‘The government is still betraying disabled people on Covid’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

A wheelchair user on a rainy pavement
(Image credit: MediaWorldImages / Alamy Stock Photo)

1. The government’s hasty lifting of Covid restrictions is a betrayal of disabled people

Anne Wafula Strike at The Guardian

on failing to protect the vulnerable

Since the start of the pandemic, “disabled people have been treated as an add-on”, says British Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike. Writing at The Guardian, the disability and inclusion campaigner points out that there were no British Sign Language interpreters at the daily briefings, and people with intellectual and development disabilities were not initially on the priority list for vaccines. “It has been incredibly frustrating to see a clinically vulnerable group being treated as an afterthought,” and Strike met the government’s relaxation of Plan B regulations last week “with horror”. She thought of her clinically vulnerable friends, “many of whom have barely left their homes in two years”, and people who are immunocompromised and “may not respond to vaccines at all”. This writer is “sad to see just how quickly we’ve forgotten what we’ve been through”. Disabled people “may now remain prisoners in their own homes” while “we cannot now expect others to wear masks” on public transport or in shops. “Lives are at stake” if the decision is not reconsidered, says Strike.

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2. Why young women aren’t smiling for you any more

Yasmin Poole at The Sydney Morning Herald

on earning respect

Photos of Australian activist Grace Tame and the country’s prime minister this week “sparked immediate backlash from conservative men in power”, writes Yasmin Poole at The Sydney Morning Herald. Tame’s “unforgiving expression” has “become iconic”, and “drew swift criticism that can be put straight in the sexist folder”. These comments “carry a thinly veiled message: women who refuse to obey do not belong in spaces where decisions are made”, says Poole. “No one should be expected to smile at a prime minister… who has fallen at every hurdle when it comes to supporting women’s rights. Especially Tame, a survivor of sexual abuse.” The criticisms aren’t “just a few cockroaches in the backyard”, she writes. They are “a blatant indicator that the whole house is rotten”. And the stories from Parliament “paint a horrific picture” of what it’s like to be a woman in the party room. But “there is hope that the misogynistic cycle can be broken”, and “it is time that we dismantle the vicious boys’ club in Parliament”. As Tame has demonstrated, “respect is earned”.

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3. We feel like fools for following the rules

Alice Thomson at The Times

on rule-abiding regrets

“I keep thinking about it now,” says Alice Thomson at The Times. Her mother died alone during the pandemic, “having seen her husband of 60 years once from a distance” while she was in a care home. “Boris Johnson has made us all look like idiots.” Why on earth, she asks, “did we stick so rigidly to all the rules”? It’s a question that “haunts many of us now”, why we adhered to “all those draconian regulations when they were being broken with such careless disdain by those who made them”. True, “most politicians did behave”. And “we can’t blame the officials who enforced the rules”, though the police might be “re-evaluating” if they did the right thing “as they hear stories of Downing Street staff merrily breaking swings”. More time should have been spent “balancing the risks”, and it’s now clear “that some were semi-detached from the suffering”. Thomson says she wouldn’t blame those who “won’t trust so obediently again”.

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4. How No. 10 has gone silent on climate change since Cop26

Philippa Nuttall at The New Statesman

on forgotten promises

“The same amnesia that led the UK prime minister to seemingly forget various ‘parties’ he attended has apparently also wiped his memory of the greatest existential threat facing his country”, writes Philippa Nuttall at The New Statesman. Cop26 was Boris Johnson’s “moment in the sun”, his chance “to prove post-Brexit that Britain still had diplomatic clout. And it worked.” The prime minister said and did the right things while Alok Sharma and his team “played a blinder”. Less than three months on, “the media may no longer be focused” on Johnson’s climate action, “but the UK and the rest of the world need your leadership on the energy transition more than ever”. If the “fine words agreed in Glasgow” don’t turn into action and policies “very soon, global heating will continue apace, with disastrous consequences”. The Tory Party would “score a massive own goal” if it begins leading us “down the garden path to an imaginary land where climate science can be contested, renewables are expensive and the status quo is cheaper than climate action”. Nuttall says “it is time to jog memories.”

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5. The Narcotic Pleasures of #Cleantok

Jessica Grose at The New York Times

on soothing sounds

“Organizing videos” on TikTok were one of the few things that would lift Jessica Grose’s spirits during “the lowest depths of my pandemic torpor”, she writes at The New York Times. She would close her bedroom door and delve “into the tidy, satisfying world of another mom cleaning and then restocking her spotless refrigerator”. The #cleantok hashtag has around 30bn views, and Grose says that “being immersed, even briefly in a digital space that is fully organised and efficiently managed is like a sedative.” It’s not your typical “world of momfluencers”. Monica Brady, the creator behind the @midwesternmama29 account, doesn’t narrate her videos or give off the type of facade that makes Grose’s gut say “‘You think you’re better than me???’” like other influencers do. All you hear from Brady’s videos are “the satisfying sound of efficiency”. The TikToks “require a lot of work” and Grose is “thrilled” if Brady is being well compensated “for bringing entertainment and comfort to her viewers” and making “visible the work of cleaning and organizing that is otherwise invisible and underappreciated”.

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