Instant Opinion: ‘For a few weeks, black lives mattered. Now what?’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 22 June

black lives matter
Prostesters hold placards as they join a Black Lives Matter march through central London to protest the death of George Floyd
(Image credit: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Nesrine Malik in The Guardian

on what comes after the protests

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For a few weeks, black lives mattered. Now what?

“So black people have your solidarity, your concessions that things need to change, your pledges, your retrospective apologies and, in some instances, your resignations. These are gestures, even big gestures, and they do go some way – a long way, in fact – to making some people feel like they belong in a country that will no longer put up statues to those who would have enslaved them. That is not nothing. But the establishment that shapes knowledge and attitudes towards black people remains hostile. The levers that could pull the country towards a deeper reckoning with race are broken, or in the hands of those who have no interest in pulling them. The fish of state is rotting from the head down; instead of real change, we will get exercises in corporate face-saving and a (long overdue) scrubbing of public statuary. And black people will end up as an awkward PR pitfall to avoid, rather than a community empowered to shape governments and policies.”

2. Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow home secretary, on HuffPost

on a generation betrayed by the British government

Thanking The Windrush Generation Isn’t Enough. We Must Make Sure A Scandal Like This Can Never Happen Again

“Addressing unfairness and injustice begins at the door of the Home Office, with the appalling mistreatment of the Windrush Generation. The Windrush scandal is a national cause of shame – and the recently published Wendy Williams Lessons Learned Review is a damning indictment. It exposes the callousness and incompetence that caused such deep injustice, whilst making clear the impact of ‘jobs lost, lives uprooted and untold damage done to so many individuals and families’. The families – who have given so much to this country – deserve so much more. The review sets out a wide range of recommendations, a large number which are hard-hitting and urgent. They include the need for the Home Office to set a clear purpose, mission and values statement rooted in fairness, humanity, openness, diversity and inclusion. They call for vital action on issues related to race and the need for better community outreach and engagement. It’s shocking that it would take a scandal on this scale to bring those core failings to light.”

3. Stephen Bush in The Times

on the PM’s pledge to remodel Whitehall

Boris Johnson’s mantra must still be reform

“One of the unnoticed things that Johnson got right when he became prime minister is that, unlike his recent predecessors, he refrained from the urge to shrink Downing Street’s capabilities when he took office. That reflects the big idea of Johnson’s government, at least before the pandemic: Whitehall reform. Remodelling the institutions of the state is one of the central preoccupations of Johnson’s most high-profile adviser, Dominic Cummings, and something that animates the wider circle of policy thinkers both in and around Downing Street. For some, it is because the civil service is supposedly the home of committed Remainers and only serious reform will allow a pro-Leave government to get its agenda through. For others, the reason Whitehall reform is a vital prerequisite to everything else is the scale of the challenge Johnson set himself at the last election. The government is, don’t forget, committed to increasing funding for the NHS, schools and the police, to closing the gap between the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, and do it all while keeping income tax, corporation tax and VAT flat or falling. The only way to square the circle (supposedly) is to reform how the government operates.”

4. Nick Timothy in The Daily Telegraph

on the legal remnants of New Labour

Conservatives can’t win the culture wars while Blair and Brown’s legacy remains intact

“So why, when Tories have been in government for more than a decade, does it seem that cultural liberals and Left-wingers are in the ascendancy? In part, it is because a culture war is precisely what its name suggests: it is about culture as much as what governments do with the levers of power. There is little ministers can do when celebrities, or businesses, use their platform to make arguments that conservatives reject. It is partly because we no longer have unitary government in Britain: ministers in Whitehall might be Conservatives, but there is, for example, a Labour mayor in London, and if he wants to weigh in on debates about old statues, he can do so. It is also because some Conservative politicians have little appetite for fighting a culture war... But there is a better explanation. Tories are right to complain about the ways in which the public sector, quangos and the so-called ‘deep state’ perpetuate a Left-wing agenda, but not for the reasons they normally give. It is not simply down to Left-wingers occupying positions of power. Even when conservatives run public bodies, the problem often continues.”

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5. Jennifer Senior in The New York Times

on a ‘despot’ cornered

America’s Wannabe Autocrat Is in the Home Stretch. How Worried Should We Be?

“It’s precisely because Trump feels overwhelmed and outmatched that I fear we’ve reached a far scarier juncture: he seems to be attempting, however clumsily, to transition from president to autocrat, using any means necessary to mow down those who threaten his re-election. Whether he has the competence to pull this off is anyone’s guess. As we know, Trump is surpassingly incapable of governing. But he has also shown authoritarian tendencies from the very beginning. For over three years, he’s been dismembering the body politic, institution by institution, norm by norm. What has largely spared us from total evisceration were honorable civil servants and appointees. Trump has torn through almost all of them and replaced them with loyalists. He now has a clear runway. What we have left is an army of pliant flunkies and toadies at the agencies, combined with the always-enabling Mitch McConnell and an increasingly emboldened attorney general, William Barr.”

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