Instant Opinion

‘Ventilation is vitally important but No. 10 has consistently failed to communicate this’

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


Ian Dunt for the i

Ignoring ventilation is the great unspoken error of our government’s Covid-19 strategy

on ‘rudimentary mistakes’

Every day you see staff putting on visors, wiping down tables and asking customers to sanitise their hands – before “closing the doors and windows”, says Ian Dunt for the i. “It’s an act of epidemiological insanity.” It’s “extraordinary”, says Dunt, that 18 months into this pandemic “we are still making these rudimentary mistakes”. Back in March 2020, we had little understanding of how Covid-19 spread, but we now know that “people very rarely get Covid by touching an infected surface”. Even so, the initial message of hand-washing and face-touching “just kind of stuck”. On the other hand, ventilation “is recognised as being vitally important” but this is something No. 10 “has consistently failed to communicate”. “Ventilation is the great unspoken error of our pandemic strategy,” concludes Dunt. “One of the main factors in Covid transmission has been largely ignored. And there are few signs the Government has learned its lesson.”


Sindre Bangstad for The Guardian

What has Norway learned from the Utoya attack 10 years ago? Not what I hoped

on lessons missed 

Any visitor who arrives on the island of Utoya, 20 miles from Oslo, is “immediately struck by the smallness of it”, writes Norwegian social anthropologist and author Sindre Bangstad in The Guardian. It was here ten years ago today that terrorist and right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik massacred 69 young Labour Party activists while dressed in a fake police uniform. “It is not difficult to imagine the sheer horror of it all, as teenagers, full of life, joy and laughter, suddenly realised that the shots being fired in the distance were not firecrackers,” says Bangstad. As Norway approaches this milestone anniversary, it is worth “looking back at the lessons learned and those missed from this dark chapter in my country’s history”, he adds. At the time, Bangstad was among those who argued “for a national reckoning with the far-right, racist and Islamophobic ideology” that had motivated Breivik – ideas “much more common among Norwegians than many were willing to let on”. But instead, Norway’s Labour Party cast the massacre as “attacks on all Norwegians” and “any talk of the undeniable links between the conspiratorial and anti-Muslim world views of Breivik and the wider populist right” became “taboo”. The consequences of this rhetoric have shaped the Norway we know today.


Sean O’Neill for The Times

Law change will treat journalists like spies

on the threat to press freedom 

Last week, officials from the Information Commissioner’s Office raided two homes in their search for the person – or people – who leaked the security camera footage of Matt Hancock and his lover in his ministerial office. The investigation “is looking at potential breaches of data protection laws under which there are exemptions for journalism and matters of public interest”, writes Sean O’Neill in The Times. But such exemptions would not exist “were Priti Patel to get her way over radical changes to the Official Secrets Act and what the government calls ‘unauthorised disclosures’”. The home secretary is proposing to “widen enormously the scope of the legislation” which would “impose harsher penalties for breaches and equate journalism which exposes failure and scandal in public bodies with hostile state espionage”. These proposals are styled as a response to the threat of “cyberattacks” and “social media destabilisation” but they “would also severely restrict the ability of journalists to report on misconduct and wrongdoing in the police, the military, the NHS, the intelligence services and Whitehall departments”, argues O’Neill. “This is a precarious moment for press freedom in Britain.”


Mick Mulvaney for the Irish Times

An amnesty will lock the Troubles in a box – for now

on an opportunity for understanding

Former US special envoy for Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney was “more than a little” disappointed by the UK government’s intention to offer proposals “on a blanket amnesty on violence during the Troubles”, he writes in The Irish Times. “My country is still wrestling with having, in many ways, ignored issues of race, slavery, reconstruction, segregation and the like from our past,” says Mulvaney. This is largely because “what were once facts” have “morphed into mythology”. Years on, America is paying “a price for the lack of a common understanding of our own history” – with society unable to agree on, for example, the true cause of the American civil war. “I encourage the Johnson government not to head down that same path,” writes Mulvaney. “There is an opportunity to address the violence of the Troubles while the people who lived it are still able to stand up in public and talk about it. Still able to write it down. Still able to have their say, and their day… There is a chance to at least agree on what actually happened. But that chance will not continue forever.”


Jan Etherington for The Telegraph

I may be a grandmother – but nothing will stop me dancing at ‘Radio 4 in a field’

on the return of Latitude Festival

When grandmother-of-four Jan Etherington and her husband Gavin announced they were moving to coastal Suffolk nine years ago, their family was “thrilled” – because their new home was just up the road from Henham Park, home of Latitude Festival. “As a Senior Railcard holder”, Etherington assumed she’d “simply be the B&B for the family while they partied in the park”, she writes in The Telegraph. But as former music journalists, the pair thought it would be “rude” not to “support our very local festival”. Nearly a decade on, Etherington has been to Latitude Festival every year since (except for 2020) “because I discovered there are few things that make me happier than watching a great band play on a summer night – in the company of others who feel the same”. She feels “enormous gratitude” towards Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, who “persuaded the Government to include the festival in its Events Research Programme”. “His heroics mean there’ll be swingin’, swayin’ and music playing – not in the streets, but in the fields of Suffolk this weekend.”


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