Instant Opinion

‘Boris Johnson has transformed from libertarian buccaneer to lockdown bureaucrat’

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

1

Rachel Sylvester in The Times

Boris Johnson plays to his voters, not his party

on the PM’s transformation

“Boris Johnson’s whole political identity has always been as an optimistic, fun-loving, freedom-seeking libertarian”, writes Rachel Sylvester in The Times. Yet the pandemic has seen Johnson introduce “the greatest curtailment of liberties the country has ever known”. His “transformation from libertarian buccaneer to lockdown bureaucrat has infuriated the Tory right-wingers”, but “this does not bother Johnson”. “The public is overwhelmingly supportive of the lockdown restrictions and impressed by the vaccine rollout”, Sylvester says. And “these are the people on whom the prime minister believes his electoral success depends”.

2

Toby Ord in The Guardian

Covid-19 has shown humanity how close we are to the edge

on a catastrophic warning

“The pandemic has shattered our illusions of safety and reminded us that despite all the progress made in science and technology, we remain vulnerable to catastrophes that can overturn our entire way of life,” says Toby Ord in The Guardian. The pandemic should prompt the UK to put “itself at the forefront of the response to future disasters”, with a focus on identifying “the biggest risks that we face in the coming decades”. “We must urgently address biosecurity”, Ord continues, while recognising “the possibility of a new pandemic spilling over from animals”. “There are concrete steps that the UK can take to transform its resilience to these threats,” he adds. “We must seize this opportunity.”

3

Ross Clark in The Telegraph

Britain’s creeping authoritarianism no longer bears any relation to the risk of Covid

on emergency powers

“A year ago we had no idea that a disease imported from China would prove to be so virulent,” argues Ross Clark in The Daily Telegraph. “It is called authoritarianism, and it has ravaged the Government, Parliament and public agencies.” As the UK’s “seven-day average of Covid deaths fell another 40% in the past week”, the country’s “Covid rules are just about to get even nastier”. “Once, the Government justified its draconian restrictions on freedom by pointing at rising infection rates and the potential for overflowing hospitals”, Clark continues, but it now does so by “speculating about the possibility of a third wave spreading across the Channel”. “The prime minister once said that his hero was the mayor in Jaws because he kept the beaches open. No longer.”

4

Ailbhe Rea in the New Statesman

How both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond managed to shake off scandal

on happy headlines

“Nicola Sturgeon did not breach the ministerial code over her handling of the Alex Salmond harassment case”, Ailbhe Rea writes in New Statesman, while Salmond was last year “cleared of all of the sexual offences charges against him in his high-profile trial”. The apparent conclusion of the Scottish scandal is that “both SNP titans have headlines they are happy with”. But “at the core” of this story is a lingering “problem”. Namely, “a failure by the SNP’s opponents to treat this as a serious story about real women bringing serious allegations, rather than a scandal in Scotland’s ruling party that would, somehow… destroy the SNP”.

5

Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post

We can’t get back to normal until everyone else does

on treating the world

Joe Biden’s administration has “so turbocharged the process of getting vaccines into arms” that the US is administering three million doses per day, “sometimes more”, writes Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post. But “we’ll never really get back to normal as long as international borders are essentially closed”. “I don’t see how those borders can fully open until we can be sure that visitors are not bringing with them Covid-19”, Robinson argues. And it is for that reason that the US should be “handing out surplus vaccines like candy to poorer countries that need them”. “This is a crisis in which generosity and self-interest coincide”, he adds. “The plain truth is that we won’t get back to normal until everybody does.”

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