The government is abandoning a public health tool that has undoubtedly saved many lives in the pandemic
They call it April Fools’ Day for a reason. From tomorrow, 1 April, Boris Johnson’s government will end the provision of free lateral flow and PCR tests for the majority of people in England.
Ministers have announced that only a limited number of groups will now have access without having to pay. That includes symptomatic hospital patients when it is required for their care, and people living or working in “high-risk settings” such as care homes and prisons. Free asymptomatic testing will remain available for care home and patient-facing staff in the NHS, but only when there is a high prevalence of the virus and it is determined that infections may spread quickly.
Zelenskiy is a master of mobilising his nation’s defence. But his plight must not become a plaything of western politics
An iron maxim of war is to imagine what your enemy most wants you to do, and not to do it. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is floundering. He has lied to the Russian people to justify it. He has told them it is not Ukraine but Nato and the west that seek their defeat and his overthrow. That is why they must support him in his fight. To a large extent they have done so.
Nato has so far been scrupulous in not playing Putin’s game. It has stood aloof from active military support to Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy, as have its individual member countries.
How naive I was to think that Rishi Sunak would protect the poorest from the heaviest blows of the cost of living crisis
This was a great “levelling down”, with two-thirds of Rishi Sunak’s giveaways in his spring statement going to the top half of earners. At least the chancellor had the good grace to abandon the words “levelling up” and “net zero”, and he barely even mentioned “pensioners” as he impoverished the already poor while giving a little bonus to gas-guzzling SUV drivers.
Why be shocked? God knows how many Tory budgets and mini-budgets I have covered in a lifetime mostly ruled by Tory governments, yet still, somehow, I can be taken by surprise. The sheer naked venality still takes my breath away. Surely a chancellor wouldn’t choose to do the wrong things, knowingly, when he has the power to set the country in a better direction?
The prime minister’s incompetence cost Nazanin dear. She was a pawn in a chess game, dependent on the judgment of a man who has none
Just when you thought you couldn’t take any more bad news, a sudden bright spot on the horizon: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, along with another detained British-Iranian Anoosheh Ashoori, are flying back to the UK from Tehran airport. Hopefully, they’ll soon be home.
It is nearly six years since she was first detained. In that time, she has been imprisoned, separated from her daughter, she’s suffered unimaginable mental distress, and known the cruellest false dawn as her original sentence for spying ended, only for her to be rearrested for “propaganda activities”. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who has been through two hunger strikes, ended the second with the simple, devastating decision that their daughter “needs two parents”.
Barbican, LondonWith programmes that include three of their greatest native composers, the Czech Philharmonic’s visit felt momentous and deeply moving
There was absolutely no chance that the first of the Czech Philharmonic orchestra’s two concerts in London this week would be anything other than a special occasion, for musical and non-musical reasons alike. And so it proved.
As the first international orchestra to play in the Barbican Hall since the start of the pandemic, the Czechs would have drawn full houses anyway, especially in programmes featuring three of their greatest native composers. But the invasion of Ukraine supercharged the opening evening even more. Czechs know better than anyone what a Russian invasion is like. The orchestra rose to the occasion with its trademark warm intensity of tone, but also with flashes of a rare fire.
Though global prices are spiralling, fuelled by Russia’s war in Ukraine, this is no reason to drop rewilding
Should we plough up Britain? Many people seem to think so. Even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, food prices were rocketing. Now they have reached an all-time record. The National Farmers’ Union of Scotland has called for Scotland’s feeble environmental measures – paying farmers to plant hedges, cover crops and introduce beetle banks – to be rescinded, so that food production can be maximised. Others insist that rewilding is a luxury we can no longer afford.
It is true that the world now faces a major food crisis. Climate breakdown has begun to bite. Heat domes and droughts in North America and storms and floods in Europe and China last year damaged harvests and drove up prices. By February, the cost of food was 20% higher than a year earlier.
