Instant Opinion

‘Can Andy Burnham ‘do a Boris’?’

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


Marie le Conte in The Independent

Hear me out – Andy Burnham is Labour’s Boris Johnson

on a leadership contender

“What or who comes to mind when you think of Andy Burnham? Do you think of the north of England? ‘Twenty-four hours to save the NHS’? Biscuits and gravy, perhaps? How about Boris Johnson?” writes Marie Le Conte in The Independent. It seems possible that Burnham, a former Labour frontbencher turned “King in the North” as Manchester’s metro mayor, could “do a Boris and triumphantly return to Westminster to save his party from ruin”, suggests Le Conte. Indeed, “the mere fact that it is a possibility points to quite a fundamental shift in British politics”, she writes. Seeing as “politicians old and new have the possibility now to run as metro mayors in England, parliament no longer has to be the place in which future leaders are made”. She concludes: “Andy Burnham is not Boris Johnson, but he clearly hopes to have a similar journey. If he manages it, others may well decide to try and follow suit. Can Westminster handle it?”


Hugo Rifkind in The Times

Must I take personal responsibility for you?

on mask wearing

“When we speak of personal responsibility in the age of Covid, we are actually talking about two very different things,” writes Hugo Rifkind in The Times. “The first is responsibility for ourselves, and the second is for everybody else. Remarkably, quite a lot of people seem yet to comprehend the distinction,” he continues. “Your hardcore mask refusers may choose to style themselves as akin to 1930s German Jews refusing to wear yellow stars, but for many of us they have actually more closely resembled those American libertarian gun nuts who make a point of wearing an assault rifle strapped across their chests at the Walmart cheese counter,” he writes. “As in, it is not, and has never been, only about you.”


Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic

You really need to quit Twitter

on a modern addiction

“I know I’m an addict because Twitter hacked itself so deep into my circuitry that it interrupted the very formation of my thoughts,” writes Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. “Every thought, every experience, seems to be reducible to this haiku,” she writes, “destroying my ability for private thought, sucking up all my talent and wit. Put it out there, post it, see how it does,” she continues. Indeed, “the simplest definition of an addiction is a habit that you can’t quit, even though it poses obvious danger. How many people have lost their jobs over ill-considered tweets? How can a wry observation, unexamined and fired off during an adrenaline high, possibly be worth the risk? It’s madness.” A month into a self-imposed Twitter ban it’s clear how “pathetically simple” human psychology is to manipulate. “Once you’re hooked, the parasite becomes your master, and it changes the way you think. Even now, I’m dopesick, dying to go back.” 


Polly Toynbee in The Guardian

Priti Patel rattles the handcuffs – but the Tories have lost control of law and order

on British justice 

“Justice is grinding to a halt. The handcuff-rattling home secretary, Priti Patel, likes announcing draconian new sentences – but without adequate police, prisons and, above all, law courts to hear cases, her bombast is empty,” writes Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. “Court delays deny justice to victims, to witnesses fast forgetting what they saw, to the guilty who should face consequences quickly, to the innocent wrongly locked up on remand or with a cloud hanging over them,” and the pandemic has simply “worsened an existing crisis: there was a 37,000 crown court backlog in 2019”, writes Toynbee. “All this makes law-and-order Tories vulnerable, with concerns about crime raised in recent byelections. All civilisation rests on trust in the law,” she continues. “It’s time for Labour to abandon squeamishness about anything that smacks of tough-talk crowd-pleasing: this government’s dereliction of duty undermines the bedrock assumptions of any decent society.”


Sherelle Jacobs in The Telegraph

The terrifying truth is that millions do not want lockdown ever to end

on a new culture war

“[A] depressing truth looms over Britain: many people do not seem to want restrictions to end,” writes Sherelle Jacobs in The Telegraph. “Millions have become attached to the gilded trappings of lockdown, from furlough to flexi-home working. With our every movement micromanaged by one metre signage and one-way arrows, our instincts for independent self-direction have shrivelled. And after nearly 18 months of relentless – and irresponsible – anti-Covid messaging, terror of the virus is still everywhere.” So, says Jacobs, “a nasty culture war is brewing, a modern twist on the old feud between positive and negative liberty”. And face masks look like they will provide the ammunition. “What should have been a matter for personal choice, based on mutual respect, is gearing up to become a sort of tribal signal,” she writes. “We are starting to see now that commitment to the value of individual freedom, far from being robust as a coil spring, is fragile as glass.”


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