‘Colston statue topplers drag Britain’s view of itself closer to reality’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

The Colston Four celebrate the verdict outside court
The Colston Four celebrating the verdict outside court
(Image credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

1. The Colston Four’s critics are deluded to think Britain owes no apology for its past

Nesrine Malik in The Guardian

on the need for humility

After the four protesters who toppled Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol were acquitted, the “volley of rage” unleashed at the verdict “was inevitable”, says The Guardian’s columnist Nesrine Malik. But “the speed with which it happened was still surprising”. “If one were a cynic,” she continues, “one would think that the newspaper stories, the statements and the tweets were all sitting in draft form, waiting to be posted, emailed and published.” The responses were “so rehearsed” that the issue seemed “less about Colston’s statue” and more about the rigid vision of Britain held by “Conservative MPs, the rightwing press and the prime minister himself”. To them, Britain is a country that “has done no wrong, that owes no apology and should show no humility”, says Malik. But the Colston statue topplers and “the Black Lives Matter protesters in general” are the people “trying to drag Britain’s view of itself closer to reality”. What we need to understand as a society, Malik continues, is that “friction arises not from ‘woke vandals’ but from a state that clings, despite all entreaty and evidence, to a glorification of a past that reinforces and legitimises all the injustices of the present”.

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2. Ministers have a responsibility to lead the charge back to normality

Nick Timothy in The Telegraph

on ‘putting the nightmare behind us’

“The widely held view that the government has performed poorly throughout the pandemic is not true,” writes Nick Timothy in The Telegraph. Certainly, ministers were “slow to lock down” when Covid first arrived in 2020. And, when new variants emerged, “they were also slow to restrict travel to Britain from affected countries and regions”. But even before the vaccines were rolled out, “there were successes”. “Rishi Sunak kept businesses alive… British science was responsible for genome sequencing and discovering novel treatments for Covid patients.” And, when “case numbers increased” and ministers came under pressure to introduce tough new restrictions, “the government held its nerve”. It seems it was “vindicated”, says Timothy. “The number of new Covid cases is now falling in London, the South East and East of England.” Looking forward, ministers have a responsibility “to promote, actively and energetically, a swift return to a normal way of life”, he adds. They need to “lead us back on the road to normality”, as “it is time to put the nightmare behind us”.

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3. Dear Boris, stop being a shambles and fix things or admit being PM is too much for you and quit, yours Piers Morgan

Piers Morgan in The Sun

on destroying voters’ trust

“You’re a shambles,” Piers Morgan tells Boris Johnson in The Sun. “I’ve known you for more than 30 years and for all your myriad faults, I’ve always liked you personally,” he continues. “You’re a character, and God knows, we need more of those in… public life… But running the country, in fact any country, requires you to not just BE a character but to HAVE character.” Looking back, Johnson’s election victory speech, where the prime minister said he would make it his “mission” to prove voters right, now sounds like “a very hollow pledge”. “Let’s be frank: You’ve destroyed much of that trust in just two disastrous years.” Many first-time Conservative voters who admired Johnson’s “‘Let’s get Brexit done!’ chutzpah” are now “disillusioned” and the Tories are “heading for meltdown in the May local elections”. “Sorry Boris,” concludes Morgan, “but you’ve only got yourself to blame.”

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4. Keir Starmer should challenge the war on drugs if he really wants to prove he’s tough on crime

Ian Birrell on the i news site

on the Labour leader’s ‘caution’

The Labour Party is being “remoulded to reflect its leader, who offers sharp personal contrast to a sleazy, shambolic and self-serving Tory prime minister”, says Ian Birrell on the i news site. The strategy seems to be working “to some extent” as both Keir Starmer and Labour “have a decent lead in the polls”. But “questions remain” over the Labour leader’s “caution and his relentless focus on recapturing red wall voters who deserted Labour for Boris Johnson”, writes Birrell. Although Starmer “must know full well the futility of the drug war as a former director of public prosecutions”, his approach to the subject is the same as “the New Labour approach” and “the Tory approach”. Last week, he revealed that he “does not believe in changing drug laws and does not support decriminalisation”. This is in spite of polling showing that “more than three-quarters of voters believe threats of criminal sanctions to be ineffective at deterring drug users”. If Starmer “wants to prove that he is patriotic, tough on crime and cares about struggling communities”, concludes Birrell, he “should challenge the corrosive war on drugs”.

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5. The Dream Big myth sells us dangerous lies

Clare Foges in The Times

on sympathy for Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes, the American entrepreneur behind blood-testing company Theranos, was convicted last week of fraud and conspiracy, and “few will feel much sympathy for her now”, says Clare Foges in The Times. But watching interviews with her, “it strikes me that she was herself a victim, of what we might call the Dream Big myth”. Holmes had declared “that her ambition was to discover ‘something mankind didn’t know it was possible to do’”, writes Foges. “At the height of her (fake) success she said she was ‘living proof that it’s true that if you can imagine it, you can achieve it’.” This is part of the Dream Big myth, continues Foges, “the idea that what we achieve is only limited by the boldness of our dreams; and linked to this, the promise that anyone can ‘make it’ if only they persevere.” This myth is “dangerous” because “by encouraging individuals like Holmes to believe they can change the world if only they persevere, it invites reckless bloody-mindedness”. It leads people like Holmes to “continue trying to change the world when they should really stop” while leaving others “feeling inadequate”.

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