Instant Opinion

‘Amendments to the government’s policing bill are dictators’ powers’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press


George Monbiot for The Guardian

Jailed for 51 weeks for protesting? Britain is becoming a police state by stealth

on dictators’ powers

The last-minute amendments “crowbarred by the government” into the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill are a “blatant attempt to stifle protest, of the kind you might expect in Russia or Egypt,” argues George Monbiot. He mentions measures that would ban protesters from attaching themselves to another person, to an object, or to land, and those that make it a criminal offence to obstruct in any way major transport works from being carried out, with a maximum prison sentence of 51 weeks. “Perhaps most outrageously, the amendments contain new powers to ban named people from protesting,” he adds. “These are dictators’ powers,” argues The Guardian columnist, and “the country should be in uproar over them, but we hear barely a squeak”. The government knows the new powers are illegitimate, he contends, “otherwise it would not have tried to avoid parliamentary scrutiny”. Frustrated at the lack of outrage over what is happening to our right to protest, Monbiot asks: “Why isn’t this all over the front pages? Why aren’t we out on the streets in our millions, protesting while we still can?”


Jane Moore for The Sun

Prove to anti-vax mob that jabs do work by getting back to normality

on persuading the unvaccinated 

“Conspiracy theorists have pointed out that ‘Omicron’ is an anagram of ‘moronic’ and say it’s a sign we’re being taken for mugs by evil geniuses who want to control us,” writes Jane Moore for The Sun. If you “dig deeper in to Crazyland”, she continues, “you’ll find others screeching that it’s also an anagram of oncomir, a molecule that’s associated with cancer”. Back in the “real world”, we know that the latest Covid-19 variant exists, Moore says. But what we actually should be questioning is “why the gathering doomsayers are treating it like the plague”. Yes, “viruses mutate and produce variants”, she writes. “They always have and they always will. But what we can change is how we react to them.” Data says that “75% of those currently in intensive care are unvaccinated” – and “that’s by choice”, says Moore. The government needs to persuade the unvaccinated that “in the interests of themselves and society as a whole”, they should get the jab. To do that, they need to show “that the doubly vaccinated/boosted masses are returning to normal life, not being threatened with the prospect of yet another lockdown at the first sign of a mild variant”.


Kimi Chaddah for the i news site

It might not feel like it to some students, but university staff strikes are in their best interests

on staff and student solidarity 

This week, tensions over “poor conditions, cuts and pensions” have led staff at 58 universities to engage in three days of strikes, writes freelance journalist Kimi Chaddah for the i news site. To someone who has “long covered the politics surrounding these strikes”, it seems that standing in solidarity with staff is “the most important thing students can do”, she continues. However, after an academic year “tainted by Covid-19” and “underpinned by the perception that strike action is indicative of staff apathy to student experiences”, hostility is emerging, Chaddah says. But, she continues, “the prevailing narrative that staff members on strike don’t care about their students and their education fails to reflect that staff are fighting for students’ futures.” Any attempt to undermine the solidarity which “should exist between students and staff” is “unhelpful at best” and “ignores overlapping issues”, she concludes. 


Philip Johnston for The Telegraph

Masks aren't a minor inconvenience. They're dehumanising and controlling

on muzzling mechanism

“I object to masks not because my reading glasses steam up or my breathing is impaired but because they are dehumanising devices that should be obligatory only in extremis, not as a go-to expedient for a panicky Cabinet,” writes Philip Johnston for The Telegraph. Until last summer, he reminds readers, “official World Health Organization advice was against face coverings which it said were likely to be counterproductive”, in part because they encouraged people who should stay at home to move around because they believed the mask to be a safety barrier. “On my train yesterday a masked woman was coughing and spluttering, presumably thinking she was causing no harm,” he reports, “yet she was more of a spreader than someone without a mask who has nothing wrong with them”. Once more we are being “ordered to muzzle up” because it is “seen as a community-minded thing to do” but Johnston feels masks “also act as a useful control mechanism for a state that wants a compliant population” because “we are far more receptive to yet more restrictions on our freedoms if we inhabit a dystopian world of half faces and frightened eyes”.


Libby Purves for The Times

David Blunkett is right: Radio 4 has lost its golden touch

on protecting a national treasure

Labour life peer and former Home Secretary David Blunkett was right when he spoke out “about what he believes to be the declining quality of Radio 4”, writes Libby Purves for The Times. “When the leading and publicly owned speech radio channel is found wanting by an intelligent, educated listener who is also blind”, the BBC’s director-general Tim Davie “shouldn’t dare to brush it off as media spite”. Blind people are the radio’s “expert critics”, Purves continues. And the medium is “vulnerable to sharper judgment than TV: its voice is in the room with you, in your head”. Therefore “Radio 4 is treasurable, or should be”. Purves says she has remained a “lifelong loyalist and listener” of Radio 4, but the controller “should listen acutely to Blunkett”. He is “not alone in feeling depressed by its drift into a particular emphasis on ‘multicultural diversity, gender issues and identity politics’”, she writes. Although these are “fine issues”, the problem comes when they “overwhelm the casual, accidentally met joys and surprises of the schedule”. “David Blunkett, I feel your pain,” she concludes. 


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