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Instant Opinion: ‘Theresa May just gave the worst speech of her career’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 18 July

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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. Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph

on the prime minister’s farewell speech

I don’t say this lightly, but Theresa May just gave the worst speech of her career

“Even by Mrs May’s standards, it was spectacularly dull. Thunderously banal. Blisteringly bland. She introduced it as her ‘personal reflections’ on ‘the state of politics’, but it featured not an ounce of insight, wit or analysis. Instead, all we got was a trundling conveyor belt of torpid platitudes. Prejudice is bad. Teamwork is good. Some people on the internet are rude. The financial crisis left lots of people worse off, and populists took advantage. Many things are better than they were in the distant past, but there are other things that could improve. This, apparently, is what she’s learned, in three years as the most powerful person in Britain.”

2. Andrew Grice in The Independent

on the dangers of over-playing the ‘special relationship’

The biggest player in the Tory leadership contest isn’t Boris Johnson – it’s Donald Trump

“With no deal in the frame, a general election could come sooner rather than later. Team Boris are convinced their man can beat Jeremy Corbyn. Although not a big factor, they suspect a subsidiary one would be Corbyn’s long-standing anti-Americanism worrying some voters. Yet Johnson should beware: the public won’t like a craven PM who bends the knee to Trump.”

3. Richard McGregor for CNN

on China’s authoritarian president

The backlash is growing against Xi Jinping in China and around the world

“Some countries, like Australia and Canada, feel patronised and bullied. Neighbours worry they are being marginalised. Advanced industrial nations, especially Germany and South Korea, see China coming at them like an unstoppable, oncoming train. The US, for decades the world’s lone superpower, is confronted by a once-in-a-lifetime challenge from Beijing. All of these phenomena, previously bubbling under the surface, have burst into clear view during Xi’s time in office. Beijing’s opaque internal political system means it is hard to make judgments about domestic Chinese politics, but there can be little doubt that a backlash is underway at home, too.”

4. Barnaby Lenon in The Times

on education

Abolishing private schools would not improve education

“Let’s be clear at the outset: abolishing private schools would not improve provision for state pupils. In fact, state resources would be further stretched, with higher costs and bigger class sizes. Almost 580,000 children would be transferred into the state’s hands, leaving the Department for Education to foot the bill. Fundamentally, you do not improve education by tearing down excellent schools, nor is education a zero-sum game in which outcomes in one school improve because another one disappears.”

5. Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian

on the politics of philanthropy

The lesson from the ruins of Notre Dame: don’t rely on billionaires

“For the super-rich, giving is really taking. Taking power, that is, from the rest of society. The billionaires will get exclusive access to the ‘vision’ for the reconstruction of a national landmark and they can veto those plans, because if they don’t like them they can withhold their cash. Money is always the most powerful casting vote, and they have it. Never mind that much of this cash actually comes from the public, as French law grants a whopping 66% tax relief on any donation – the power is entirely private. The annual cap on such contributions doubtless constitutes a prudent reason for the big donors to stagger their generosity. Whether in France or Britain or the US, the rich give money to the grand institutions at the heart of our cultures to secure their social status in plaques and photo opportunities. In much the same way, they fund our political parties, then enjoy the kickbacks when they form a government.”

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