In Depth

Instant Opinion: Why snobs make the best novelists

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 12 February

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The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Claire Allfree in The Daily Telegraph

on hierarchical social structure in literature

We may hate snobs – but they make the best novelists“As an illustration of the inadequacies of using the word snob as an insult, perhaps we should go back to the 19th century and look to Oscar Wilde, that lofty aesthete whose social comedies with their dazzling wordplay are the apex of cultural elitism but who, in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, wrote one of the most anguished hymns to the suffering of the common man. Wilde’s snobbery was still intact, but through the prism of his own difficult experiences it had acquired a sort of profundity. Ultimately, it was the grandest man of letters who broke through the barricades of class and acknowledged a shared humanity.”

2. Donnachadh McCarthy on The Independent

on COP’s failures

Boris Johnson must channel the spirit of Churchill to tackle the climate crisis“Boris Johnson has proven he is a great disrupter. The evidence shows that the COP needs radical disruption if it is to deliver. Britain’s future is on the line, in a way it was not, even when Churchill faced Hitler across the Channel. Now is the time for Johnson to channel the inner Churchill he has intimated for so long. Prime minister: your country and your planet need you.”

3. Megan McArdle in The Washington Post

on the comeback of a Democratic contender

This Amy Klobuchar could beat Trump. Where has she been all year?“Amy Klobuchar seemed to vanish; the stand-in she sent out was a moderate too restrained to keep the other Democratic candidates from talking over her on stage… All that changed in a single debate last Friday night, when the old Amy, with the courage born of desperation, stormed out on stage and made her case forcefully for pragmatic moderation rather than glittering impracticalities. And darned if it doesn’t seem to have worked, at least on New Hampshire voters.”

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4. Romanian MEP Clotilde Armand in the Financial Times

on the European social contract

Eastern Europe gives more to the west than it gets back“When EU leaders meet next week about the bloc’s next seven-year budget they will be trying to solve a €1tn riddle based on a series of misconceptions. The budget talks are often miscast as a showdown between whining eastern and central European countries asking for more cash and frugal northerners insisting their generosity has limits. The richer countries paint themselves as charitable souls and criticise eastern European voters for electing Eurosceptic autocrats who pocket large EU cheques while railing against Brussels. But look at the bigger picture and a different story unfolds. Much of the wealth in Europe flows from poorer countries to richer ones — not the other way around.”

5. Helen Lewis in The Atlantic

on the struggle to deradicalise alienated young men

Why extremists need therapy“Punishment alone doesn’t unmake terrorists. No one in Britain would argue that extremists should be given an apartment, much less a spouse, but they do need a new life purpose to replace a perceived feeling of an existential struggle. They also need all the things that the British prison system struggles to give any inmate: mental-health support, education, training, and a future.”

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