Instant Opinion

‘The civil service is to a significant extent a law unto itself’

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

1

Paul Goodman in The Times

Civil service may yet dodge ‘hard rain’ reform

on squirming mandarins

“There’s nothing more attention-seizing than the errors of a former prime minister,” writes Paul Goodman in The Times. “Particularly if present ministers are compromised by those errors too.” However, when it comes to the Greensill lobbying scandal, “individual civil servants are set to feel the lash”. “The hard fact is that the civil service, though first class in some respects, is to a significant extent a law unto itself,” Goodman continues. “The most eye-catching example is the way in which the honours system works.” Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former senior adviser, had threatened Whitehall with “hard rain” reforms. But, Goodman adds, “with the unwieldy Cabinet Office in charge… purposeful reform” from within “is unlikely”.

2

Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian

The UK government’s race report is so shoddy, it falls to pieces under scrutiny

on inspiring outrage

“Plenty has been said about the politics of the government’s latest report on race,” writes Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian, but “barely any attention has been paid by most of the media to its actual evidence, even from supporters delighted that it has some”. He goes on: “After reading the report and speaking to a range of experts on the subjects it covers, the most striking thing about that much-vaunted evidence is how shaky it is.” It is “littered with mistakes and outright mangling of sources, alongside the kind of selective quoting normally seen on hoardings outside West End shows”. So what happens when “dishonesty is practised by people in power using taxpayers’ money to fund government reports?”, he asks. “Culture wars break out.”

3

Patrick O’Flynn in The Telegraph

In a Labour Party so skewed to the Left, it’s no surprise that Starmer has lost his bearings

on reorienting a party

“One pities whichever party functionary it is that has to present Keir Starmer with a round-up of the day’s media coverage,” says Patrick O’Flynn in The Telegraph. “Unfortunately for Starmer, it is not only the new breed of hard Left MPs who have a reverse Midas Touch when it comes to the electorate,” he adds. “Some of the so-called moderates are just as good at losing friends and alienating people.” YouGov polling shows that “the attitudes of grassroots Labour members suggests that the new breed of Labour MP is not an aberration but instead reflects the world view of the overall membership fairly accurately”. But the problem for Starmer is that the membership “is drastically out of tune with the country in which it is based”, leaving “the party in which he operates so skewed to the left that Starmer himself has often lost his bearings”.

4

Patrick Cockburn in The Independent

When it comes to corruption, Britain is catching up fast with the Middle East

on kleptocracies

“I was in Iraq and Afghanistan when the government system in both countries was saturated with corruption,” writes Patrick Cockburn in The Independent. “Britain may not yet be at the same place, but it is much further down the road to kleptocracy than most people imagine,” he writes. “For all the finger wagging about the current scandals, the words and phrases used to describe them – chumocracy, revolving doors, cronyism, conflicts of interest, sleaze – all understate the seriousness and corrosiveness of what has been going on,” he says. “My knowledge of corruption is mostly drawn from the Middle East,” writes Cockburn, but the “staging posts on the road to kleptocracy has increasingly strong parallels in Britain”.

5

Timothy Egan in The New York Times

The blue wall of silence is starting to crack

on police pressure

“Cops protect the state. They also are the state,” writes Timothy Egan in The New York Times. “We revere them for the first part. We fear them for the second,” he adds. “But even as we condemn another round of horrific and excessive state violence directed at Black Americans, there’s actually a ray of hope on the police reform blotter,” Egan says. “The blue wall may be starting to crack. It was broken in the Derek Chauvin trial.” Egan writes that it is “no small thing that several Minneapolis police officers, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, took the stand against Mr. Chauvin in his trial over the death of George Floyd”. But these “acts of courage” are “mere dents in a wall that is institutional and pervasive”. “It will take far more than a few cops in a nation-shattering case of racist murder-by-authority to do structural damage to that edifice.”

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