Instant Opinion

‘Boris Johnson’s elastic Conservatism is going to snap’

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

1

Andy Beckett in The Guardian

The shapeshifting Tories have grown their base – but this could be their downfall

on Tory limits

“Conservatism is stretching its boundaries in Britain,” writes Andy Beckett in The Guardian. “Electorally it is extending ever further into previously hostile parts of England” and while the Conservatives “seem to be moving both leftwards and rightwards”, their opponents in the Labour Party have found “the sheer profusion of Tory manoeuvres” almost “paralysing”. But while many believe that British Conservatism is “uniquely flexible”, stretching to include “almost any policy, strategy or interest group”, that simply is “not true”. After the pandemic, “when the government’s Covid bills come due” then we’ll discover whether Boris Johnson’s “elastic Conservatism is going to snap”.

2

Josh Marcus in The Independent

Amazon’s new ‘AmaZen’ booths are a spiritually dark solution for late capitalism

on tech meditation

“This week, Amazon rolled out a glossy promotional video for its ‘AmaZen’ initiative, phone booth-sized pods where employees can watch a ‘library of mental health and mindful practices to recharge the internal battery’,” writes Josh Marcus in The Independent. “I hope the AmaZen cubes come with excellent soundproofing,” he continues, because “I would want to go inside, lock the door, and call outgoing Amazon CEO and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos a series of names unprintable in a fine family newspaper like The Independent”. These programmes “are really meant to soothe the mental health of the executives, not the workers”. But these execs must know “deep down” that when you need to “install meditation booths in robo-warehouses, it means something is fundamentally broken”.

3

James Forsyth in The Times

Boris Johnson is the master of chaos and confusion

on performative disorder

“It is hard to imagine any other postwar prime minister admitting that their Downing Street was chaos, let alone that they weren’t that bothered about it,” writes James Forsyth in The Times. “[Boris] Johnson, though, has long operated with a level of disorder about him.” In part, it is “performative”. “Think of the way he makes his hair look messier than it is, or the mismatched jogging outfits he wears when he knows he is bound to be photographed on his morning run.” But he “cultivates” uncertainty too, often keeping even his own cabinet guessing, Forsyth says, adding that it is a fundamental part of his “decision-making method”. But in light of Dominic Cummings’ revelations at the health select committee this week, it’s “one thing for no one to be sure which way the prime minister is going to go until the last minute if all the options are worked through. It is quite another if there is hardly any plan at all.”

4

Giles Fraser on UnHerd

The EU’s most shameful betrayal

on a migrant crisis

Of the 200,000 unaccompanied children who have tried to seek refuge in Europe over the last five years, “seven hundred of them perished at sea”, writes Giles Fraser on UnHerd. “These statistics are just so unspeakably appalling that I think we block out the full horror of them, unable or unwilling to comprehend.” At the same time, reports continue to emerge of the “callousness and brutality” EU member states use to deter refugees from seeking a new life in Europe, he says. The Border Violence Monitoring Network has recorded incidents of “un-muzzled attack dogs being used on migrants” and migrants who have been “stripped, their clothes set on fire [and] then pushed back across the border, naked”. While many think that leaving the EU has “answered the migration issue”, it “patently hasn’t. Our collective moral responsibility to these people is more properly basic than our membership, or otherwise, of some European political bloc,” he adds.

5

Ross Clark in The Telegraph

Wuhan lab leak was always a credible theory - so why did scientists dismiss it?

on building consensus 

“When a deadly novel coronavirus emerged in a city where there just happens to be a virological research institute known to work with coronaviruses”, suggesting it could be seriously considered as a potential source of the outbreak seems like “common sense”, writes Ross Clark in The Telegraph. Why then is it only now that Anthony Fauci, the US government’s chief adviser on infectious disease, supports an investigation into “the theory of human origin”? “Of course, the lab escape theory remains just that,” Clark says, adding that “there is still a possibility that the virus got to us naturally. We don’t yet know and we may never do. But there is a moral to the story: beware scientists who try to declare a consensus.” As Clark concludes: “No system of government is perfect, but we can be grateful for having one in which scientific advisers are on tap but never on top.”

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