Instant Opinion

‘Maybe vaccines will do the trick but a credible Plan B would be reassuring’

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

1

Jeremy Warner in The Telegraph

Britain is sleepwalking into another lockdown

on vaccine faith

“Fingers crossed, the current surge in Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths won’t be nearly as bad as previous waves,” said Jeremy Warner in The Telegraph. “Or so the government must hope.” As things stand, there is “very little sign” of Westminster preparing for what happens if the vaccines aren’t enough to prevent a third wave. “We must all hope for the best, but hope isn’t a strategy,” said Warner. “Ministers also need to prepare for the worst, and that means a fully thought through plan of action for avoiding the default option of renewed lockdown this winter.” Warner accepts that it’s too early to be certain of a new Covid wave, but added that we “worryingly now have clear evidence that the effectiveness of vaccines wears off markedly after six months”. “Maybe the Prime Minister will get lucky, and vaccines will be enough to do the trick,” he concluded. “It’s just that it would be so much more reassuring if there was a credible Plan B.”

2

Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian

Britain’s key workers can’t take any more. They deserve better than this

on burnt-out staff

“Burnout is a word too often overused,” wrote Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian. It’s more than “the September blues”, or about feeling stressed, exhausted or overwhelmed. In fact, it’s “about feeling all of those things all the time, plus a gnawing sense of hopelessness on top”. And, “at its worst”, burnout is compounded by what Hinsliff described as “moral injury”, in other words, “feeling forced into acting against professional and personal conscience”. Moral injury is what “British soldiers will be feeling outside Kabul airport”, what “some teachers felt in lockdown” and what 80% of “doctors responding to a BMA survey this spring said they’d experienced during the pandemic”, she added. Doctors have had to deal with “the sick, helpless feeling of having to choose between turning patients away and treating them without personal protective equipment, or cancel cancer surgery for lack of intensive-care beds, or work on wards so short-staffed that mistakes were inevitable”, said Hinsliff. Given all this, it’s no surprise that “as a new wave of Covid-19 gathers this autumn”, many key workers are deciding that “they just can’t take it any more”. 

3

Justin Webb in The Times

Biden believed in ‘America First’ before Trump

on presidental self-belief

America’s “mighty civilian army of political pundits” completely “lost the plot” by failing to notice that Joe Biden is “for better or worse, his own man”, said Justin Webb in The Times. More than that, he’s “a man with a history, a character [and] an entire political demeanour” which led to his 31 August deadline to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and all his decisions surrounding it. The political journalists and “the national security establishment who thought they were going back to the Obama years” should have realised that Biden’s character is different: he is “off-the-scale in self-belief”, wrote Webb. “He makes Barack Obama look diffident.” As president, Biden is “fulfilling what he has always regarded as his manifest destiny, even when others sniggered”. Who thought he could win the Democratic Party nomination in 2020, asked Webb. Not Obama, not the press, “but Joe kept faith with Joe”. And how does Biden’s self-belief affect his view of the situation in Afghanistan? “It makes him confident of his rightness and also of his ability to survive whatever setbacks there are.”

4

Kuba Shand-Baptiste in The i

Comedians like John Cleese think cancel culture stifles creativity, yet they all have the same material

on lazy punchlines

The “latest version” of the “increasingly tired phenomenon” of revered comedians “pontificating about these ever more sensitive times” and the woke “drips who feed off the fantasy of killing comedy dead” is John Cleese’s upcoming show, John Cleese: Cancel Me, said Kuba Shand-Baptiste in the i. This is not a comedy special but in fact a documentary about “why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said”. But, said Shand-Baptiste, “‘woke’ comedy” has “pushed the envelope in many ways”, from Fleabag to I Think You Should Leave. What interests her more though is “how much of a role the anti-PC brigade of comedians are unwittingly playing in their own demise”. Instead of driving creativity, “it seems they’re all aping each other’s lazy punchlines”. What’s the biggest joke of all? That “none of them has picked up on the irony behind the fact that their obsession with ‘woke culture’ and their belief in its role in stifling artistry has meant that they’ve all ended up with the same material”.

5

Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times

I can’t stop wondering what’s going on inside my cat’s head

on being a cat person

Some people have cats or dogs “for the cuddles and companionship”, said Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times. But it turns out that what Manjoo enjoys most about having pets are “the philosophical rabbit holes, the sudden tumbles into life’s deepest, most intractable mysteries”. What do his new kittens see when they look at him, he wondered. “As their provider of food and shelter, do they regard me as a parent? Or, with my towering (relative) size, my powers over light and dark and my apparently infinite supply of cardboard boxes, am I more like a deity to them?” Generally we know “quite little” about what’s happening in a cat’s head – because they “tend to be far less cooperative with humans’ silly experiments” than dogs. This challenge is why Manjoo sees himself as a cat person rather than a dog person. “Dogs – they’re just like us! They present little mystery”, he wrote. “Cats are the more cerebral companion. The fun is figuring them out.”

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