James Ball (“Maybe things are, in fact, looking up”, TNE #274) wonders whether Boris Johnson might be doing the right thing over Covid, albeit for the wrong reasons. But what about the moral case for tighter restrictions?
Britain has recorded 150,000 Covid deaths faster than any other European country, and the true figure may be nearer to 175,000. No one is making the case for no restrictions meaning fewer cases and fewer deaths.
People are being hospitalised in higher numbers and dying in higher numbers than they would have done had tighter restrictions been in place. This is not my definition of “looking up”.
I disagree totally with James Ball when he writes: “Devolved governments are not making the job of making a case any easier. To take a cynical view, it seems most of them are trying to do just enough to look stricter than the UK government, while not doing enough to incur major costs or trigger a widespread backlash.”
England is the outlier here. It is time journalists make an effort to understand the devolved bodies instead of observing from the outside.
The government’s course of action (decided, as James Ball makes clear, by Covid zealots on the Tory backbenches) puts enormous strain on hospitals and schools, not to mention council workers and the police force. It demonstrates very clearly the Conservative view that public services are there to clear up government mistakes.
Your special report on Russia and Ukraine (“Endgame”, TNE #274) shows we are living in very dangerous times. Putin is losing popularity at home, possibly due to Covid death numbers, so he becomes the ultra-nationalist, playing the victim of Western oppression. Faced with the weakest American leader, a disunited Europe and a powerful, hostile China, it seems very difficult for Putin to NOT invade Ukraine.
It’s nice to see some sober and realistic perspective on this matter. We are losing a Cold War whose existence most people don’t even acknowledge.
Re: “The only thing wrong with Critical Race Theory is its name” (TNE #274). Bonnie Greer nails it when she says that the name sounds like something the right wing would come up with to scare people. But I think it is too late and we are stuck with it.
I quite agree with Bob Hale (Letters, TNE #274 Jan.6-12) as to why we should use the term Ukraine, and not the Ukraine.
It’s worth noting, however, that in Ukrainian there is no such distinction since, like most Slavonic languages, it has no definite article. This is also the case in Russian, which may likewise be helpful to bear in mind when looking at comments on the current tensions.
In his very good piece on Eurostar (“Back on track”, TNE #274), Tom Chesshyre makes no mention of moves to build a Channel tunnel in 1881, when both sides dug for around 2,000m.
The tunnel was abandoned after an outcry from Westminster politicians, who claimed the tunnel would be used by the French to come over here and take our jobs. How thankful we all should be that British politics has moved on from those days!
Good discussion between Paul Mason and Steve Anglesey on your podcast over Keir Starmer’s “Make Brexit work” slogan.
At every possible opportunity in PMQs, Boris Johnson shows that he wants to fight the next election on the idea that “Labour will reverse Brexit”. This, surely, demonstrates why Starmer is right to go down this route.
I would have preferred a slightly more data-based approach from Tanit Koch (“Why Germany’s nuclear plan is still misguided”, TNE #274).
The cost of nuclear power over a reactor’s lifespan is not economically attractive when compared with renewables. And not only are the rapidly rising costs of building a new reactor something to be kept in mind, the time it takes to build one is decades rather than years.
The rather anecdotal dictum that “Atom is good, no atom is bad” isn’t helpful at all.
I enjoyed the cryptic crossword clue in Alastair Campbell’s diary (TNE #274), “Gilded rot helps flat refurb clean-up (4,5)”. May I suggest another? My clue would be: Design went rotten, needs rearranging (3, 7, 6).
Ricky Gervais “a comic genius”, according to Alastair Campbell? Really? With his jokes about the disabled and his complaints about cancel culture?
The American version of The Office was funnier, too.
Just imagine Nigel Farage as a Fawltyesque hotel owner (Mandrake, TNE #274)! “Mention the war! I forgot to mention it just now but I think I got away with it.”
What kind of person would book a stay in an B&B or hotel owned by Nigel Farage? In honour of his new-found interest in tennis, I suggest that the place should be named Double Fawlty Towers.
Will Self is far too hard on Gordon Brown (“On betrayal”, TNE #274). Unlike Tony Blair, Brown has been clear that he feels Britain was misled into war with Iraq.
Had he resigned in protest at the time, as others did, Brown might never have been in office to steer Britain through the worst days of the financial crisis, or retained enough influence to help swing the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum.
Great European Lives is becoming unmissable! First Hans Gruber, and now Magic Alex, the Beatles’ rubbish tech guru (TNE #274)!
He was one of Lennon’s less successful dalliances with the avant-garde and in his case, the famous George Harrison quote is quite right: “They avant garde a clue.”
Worthington Pepperland (Hull really)
Always love Mitch Benn’s column but his Tory karaoke special (TNE #274) made me laugh out loud. Dim Dom Raab doing Sam Cooke (“Don’t know much ’bout the economy/Don’t know that you can’t close the sea”) was just brilliant!
While the media fuss over the prime minister’s Christmas ‘business meetings’, gold wallpaper and ‘dog ate my mobile’ shenanigans, two important bills are about to return to parliament, where they will almost definitely pass into law.
The first, the Police And Crime Bill will mean that individuals such as doughty campaigner Steve Bray will be forbidden, on pain of a 10-year prison sentence, from holding our corrupt leaders to account, from a traffic island outside the House of Commons.
The second, the Nationality and Borders Bill, will mean that if I decide to join him, my citizenship could be removed, as I am a dual-national Jew of naturalised parents, thus having a right to claim nationality in another country.
My right of appeal will also be removed.
“We didn’t look up from our phones until it was too late,” says a character in the dystopian TV series The Handmaid’s Tale. We are still not looking up.
The prime minister’s now-frequent excursions to the outskirts of truth and integrity and the increasingly obvious dishonesty of the Brexit project seem at last to be resonating with voters, whose misgivings are being converted into poll leads for Labour. There is now the possibility at least, unthinkable in the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s huge victory in 2019, of a change of government at the next general election.
If this seems far-fetched, consider how rapidly the authority conferred by that 80-seat majority has dissipated in the wake of the Government’s corruption scandals and its handling of the Brexit and Covid crises. Add to this the unceasing capacity of the PM, and any number of his colleagues, to generate cock-ups and cover-ups and such an outcome seems less fanciful.
Of course, Johnson’s own backbenchers may remove him before voters have the chance to do so and a new leader may steady the ship and restore the faith (of Tory voters at least). However, whoever is in charge, the Tories remain electorally vulnerable, I believe.
Keir Starmer says the most important thing for the Labour Party is winning power but at the same time refuses to commit to any mutual electoral strategy, tacit or otherwise, with other opposition parties.
If the government’s vulnerability is successfully to be exploited and its majority overturned in one go, then surely Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens must work together.
Potters Bar, Herts
The attorney general is considering referring the Colston Four case to the appeals court after “Tory outcry”. Brexit, Covid and now this.
Never mind protestors, it is these nameless, faceless Tories and their ‘Research Groups’ that are truly wreaking havoc and causing immense damage to our country.
I thought this Union flag flying in Spain was somewhat appropriate.