In Depth

‘Boris Johnson’s lack of clarity is offloading Christmas anxiety on to the nation’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

1

Anouchka Grose in The Guardian

Boris Johnson’s lack of clarity is offloading Christmas anxiety on to the nation

on difficult festive decisions

“At this point in the pandemic, some clarity would be a welcome relief from having to figure out each social interaction, or even how the queuing system works in your local coffee shop. Clashing advice is causing people to give up trying altogether. How can you reconcile obediently sending your children to school right up till the end of term, keeping them in a Covid-secure environment for two weeks before a grandparental visit, and doing Christmas on the allocated dates? (Answer: you can’t.) Obeying the rules may be impossible, disobeying them is irresponsible, and even obeying them may be considered morally dubious when Johnson himself seems to be telling us that they aren’t actually fit for purpose.”

2

Patrick O’Flynn in The Daily Telegraph

The PM must set an end date to the inevitable cycle of lockdowns

on providing clarity

“Perhaps there are no toys left to be thrown from the prams and a mood of fatalism has settled upon those who were vigorously pushing a few weeks ago for a pivot away from mass lockdowns and towards focused protection of the vulnerable. More likely is that the more thoughtful anti-lockdowners are following the example of the 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes, who observed: ‘When the facts change, I change my mind.’ Because the advent of effective vaccines – and in the UK’s case the start of mass immunisation – constitutes a very major new fact. We are no longer on an endless cycle of wash-rinse-repeat with a bit more colour being drained from the economic fabric each time a lockdown or other restrictions get declared. Provided the scaling-up of vaccination proceeds apace, a January lockdown really should be the last one.”

3

Jemima Kelly in the Financial Times

‘Following the science’ is more complicated than we like to admit

on a much-used catchphrase

“Even if its practitioners were able to leave their personal opinions, ambitions and prejudices aside, ‘the science’ shouldn’t be thought of as static or complete - particularly when it comes to something as new and rapidly evolving as Covid-19. ‘Science works as an extremely human process of incremental and argumentative development,’ says David Spiegelhalter, professor of public understanding of risk at Cambridge university. ‘All areas of science are contested, and that’s quite right, because there’s so much uncertainty.’ And while scientists have made some tremendous achievements this year - notably producing vaccines in record time - they haven’t always been right.”

4

Hollie Brooks in The Independent

What being newly disabled taught me about travelling by train

on a change of perspective

“What rail companies don’t realise is their complicated procedures and sloppy staff members are causing disabled people to stay inside more, to isolate themselves and to be afraid of speaking out again because they know these complaints go absolutely nowhere. Because it doesn’t matter if you’ve been in a wheelchair all your life or for the last three months like me. Even if you’re completely able-bodied, the need for ease of travel is a human right and you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The journey starts now. It starts with making our voices heard; jumping through the hoops we have to in order to make formal complaints and demanding change. Not promises, not apologies. Change.”

5

Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz

In Praise of John Le Carre and His Jewish Spies, Traitors and Killers

on a literary great

“Le Carré is known as the ultimate master storyteller of the Cold War, but he is as much the chronicler of the ruins left by the war, its human living remains. Which is why his early books were so filled with Jews, who bore their physical and mental scars and kept on fighting Europe’s wars... He could represent Europe’s Jews for what they were, not just victims, but human beings, with all their flaws, and it wasn’t antisemitic of him to portray them as spies and traitors and killers as well, because they were human and had agency of their own, despite all that had been taken from them. In hindsight, it was totally in character for Le Carré to equally detest Corbyn’s Labour and the Tory Brexiteers. It was anger for having allowed antisemitism to seep back in to Britain’s bloodstream, and for ripping the UK away from the European Union which, for all its flaws, had been the best guarantee against the continent tearing itself apart once again.”

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