time I genuinely wondered whether poisonous little Mike Pence might be the main inspiration for a lot of what we’re subjected to from the President in the White House and on Twitter.”

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