Lebanon’s political corruption can be rooted out – if its international donors insist | Lina Khatib

Change must come from within Lebanon, but Emmanuel Macron and others can help by ending their patronage of a disastrous regime

In the aftermath of the devastating Beirut port explosion last week, it is not just the role of the Lebanese political class that has come under scrutiny, but that of their international peers too. Sunday’s international donor conference led by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, raised €253m (£228m) in relief funds, but it also signalled an important change in rhetoric. For the first time, donors affirmed that relief funds would directly go to the Lebanese people, and that longer-term economic assistance would be dependent on Lebanon implementing structural reforms.

This affirmation came hot on the heels of growing international attention on rampant corruption among Lebanon’s ruling political class, which is widely blamed for the port explosion. It sends the message to Lebanon’s rulers that, while their country desperately needs foreign assistance to stand on its feet, no one can help Lebanon if it does not also help itself. But the communique issued following the conference glossed over the international community’s own role in sustaining Lebanon’s corrupt political class over a period of decades. At the aid conference, Macron said that Lebanon’s future is at stake. What donors need to recognise is that this future is a shared responsibility for them and Lebanon’s leaders alike.

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Dive for cover – Boris Johnson is invoking ‘morality’ in his Covid policies | Simon Jenkins

Yes, the schools should reopen next month – but where was the talk of morality at the height of the first wave?

We should beware. The prime minister has recovered from Covid-19 only to be struck down by a new ailment: morality.

Not reopening schools next month, says Boris Johnson, would be “socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible”. The harm done to children’s prospects and mental health would be “far more damaging” than any risk from the virus. “We have a moral duty” to act.

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The UK’s exam results farce only deepens the inequality between private and state pupils

With almost no scope for appealing the estimated A-level and GCSE grades, parents and students are expected to just take them

In July, I thought the major risk of this extraordinary exam results season would be the unconscious bias of teachers when they made their predictions of student grades. The effects might be quite subtle, and universities would have to be correspondingly nuanced in their response. I have to say, it never occurred to me that teachers would be broadly disregarded, and instead, any existing disparity between the private and state sectors, between affluent and deprived areas, would be baked in by design.

There is a political complacency to all this, an assumption that parents and students will simply weather it. And so here we are: a fortnight ago in Scotland, students from richer areas saw their predicted grades, if they were A to C, reduced by seven percentage point; in the poorer areas, 15. This, apparently, was to preserve “credibility” – if there had always been better grades in these richer areas, what would the world make of a year in which the poorer kids did somewhat less badly? What would it mean for the students of 2019 and 2021, to be sandwiched either side of this freak year in which deprivation didn’t show (so much)?

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Why did England have Europe’s worst Covid figures? The answer starts with austerity | Michael Marmot

Years of spending cuts and deepening inequality meant the worst off limped into this pandemic in a parlous state

• Michael Marmot is professor of epidemiology at University College London

“The pestilence is at once blight and revelation,” wrote Albert Camus in The Plague, “it brings the hidden truth of a corrupt world to the surface.” If that is true of Covid-19, as it was of the plague of Camus’ novel, then the UK’s dismal record is telling us something important about our society. We are doing badly: dramatic social inequalities in Covid-19 deaths; high rates in black, Asian and minority ethnic groups; and, now, the highest excess mortality in Europe.

The statistician David Spiegelhalter, in his wise and clear way, has been counselling us against drawing too much on international comparisons because of differences in the way Covid-19 deaths are assigned. Excess mortality is much more reliable. It is a measure of how many more deaths, from all causes, there were in each week of 2020 compared with how many would have been expected based on the average of the last five years.

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It would be a tragedy if the pandemic costs us the joys of train travel | Catherine Shoard

For all its faults, the rail network is a marvel that looks increasingly vulnerable with every week we stay away

When I moved to Harringay in north London eight years ago, its rail connections were key to the appeal. Piccadilly line, Victoria line, Overground, Great Northern, buses coming out of your ears: N4 had it all.

If anything, this has been even handier in the age of Covid. Our three-year-old is a dedicated train fan, and taking a Thermos to Harringay station (eight tracks, no barriers, all outdoors) became a near-daily lockdown outing. So, just as words like “pandemic” entered his lexicon a bit quicker than expected, so too did Azuma and East Coast, Grand Central and Hull Trains, Great Northern and Thameslink.

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Britain doesn’t have a government, it has a permanent campaigning machine | Alan Finlayson

Under Johnson and Cummings, No 10 is fixated on opinion polls and gimmicky announcements

The government’s frenetic campaign to “save our summer” has suspended the normal rules of the silly season. Amid the many confusing and shifting statements about the lockdown, No 10 has announced: a “strategy” to reduce obesity; “plans” for a “cycling and walking revolution”; a “bonfire” of planning laws; and, more ominously, the establishment of a panel to reassess judicial limits to state power.

You might have even missed the start of an online consultation on flood risk management in Carlisle, the £450,000 spent repairing a flood wall in Hereford, or chancellor Rishi Sunak’s visit to Stokesley, North Yorkshire, to learn about flood alleviation. Meanwhile, 127 employers were given awards for supporting the armed forces, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced £589m to “kickstart rail upgrades across the north”, plans for “congestion-busting” near Swindon were “unveiled” and a monument to the battle at Gallipoli restored.

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