In Depth

Instant Opinion: Boris Johnson ‘serious about Tory transformation’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 16 December


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

1. Robert Colville in The Times

on One Nation Conservatism

Boris Johnson is serious about Tory transformation

“While it is still early days, I cannot help but feel that history is repeating itself in the way that Labour has been so disconcerted by Johnson’s triumph. As in 1997, a new PM’s enemies can’t bring themselves to believe that he means what he says. They want to rip off his One Nation mask to reveal the demon eyes beneath. But in doing so, they are engaging not with the actual politician and his actual agenda, but with a caricature of their own creation. I suspect this new government will surprise people with its radicalism — if not on the size of the state, then certainly on how the state operates. But it will also be driven by a determination to deliver.”

2. John Harris in The Guardian

on winning back working-class voters

A Labour revival must tap into the energy for change on the ground

“Many of the reasons for last week’s defeat have already become cliches, though that does not dilute their truth: people’s dismay with Corbyn’s leadership, the effectiveness of the Tory slogan “get Brexit done”, the fact that Labour’s relationship with its old, working-class base has been fraying for decades. But other parts of the story are still in danger of being overlooked. On the national stage, when Corbyn’s Labour tried to speak to the party’s old heartlands, it rarely found a register beyond a condescending narrative about decay and hopelessness, and the idea that only politicians in London could help: part and parcel of Labour’s enduring centralism, and a belief in the unreconstructed state that was ingrained in the old-fashioned hard-left politics Corbyn brought with him.”

3. Tim Stanley in The Daily Telegraph

on hypernormalisation

Britain’s cultural elite think those of us who voted for this Tory landslide are thick racists

“We live submerged in a culture that is at odds with most people’s values, yet it does its best to convince us that we are ‘the few’ and they – the comedians, the actors, the academics, the artists – are ‘the many.’ They have turned us into strangers in our own land. It’s comparable to a phenomenon observed in the USSR called hypernormalisation. The Soviet system was broken but the state wouldn’t admit it, and the ordinary people, because they weren’t even allowed to think of an alternative, became joint actors in a theatre of the absurd in which communism was great and everyone was doing well. Britain in 2019 is a liberal fantasyland in which soaps, films, comedies and cartoons tell us everyone is woke, hates Brexit and worships the NHS like a pagan god, except the Tories who are evil and therefore definitely going to lose. Because we’re all a bit scared of standing out, we pretend this is normal. The difference between the UK and the USSR, however, is that occasionally we go into the privacy of a democratic voting booth, where we can say what we really think.”

4. Sean O’Grady in The Independent

on how to win the next election

Labour can succeed again – but only if it shuns the kind of unbridled arrogance we saw in the Thatcher era

“Take the most popular Labour pledges of 2019 and civilise them. For example, nationalise the trains as a public service, if you must, but this time don’t say the RMT can run them. Show how much they would cost the taxpayer to run and invest in – and show the benefits in concrete terms – new services, rolling stock, travel times, fares. Don’t bother trying to nationalise 10% of everything that moves, or you'll get teased about nationalising sausages. Then the new shadow chancellor can make Labour’s spending, tax and borrowing plans less mind-bogglingly stratospheric, and have the Institute for Fiscal Studies approve them. They need armour plating against a Tory party that will use HM Treasury for political purposes. Following that, take a clearer more responsive and empathetic line on all the issues that your voters are screaming at you about – immigration, crime, social cohesion, schooling. Limit your ambition to, say, six deliverables and put them on a pledge card. Adopt Tory fiscal plans, with modest adjustments. Court the hostile media. Support, loudly, traditional popular institutions such as the monarchy and armed forces. Set priorities that are in tune with the people’s. Embrace aggressive marketing techniques. Do anything to win power. Don’t be a proud, principled loser.”

5. The Financial Times Editorial Board

on checks and balances

Trump’s impeachment is set to turn into a farce

“In January, the Senate will hold an abbreviated ‘trial’ in which the most senior juror, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has admitted he will co-ordinate every step with Mr Trump. Holding a president to account is the US constitution’s ultimate remedy for a renegade executive. In this case, however, the system will not even make a pretence of weighing the evidence. Mr Trump has all but been acquitted of abuses for which he is self-evidently guilty. The US mechanism of checks and balances will thus be left weaker at the end of the process than at the start.”

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