Instant Opinion

‘The path to Grenfell was there in plain sight’

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

1

David Aaronovitch in The Times

Who’s to blame for our shoddy building culture?

on systemic failure 

“Four years ago next month, a fire turned a London tower block into a vertical pyre which killed 72 people,” writes David Aaronovitch in The Times. “When I started to write about it the next morning, the most important question seemed obvious even then” - how was the fire “possible at all?” Subsequent reporting by The Times on the state of the British construction industry has revealed that “the scale of the systemic failure is almost epic”, continues Aaronovitch, whose colleague Robert Lea has described “bad practices” and “a race to the bottom in quality and standards”. So, concludes Aaronovitch, “the path to Grenfell was all there in plain sight and we slept our way through its development”. This “problem is baked in. The incentives to behave well and build well are, the odd catastrophe apart, simply not there.” 

2

George Monbiot in The Guardian

That creaking sound? It’s the United Kingdom starting to break apart

on waning enthusiasm 

“Any residual argument for Scotland to stay within the United Kingdom meets its counter-argument in Boris Johnson,” writes George Monbiot in The Guardian. With Westminister politics “dominated by a prehensile ogre grabbing all that his donors will give him while queues at the foodbanks lengthen, why should anyone north of the border consent to be ruled by his insouciant decree?” Monbiot has “long struggled to understand the liberal enthusiasm” for the UK. “To me, it looks like a mechanism for frustrating progressive change and crushing political aspiration,” he says. “The number of people in the three devolved nations who are reaching the same conclusion is rising at astonishing speed.”

3

Madeline Grant in The Telegraph

Freewheeling Boris rolls into ‘Super Thursday’, while stumbling Starmer prepares to lick his wounds

on Super Thursday

In the run-up to today’s so-called Super Thursday, “Boris Johnson descended on the Midlands like a profligate Easter bird inspecting his golden eggs across the region”, writes Madeline Grant in The Telegraph. Later, a smirking prime minister “tried not to sound too bullish” over the expected local elections results, “despite the favourable polls”. Meanwhile, “up in Pontefract, Keir Starmer was also trying to manage expectations”, looking “every inch a beaten man, but, like a latter-day Captain Oates, one ready to accept defeat nobly”, says Grant. Indeed, “even true-blue Tories must pity Sir Keir’s plight. Slam the government and you’re Captain Hindsight, support the government and you’re a pointless collaborator - the great disappearing man. Perhaps that’s why after a year of his leadership we still have no idea what he stands for.”

4

Alex Massie in The Spectator

Scottish nationalism is no better than any other kind

on nationalism

 “At its best, modern Scottish nationalism is an awfully dull business,” writes Alex Massie in The Spectator. “But no matter how much it pretends to be quite unlike any and all other forms of nationalism, it is, in the end and at bottom, in precisely the same business as other nationalisms.” And while “few things are quite so smug as a Scotch sense of moral superiority”, when it “comes wrapped in a saltire it takes on an extra special level of unbearableness”. Ultimately, “like other nationalisms”, the Scottish version is “founded upon a keen sense of victimhood. Scotland must be protected because Scotland never receives its due, never enjoys a fair crack of the whip, can never be expected to thrive in whatever circumstances pertain at any given time.” 

5

Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times

Boris Johnson must face up to multiple Covid aftershocks

on post-pandemic crises 

In Downing Street, minds are turning to a “corrosive” challenge soon to be faced by Boris Johnson’s government: the “multiple public service crises caused by the aftershocks of Covid-19”, writes Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times. “In the NHS, schools, the criminal justice system, social care and other state-run services, there are huge backlogs or strains,” he notes, and driving through reforms will require taking “a different political approach”. But Shrimsley has spotted a fatal flaw in the plan. “The prime minister does not do bad news. Hope and optimism are his core currencies and this makes him a potent politician. But it is also a weakness when, as in the low points of the pandemic, his blue-skies-are-just-around-the-corner tone does not match the public’s experience.” 

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