In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘The Queen was right to put the Firm first’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 20 January

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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. Clare Foges in The Times

on Megxit

The Queen was right to put the Firm first

“Every tribe needs rituals and celebrations to punctuate life, make us grateful for what we have, bring jollity, levity and togetherness. In families we have birthdays, weddings, parties. In communities we have street events, festivals. For a nation to feel like a coherent entity it needs its communal events too. Outside major sporting events like the Olympics, the royal family is the central medium through which this is achieved. The cast of characters don’t matter too much. What matters is that there is a living reason for the castles and carriage rides, the pageantry and trumpetry, the black stallions and billowing Union Jacks, the Red Arrows flypasts and roaring Spitfires, the sights and evocative sounds that periodically lend this country a certain magic. You may have heard the expression “room meat”, (people invited to parties just to fill the room); the royal family are really just ‘tradition meat’. We need human centrepieces to give us a reason for all the pomp and ceremony.”

2. Martin Townsend in The Daily Telegraph

on celebrity

Harry and Meghan will now have to compete for airtime with other A-listers, and they may struggle

“The couple will need to craft an interesting, ongoing life away from their Royal duties and the extraordinary access that affords them, to keep them visible, relevant - and worth interviewing. Being famous for being famous has a short shelf-life.”

3. John Rentoul in The Independent

on Scottish independence

If we want to keep Scotland in the UK, we are going to have to fight for it

“The problem with refusing to allow the SNP to hold another referendum is that it allows Sturgeon the easy argument of process – ‘arrogant Westminster denies Scottish people a voice’ – instead of the hard argument for independence. I fear that the longer this goes on, the more support for independence will grow. Which is unfortunate, because the case for independence is weaker than ever. It cannot now be denied that the immediate effect of breaking away will be to make Scotland poorer. The gap between public spending and taxes raised in Scotland is bigger than in the rest of the UK, and the difference is covered because our national taxes are shared on the socialist principle of need.

4. John Harris in The Guardian

on political advertising

Trump’s greatest ally in the coming election? Facebook

“The traditional media might still understand elections in terms of speeches, campaign launches and set-piece interviews. But as evidenced by Boris Johnson’s victory after weeks of eluding any meaningful scrutiny, this is not where politics really happens any more. Facebook offers a dual enticement to campaigns and candidates: you can spend no end of money spreading falsehoods, and also be assured that you are using the most effective means of political communication anyone has ever invented.”

5. Jeremy Cliffe in the New Statesman

on America’s place in the world

The US’s problem is that it is too big to be constrained by the world but now too small to dominate it

“Much of what is classed as Trumpism is something broader: the birth pangs of a new form of American power that is not down or out but contested and unsure. Washington had a limited period of hegemonic power and squandered it by hubristically trying to reshape the Middle East rather than preparing for a rising China. It will be in a semi-hegemonic position for the rest of the century. China will overtake the US economy soon but will lag behind American military spending for a long time. We may even be closer, in years, to India overtaking the US economy than to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In other words, the world system will be unstable for the entire 21st century. The best that progressives can wish for is that democratic international institutions – the only long-term solution to geopolitical rivalries – gain power and influence over the course of the century. Therein lies humanity’s best hope.”

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