Since David Cameron’s 2013 U-turn, wind and solar power have been sidelined. Do you believe Boris Johnson will do better?
In the grip of the energy crisis, gas prices are already due to increase by 50% in April, and will spike higher later in the year, while the chancellor’s modest mitigations do little for unaffordable bills. Boris Johnson is about to produce an energy strategy to cut reliance on Russian imports and speed UK generation. He wobbles on fracking.
But before he boasts some “world-beating” plan, hold on to this salient fact. If the Tories had not blocked progress on renewables and insulation over the last decade, Britain would already be generating more clean energy than the amount provided by the fuels imported from Russia.
You could hardly imagine a frostier welcome for these desperate people. The comparison with Europe tells you everything
One and a half million desperate Ukrainian refugees. Fifty British visas. It beggars belief.
In time of war we should keep emotional responses in proportion, but sometimes the hypocrisy is intolerable. Boris Johnson is frantically – and blatantly – traipsing his Churchill act through the capitals of Europe. He hurls abuse at Vladimir Putin and promises Ukraine guns and missiles, aid and sanctions, persecution of oligarchs, anything short of soldiers. But when asked to do the one concrete thing that might directly relieve that country’s agony, he reverts to type. For god’s sake keep these Ukrainians away from our shores. Remember the ark of the Brexit covenant.
The last few days have sealed Ukraine’s place in the global imagination – and for Russia, that’s a big problem
History has broken into a sprint. Changes that were imagined to be the work of generations, or even centuries, have happened in days. Geopolitical shifts whose impact will endure for decades have come in hours. All wars are accelerants, but Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is remaking the world before our very eyes.
Start with national identity. The way nations see themselves, and are seen by others, is meant to be the stuff of evolution: slow and gradual, the layers added in increments. And yet Russia’s brutal attempt to swallow up its neighbour has changed something profound in little more than a week.
The UK government is directing its impotent fury at the oligarchs it has courted for 20 years. It will achieve little
We yearn to help. Wrong must be put right. Something must be done. The agony was plain on Boris Johnson’s face as a Ukrainian berated him for refusing to impose a no-fly zone on Russia. When an outrage is being perpetrated and untold numbers of people are dying hourly on our screens, impotence is misery. So we loudly voice our support of Ukraine. We hate Vladimir Putin, hate oligarchs, hate Russians. It eases our pain.
The early stages of war are always moments when reason is told to leave. As the drums of battle roll, courage demands emotion and unity is all. The only resolution is death or glory. Talk of compromise is treason. This is especially true in Europe, with its long history of bilateral conflicts that demand to be seen as “world wars”.
The child maintenance system is still heavily biased against women – and our system for addressing that is a shambles
Men allow men to behave badly to women. That pervasive misogynist bias is often obscured by the optics of more women in boardrooms, in politics, and as public experts. But follow the money: it always tells you where power lies.
From its misbegotten conception in 1993, I have followed the fate of the notorious Child Support Agency, now rebranded but worsened as the Child Maintenance Service (CMS).
Throughout the harshest years of austerity, Nick Forbes kept Newcastle going with ingenious measures. We need more like him
Political talent is in short supply. So is a willingness to step up and take the burdens and the blows of office. The leader of Newcastle city council, Nick Forbes, has been toppled as a result of destructive tribal shenanigans, likely to deter others from giving up most of their life to become councillors. All political careers end in failure, goes the old dictum, and it’s usually so.
But Forbes’s career has been no failure. As leader of the council for 11 years, he steered his city through the lost decade’s savage cuts, protecting vulnerable people where he could and upholding Newcastle’s pride with ingenuity and political imagination.
John Harris is joined by Dan Sabbagh, the Guardian’s defence and security editor, and the Guardian columnist Zoe Williams to talk about Vladimir Putin’s shocking decision to invade Ukraine and its implications for British politics.
To hear Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland and former US ambassador to Nato Ivo Daalder talking about Joe Biden’s response, search ‘Politics Weekly America’ wherever you get your podcasts