Instant Opinion

‘This government is an active health hazard right now’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Tom Peck for The Independent

Boris Johnson’s two most shameful lies just blew up in the most spectacular way

on styling out ‘epic lies’

“Even for a liar of Boris Johnson’s prodigious industry, though certainly not talent”, Tuesday shaped up to be “an extremely difficult day” for the PM, wrote political sketch writer Tom Peck in The Independent. Not one but two “epic lies” had to be “styled out”. The first, concerning the Downing Street Christmas Party which more than 50 people attended, had become “increasingly difficult”. The second, “much younger, fresher” lie was Johnson’s maintaining that it was “complete nonsense” that he intervened to have Pen Farthing’s dogs and cats evacuated from Afghanistan. Staff at Farthing’s charity for rescue dogs “have claimed, on the television, that Johnson personally intervened”, continues Peck, and “a whistleblower at the Foreign Office said the same, in evidence given to parliament”. Johnson’s government “regularly gets compared to outrageous, corrupt, extreme regimes from around the world and around history”, says Peck. “Such comparisons are usually far-fetched. But one wonders if they are any more.” He adds that “governments have the stench of death about them when their time is up” and this one is “an active health hazard now”. Peck concludes: “There is no precedent for how things are meant to carry on like this.”

2

Jane Moore for The Sun

Belief at the heart of social services’ errors over Arthur Labinjo-Hughes: all mums are good

on a ‘hellish’ sequence of events

“Another child dead at the hands of a brutal adult and we’re told that ‘lessons will be learned’. But will they?” asks Jane Moore in The Sun. The “tired old phrase” was used after the deaths of Baby P, Victoria Climbie and Daniel Pelka, but yet “here we are again”. In the horrific case of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, “the temptation is to turn our heads away from the gruesome detail in case it upsets us”. But, says Moore, “read and digest it we must, for if society as a whole doesn’t get angry about these heartbreaking cases then nothing will ever change”. The pandemic “has been blamed for Arthur’s systematically cruel treatment being overlooked because of staff shortages”, she writes, adding: “But this is patent nonsense, because wider family members reported it repeatedly to various authorities and…  social workers did visit the house”. The problem is “the mother-centric way many child welfare cases are handled”, continues Moore. Social workers need to start “temporarily treating the parent as guilty until proven innocent” during visits. “Better that than leaving a child to rot in a hellish home.”

3

The Daily Telegraph view

The high cost of remote working

on the true cost of WFH

An “extraordinary picture of institutional chaos” was painted by whistleblower Raphael Marshall’s dossier of evidence concerning the evacuation from Afghanistan, says a leader by The Daily Telegraph. While “British troops were risking their lives on the ground in Kabul”, Marshall says that UK employees “were not expected to work any more than eight hours a day, in the middle of one of the greatest foreign policy disasters of the past 50 years”. What’s more, adds The Telegraph, “staff shortages were exacerbated by communication problems caused by home-working”. It is not just ministers who need to take responsibility for this, but “senior mandarins”, the piece continues. Although some employees may feel that they benefit from home-working, “for months it has been clear that... the costs can be enormous in terms of organisational coherence”. There are indications “that home-working will be required again” to curb the spread of the omicron variant, The Telegraph continues. But “if we are to learn to live with Covid, swathes of human activity cannot be shut down just because a new variant has arisen”.

4

Oliver Moody for The Times

Germany’s risk obsession empowers antivaxxers

on emerging ‘tribal divisions’

We need to revise the stereotype that Germans “are a nation of rule-bound Paragrafeinreiter (‘paragraph riders’, or bureaucratic pedants) with a tendency to genuflect in the face of authority”, writes Berlin correspondent Oliver Moody in The Times. “But that is not quite the whole picture.” About 25% of the German public “consistently regards the state’s coronavirus policies as an overreaction, and in some cases as a case of borderline-totalitarian overreach”. The second rumour, continues Moody, is “the myth of German efficiency”. Earlier this year, Germany saw “a stampede on GPs” while Covid jabs were in short supply and trouble tracking down elderly people for invitations. Another “misunderstanding” concerns “German attitudes to science”, when studies suggest that at least 66% of Germans “regularly use alternative ‘natural’ remedies”. Finally, “what gets less attention is the national approach to risk”, continues Moody. “There is an institutional tendency to focus on the downsides and uncertainties of new technologies.” If these trends continue, he writes, “there is a danger that the emerging tribal divisions between Germany’s vaccinated and unvaccinated will deepen”.

5

Simon Kelner for the i news site

What the Beatles’ lyrics got wrong and right about turning 64

on not acting your age

When The Beatles recorded When I’m Sixty-Four, they were all in their mid-twenties, writes columnist Simon Kelner on the i news site. “To these young men – rich, handsome and famous – 64 must have seemed like an impossibly advanced age.” Tomorrow, Kelner will pass “this particular milestone”, so the “plaintive words of their song” have a “certain piquancy today”, he writes. “I have to say that 64 doesn’t seem old to me at all,” he continues. “But maybe that’s because I still haven’t learnt to act my age, and hope never to do so.” I especially like the sentiment of Paul McCartney’s line: “If I’d been out till quarter to three/would you lock the door?”, concludes Kelner. “The idea that, even within a landscape of domestic niceties, there exists the possibility to grow old disgracefully is something that should give us all hope.”

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