Instant Opinion

‘Britain must abandon its indifference to the world’s most vulnerable people’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Owen Jones in The Guardian

Putin’s brutal war is the moment for Britain to reset its attitude to all refugees

On a collision course

“British political culture is nearly as hostile to self-reflection as it is to refugees,” says Owen Jones in The Guardian. “Demonising foreign ‘others’ has long been a convenient means of diverting working-class anger at economic insecurity away from powerful interests,” he argues. And hostile media coverage of refugees and migrants makes “public defence of refugees an act of political courage in normal times. But it can be done”, such as in 2015 when Alan Kurdi, a Kurdish toddler, washed up dead on a Turkish beach. After that incident, “the number of people who believed Britain should accept more refugees surged” because “the dehumanisation of refugees encouraged by our politicians and media outlets was momentarily confronted” and “parents kissing the foreheads of their little ones at night could visualise Alan as one of their own”. A large majority of Britons are in favour of taking in thousands of Ukrainian refugees, which has put “government cruelty and public opinion on a collision course”. “Now is a moment to argue for a new permanent settlement – for a Britain that abandons its particularly inhumane indifference to the world’s most vulnerable and desperate people, whether they come from Ukraine, Yemen or Afghanistan.”

2

John Simpson on the i news site

Chelsea fans will also pay the price for sanctions against Roman Abramovich

On a blue day

Yesterday was the 117th anniversary of Chelsea’s founding. But rather than being marked with celebrations, it was “one of the worst days the club has ever known”, says John Simpson on the i news site. The government may have “struck a major blow at Roman Abramovich” by freezing his UK assets, but it has hit Chelsea’s “faithful supporters” just as hard. Simpson, the veteran BBC correspondent, claims Abramovich “seems to have done what he could in recent years to keep his distance from Vladimir Putin” and has “revolutionised Chelsea FC” from “just another London club” to “one of the greatest clubs in the world”. At first Simpson assumed Chelsea “was just another über-rich man’s toy”, but he gradually found himself believing “that he loved Chelsea as much as we did”. Now Stamford Bridge is a “sad place”, with fans unable to spend money there, rumours of 10 players leaving and the club “as close to disaster as a multi-billion football club can get”. The sanctions may be the right thing to do, he adds, but “the greatest effect has fallen on us, the people who turn up in rain or sun to support Chelsea, and who have delighted in its success”.

3

Megan McArdle in The Washington Post

Why the pandemic’s increases in risky driving might not dissipate as we return to normal

On a new culture

“It really has gotten more dangerous to be on the road, or even near a road,” writes Megan McArdle in The Washington Post. Americans drove about 13% fewer miles in 2020, yet fatal crashes rose by 6.8%. Early data suggests the trend continued in 2021. Why would a pandemic cause a “surge of risky driving behaviors”, she asks. The answer could be “the lure of wide-open roads”, “decreased traffic enforcement” or “pandemic stress”. As for the reduction in seat belt use, this is likely because “the most risk-averse people decide to stay home”. But the final mystery is why these trends continued as “the rest of us slowly returned to the roads”. A “more troubling possibility is that changing the mix of who was driving changed the whole culture of American roads, making it less law-abiding and more aggressive”. “As the risk-averse return, slowly and fitfully, to public life”, she says, “they could end up assimilating into the now-dominant culture that is more aggressive and less deferential to authority”.

4

Judith Woods in The Telegraph

At times like these, what women secretly want is a ‘real man’

On ‘masculine’ traits

“A culture of mindfulness is all fine and dandy in peacetime, with a choice of oat or soya milk,” writes Judith Woods in The Telegraph. But in wartime, “you need someone who can dig a trench, chop wood and make split-second strategic decisions without agonising over diversity”. The middle classes place “little value” on “what used to be regarded as ‘masculine’ traits” because “somewhere along the line, the mastery of Excel spreadsheets became more respected than the ability to make things, to use tools, to physically shape our environment”. Now, “as Russian thermobaric rockets fall, there’s no pause for navel-gazing” because “the exigencies of survival are all that matter”. Men in Ukraine are “mounting an astonishing defence of the land and the life they hold dear”. But “would we do the same if Britain were invaded?”. If we “searched for the hero inside ourselves” would we find one? “Or just a punchline from the sitcom Miranda?”

5

John Gapper in the Financial Times

Cinema tickets for ‘The Batman’ take flight

On dynamic pricing

“When The Batman opened to packed audiences around the world last weekend, it was a significant moment,” writes John Gapper in the Financial Times. The return of the superhero franchise is “a boost to cinemas that have suffered badly during the pandemic”, but also noteworthy because many US film-goers had to pay more to watch the film than other titles. Cinemas “cannot carry on simply raising all their ticket prices to gouge more out of extravagant popcorn munchers, leaving swaths of seats for their less popular films unfilled”. Therefore, cinemas will have to “adopt more inventive tactics”, including dynamic pricing, which is a “fancy way” of saying that some ticket prices will fall. “Change is overdue,” he argues. “Why should everyone have to pay superhero prices for quieter, gentler films in smaller venues? Cinemas have forgotten how to attract a variety of customers, but they must learn the skill again.”

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