In Depth

Instant Opinion: secret government Covid contracts are ‘heaping misery on Britain’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 21 October

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

1. George Monbiot in The Guardian

on handing services to corporate executives

The government’s secretive Covid contracts are heaping misery on Britain

“If you are not incandescent with rage, you haven’t grasped the scale of what has been done to us. The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold. Their failure was baked in, caused by the government’s ideological commitment to the private sector. This commitment had three impacts: money that could have saved lives has been diverted into corporate profits; inexperienced consultants and executives have been appointed over the heads of qualified public servants; instead of responsive local systems, the government has created a centralised monster.”

2. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in The i

on the danger faced by Auntie

Our BBC is under existential threat from right-wing, Trumpian tactics

“I rail often against the BBC’s decisions and behaviours, its record on diversity and equality, fees paid to stars, its unsustainable commitment to balance and impartiality, its trembling fear of tabloids. But I still love and respect this great institution and fear it may not survive. The novelist Nick Hornby wrote this recently: ‘Heaven help the politicians who try to cut anything anywhere in the NHS. I would like to think that the BBC’s service, its calm intelligence and dedication to our health and our ability to cope with what 2020 has thrown at us, might make it similarly untouchable.’ The illiberal elites in power are gunning for the broadcaster, to paralyse, then finish it off. Without the BBC, Britishness will be soulless, heartless and mindless. Is that what you want?”

3. The editorial board of USA Today

on its first ever presidential endorsement

Elect Joe Biden. Reject Donald Trump.

“Biden is well positioned to repair the wreckage Trump has made of the federal government, from the foreign service to the science agencies Trump has tried to politicize. As vice president in the Obama administration, Biden played a central role in the last economic recovery and is equipped to handle another one... This extraordinary moment in the history of our nation requires an extraordinary response. With his plans, his personnel picks, his experience and his humanity, Joe Biden can help lead the United States out of this morass and into the future. Your vote can help make that happen.”

4. Ann Olivarius on HuffPost

on failures to prosecute rape 

Sexting Has Nothing To Do With Consent

“Receiving an intimate picture doesn’t magically render someone incapable of rape, just like sending it doesn’t render someone unrapable. Not too long ago (until 2003) we similarly struggled with legally understanding that when a woman said ‘I do’ it didn’t mean she said ‘I always will’. It used to be legal for men to rape their wives, too. As someone who’s fought non-consensual image sharing right from the start, I couldn’t be happier to see that the new CPS guidelines state that sending an intimate picture isn’t a blanket consent to sex or anything else. The law does not see it necessary to make that explicit in other contexts. If I wire you five pounds I don’t give you permission to empty my bank account. If I invite you in for a cup of tea, I don’t invite you to raid my pantry or burn my house down. It’s time we applied the same simple principle of consent to sex.”

5. Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times

on unlearned lessons

Jeffrey Toobin’s alleged indecent Zoom exposure shows some men have learned nothing from #MeToo

“Some people will always be willing to minimize bad male behavior: ‘Not sure someone getting caught doing something almost everyone does should be a national story,’ wrote a male reporter for Vox, in a tweet that has since been removed. (But seriously, does ‘almost everyone’ masturbate on Zoom calls?) Another male writer tweeted that the reaction to Toobin’s situation should be ‘empathy, politeness & forgiveness… rather than punitive mockery.’ Oh come on now. Maybe we’d feel that way if the offender was an adolescent boy. But a 60-year-old man? So what will become of Jeffrey Toobin? My guess is he will take himself off to some sort of treatment for compulsive behavior, resurface after the election and live to Zoom another day.”

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