‘Why are people so desperate to reach the UK that they will step into dinghies?’

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

Migrants crossing the Channel from France to England
Luke Dray/Getty Images

1. Attacking lifeboats may seem like a new low, but the right craves a ‘migrant crisis’

Daniel Trilling in The Guardian

on the media economy

“If your politics involves frequent attacks on beloved national institutions, no matter how much you claim to be defending them from subversion, you risk looking like you simply dislike them,” writes Daniel Trilling in The Guardian. Turning to Nigel Farage’s recent criticism of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for helping asylum seekers travelling across the English Channel, he writes that “it was notable that most rightwing talking heads did not join in Farage’s attack” out of fear at attacking a national institution. However, he predicts that such attacks are “likely to keep on coming as they have become essential to the political tactics of the right” and because there is a “thriving media economy founded on rightwing outrage”. The problem, he adds, is that these culture wars distract us from the questions we should be asking: “Why are people so desperate to reach the UK that they will step into dinghies, and what is our role in creating those conditions?”

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2. The rest of the world has shamed Britain’s blasé rejection of liberty

Sherelle Jacobs in The Telegraph

on freedom and autocracy

“Freedom is losing the battle in Britain,” writes Sherelle Jacobs in The Telegraph. Noting the pressure on the young to get vaccinated and the danger of vaccine passports “bar[ring] the unvaccinated from nights out”, she warns that among the public “an almost puritanical devotion to caution has prevailed over the seductions of liberty”. Despite a reported fall in cases and Professor Neil Ferguson’s prediction that the pandemic could “largely be over” by October, “any hope of a decisive return to normal seems dead”, she argues. In contrast to the clamour for freedom in other nations such as France and the US, she concludes: “Britons have tended not to give freedom or its compatibility with contemporary views much thought”. In other words, Britain has “failed to confront the autocratic implications of Covid rules”.

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3. The core message of Terry Pratchett’s books was that people should think for themselves

Marc Burrows in the New Statesman

on literary nuance

Although Terry Pratchett died in 2015, “that hasn’t stopped [him] being drawn into the increasingly vicious row over trans rights”, writes Marc Burrows in the New Statesman. In recent days, a controversy has erupted after a Twitter user claimed transphobes “are trying to recruit Terry Pratchett posthumously”. Burrows, who has written an in-depth biography of the Discworld author, says readers “take away from books what you bring to them, and often the reader’s views are confirmed rather than challenged, regardless of the author’s intention”. He believes that “we cannot know Pratchett’s views on the gender wars, but we can assume they would be insightful, compassionate and wise”. He concludes that Pratchett “knew that people were nuanced and complicated, messy and changeable, that there are no simple answers, no meaning of life”.

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4. Boris Johnson is about to find out what happens when a party turns on its leader

The Independent’s editorial board

on a coming fall

Boris Johnson’s “superhuman political performances have certainly defied belief for most of the two years he has occupied No. 10”, says The Independent. However, his recent attempt to “dodge” self-isolation has “been something of a final straw”. The prime minister is watching his poll ratings slide, “along with his authority in his own party”. With disappointing by-election performances in Chesham and Amersham, and Batley-and-Spen, he is “no longer such a winner”, the paper argues. And as politics reverts to a “more normal pattern”, the “instinct to rally behind the leader in a crisis is evaporating”. “This most unlikely of premiers has carried all before him”, but “he could soon find out what happens when he no longer looks like an electoral asset”.

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5. A job for Jeeves

Max Hastings in The Times

on service scarcity

“The British recoil with ever more disgust from performing personal service”, writes Max Hastings in The Times. He suggests that if Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse’s famous character, “has modern counterparts caressing the yachting blazers of the super-rich, they are probably Portuguese or Ukrainian”. Therefore, “we can hardly be surprised that the exodus of European workers following Covid and the unmentionable B-word has caused a staffing crisis in pubs, hotels, restaurants”. In the longer term, he says, millions more industrial and clerical jobs will be “lost to robots” and “as economic inequality worsens, the only certainty is that there will be a huge demand for butlers, maids, nannies and suchlike”. This demand, he adds, is “unlikely to be met by homegrown recruits from the new Blue Wall regions”.

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