Instant Opinion

‘The rift opening up in the Conservative party is startling in its ferocity’

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


Polly Toynbee for The Guardian

The pandemic has opened up a deep rift within the Conservatives. It will grow

on Conservative rifts

“Something strange is happening within the political party famously ruthless in its pursuit of power and keeping hold of it,” says Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. The Tories’ “still popular prime minister” goes “into the parliamentary recess up against a crescendo of howls from his own side”. These howls are evidence of a “rift” opening up in the Conservative party, which is “startling in its ferocity” and has “revealed a new animosity towards its leader”. Ministers, high-ranking MPs and more than half the cabinet are allegedly “in rebellion against all the government’s key policies” triggered by Johnson’s decision to raise the National Insurance rate to pay for the NHS and social care, says Toynbee. “What kind of Conservative is Johnson, anyway?” she asks. “A stalemate on decisions, amid rows between a fiscally tight chancellor and a spendthrift prime minister, has unleashed this thrashing-about in Tory ranks.” But there are no “Tory-shaped solutions” for the inevitable austerity our country is facing. “Paralysed, Johnson makes no decisions”, Toynbee adds, “and this cacophony from his own party will only stiffen his lack of resolve.”


Suzanne Moore for The Telegraph

The only person who still has a high opinion of Dominic Cummings is himself

on Cummings’ social media presence 

Benedict Cumberbatch should “never have agreed to play Dominic Cummings in James Graham’s Brexit: The Uncivil War”, writes Suzanne Moore in The Telegraph. “Graham saw Cummings as a great disruptor”; a “genuine anarchist”. This myth “now self-destructs because it was as flimsy as the ceiling tile he punched through when Leave won”. Actually, Cummings reminds Moore of Julian Assange. “He likes systems, not people, and if individuals get harmed, well it’s all just collateral damage. Truth for these guys is just one kind of information. Power may come through ignorance. What matters is winning.” But all of Cummings’ “great strategising” equated to nothing, so instead he’s now “on Twitter doing 100-thread justifications to Remain hacks”. “Each tweet, each post, reveals not the flaws in the system but his own,” adds Moore. “The self-absorption is exhausting. It’s been a difficult time, sure, but why can’t he watch Escape to the Chateau or make Nigella’s flourless cake?”


Anonymous for The Independent

Thomas Markle thinks he has a biological right to see his grandchildren. That’s highly problematic

on a grandfather’s expectations

“When I learned of the news that Thomas Markle had decided to pursue legal channels to obtain access to his royal grandchildren, I was shocked but not surprised,” says an anonymous opinion piece in The Independent. The writer, a 41-year-old with “a decade’s worth of therapy under my belt”, is “so glad” that one of their grandparents never demanded legal access to them when they were growing up. “Having given birth to me when they were teenagers, my parents would not have had the knowledge or the resources to fight such a petition”, they add. “The recent onslaught of so-called ‘Grandparents Rights’ laws give problematic relatives the option to sue for access to minors, whether or not it is in the best interest of the grandchildren.” The laws can help protect children whose grandparents “have legitimate concerns about parents who may be struggling or neglectful” – but they can also create, “at the bare minimum”, a “headache” for parents trying to protect their children “from familial dysfunction”. Based on Thomas Markle’s “public admissions of a strained relationship with Meghan and Harry”, it is unlikely he will receive the “untethered access to Archie and baby Lilibet” he reportedly expects, the piece adds. And despite what he may think, “access to grandchildren should never be considered a biological entitlement”.


Caoimhe Butterly for The Irish Times

EU migration policies are enabling deaths at sea

on the EU migrant crisis

In 2019, Caoimhe Butterly sat in Lampedusa, Italy, with survivors of a perilous journey. Migrants from Africa had spent “three weeks anchored at sea”, with mainland authorities forbidding them from disembarking. “Hawa, an Eritrean seamstress raised in Sudanese refugee camps, spoke of sexual violence, beatings, hunger and daily humiliation in Libyan detention centres”, Butterly writes in The Irish Times. Over the years, the human rights campaigner has “worked alongside brave, tenacious, creative and deeply capable survivors – from Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Congo, Palestine, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Kurdistan and elsewhere”. But, dishearteningly, “documented human rights violations” continue and those who “try to respond… increasingly find their work criminalised”. “With the lack of a justice-based, responsibility-assuming and humane response on an EU-wide level, the rights of those seeking refuge in Europe will continue to be undermined,” says Butterly. In the “absence of safe passage”, she adds, “more women, men and children will continue to die preventable deaths in the Mediterranean Sea – tonight, tomorrow and in the weeks and months to come.”


Hugo Rifkind for The Times

Compulsory Covid passports are a step too far

on civil liberties

“Emmanuel Macron doesn’t mess around,” says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. He wants the French to provide evidence of their vaccination history before entering “restaurants, cafes, cinemas, museums and most forms of public transport”. Some are protesting at this “impingement on their freedoms”, but the president “isn’t having it”. I admire Macron’s bravery, but “I don’t think I want it here”, writes Rifkind. “I’m pro-vaccine, pro-science and pro-scientist. Generally speaking, I’m even quite pro-nanny state” – and yet seeing “increasingly daily suggestions of mandatory vaccines, or mandatory vaccine passports” makes me “wince and fret”. Why? “In part, I suppose, it’s because I once confidently predicted that it wouldn’t happen”, Rifkind explains. But it’s also because “even now, the long arm of the law should not be long enough for the law to inject that arm into yours”. “The state restricting your freedom for not taking the right medicine feels like a major new Rubicon”, he adds. “Are things really so bad that we have to cross it?”


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