Instant Opinion

‘The Navy shouldn’t be tasked with refloating Boris Johnson’s sinking ship’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

The Independent Editorial

Not even the Royal Navy can save the government's asylum policy

on the wrong people for the job

The Royal Navy is “being pressed into service in a mission to distribute much-needed red meat to disgruntled Conservative backbenchers”, says The Independent. Admirals have been set the “impossible, ill-defined task” of “trying to solve the small boats refugee crisis”. But “nothing” in this new plan “will alter the facts at sea”. Under international law, vessels at sea are obliged to “help those in distress”. So “interception” of migrants is already happening, the paper continues, but the challenge now lies “in processing claims and dealing with those whose claims for asylum are evidently weak or unfounded”. And “the latest rumour is that Priti Patel has hatched a plan to transport asylum seekers to Africa”, a task with which the “depleted” Royal Navy cannot be expected to help. “With luck, as with so many of the prime minister’s eye-catching initiatives, there will be less to the proposal than meets the eye.” The Navy “does many things very well”, but it can’t fix “the government’s asylum policy” or “refloat Mr Johnson’s sinking ship”.

2

Hugo Rifkind at The Times

Burning money is a funny way to go green

on the big picture

The UK has a “bigger, broader problem” than the nation’s current “energy misery”, says Hugo Rifkind. We have “a government which talks tough on the environment, yet which brings no real conviction to the fight”, he writes in The Times. The £1.5bn 2020 green homes grant was a “mad fiasco” that “came across as the sort of scheme you might come up with while pissed in the garden”. While the UK is “actually quite good at the big stuff”, such as renewable energy infrastructure, “you might almost think that the government has a deliberate policy of making schemes as weird and unattractive as possible” to individual households, Rifkind suggests. Think of the “£5,000 grant for a £10,000 heat pump which will hardly work unless you’ve got a fantastically insulated home already”. Are we now “just going to keep on burning”, Rifkind asks. “Remember when Alok Sharma cried at Cop26? Is this really what comes next?”

3

Freddie Sayers at UnHerd

Covid could still save Boris

on a history-making moment

Boris Johnson is faced with a career-defining choice, says Freddie Sayers at UnHerd. “Either he accepts the role as sacrificial cow of the Covid era”, or “he can acknowledge the role he has played over the past two years, and show us the way out of it”. England “is now uniquely positioned to lead the world out of the Covid era – and this alone could save the Johnson premiership”, Sayers argues. The prime minister’s veto on the imposition of “freedom-curtailing restrictions” over Christmas despite the advice of cabinet ministers and scientific advisers “was a decision of global consequence”. His government avoided “the hotheadedness of the US and the divisive police-states of much of Europe”. In fact, “historians may yet conclude that this was the Johnson government’s biggest achievement”, Sayers suggests. For the PM, “the political prize is more than just survival”. It is his chance to “be forever associated with this moment in history – as a winner not a loser”. The end of the pandemic, Sayers concludes, is “his last, best hope”. 

4

Annie Ashton at The Guardian

Gambling killed my husband. We must stop this predatory industry claiming more lives

on exploiting an addiction

Annie Ashton’s partner, Luke, took his life last year. He had “developed a gambling disorder” about two years earlier, and “it didn’t take long for him to get into a lot of debt and start chasing his losses”, she says in The Guardian. Annie, who now campaigns to raise awareness of gambling addiction, initially didn’t realise that her husband “was in trouble”, she writes. “Gambling on a phone is very isolated, and it took me a year to understand he was gambling so much.” Luke managed to pay off his debts and close his gambling accounts, but after being furloughed in 2020, his addiction took hold again. “His relapse was so rapid that I still cannot believe it was never picked up by these gambling companies” who “had promised to do more to protect vulnerable customers”, Ashton continues. But it’s not in these companies’ interests “to stop people developing gambling addictions”. The profits are “huge”, and they know “a staggering amount about their customers”, using this data to target marketing campaigns. And they “get away with it”, she says, “because they can”. The government is now reviewing gambling legislation. “This is a real chance to make changes” that can benefit countless people – “not just the few who are making money from misery”.

5

Patrick Grant at the i news site

Seeing Jeff Goldblum and other older men on the Prada catwalk is a welcome dose of fashion reality

on a new face for fashion

On Sunday, 60-something actors Jeff Goldblum and Kyle MacLachlan opened and closed Prada’s AW22 menswear show in Milan. For fashion designer Patrick Grant, seeing “a greying moustache and wrinkled skin” on the catwalk was “a very welcome development”. Grant has “been using older people and non-models” in shoots for several years, which can be “tricky in many ways”, he admits on the i news site. These non-professionals are not necessarily accustomed to the “way of walking that looks good in pictures”, a movement “that is not in any way natural”, he writes. And “sample clothes are usually made in standard model size”, while “non-professional models come in all shapes and sizes”. But although getting “great images” from non-models isn’t “straightforward”, Grant continues, “what we get in abundance is reality” and “character”. We need to show that “fashion is not an abstract concept, it is real, it’s impact on the planet is real”, so “a dose of reality in its images is a very good thing”. 

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