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Instant Opinion: ‘£28bn black hole’ in electric car plans

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 5 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. Philip Johnston in The Telegraph

on filling the fuel duty gap after 2035

There is a £28 billion black hole in plans for an electric car revolution

“The revenue consequences of a move to electric vehicles are considerable. There is an answer but it is not one that people warm to: road pricing. Charging motorists for how many miles they drive was advocated as long ago as 1964 by the Smeed Committee but not taken up... Apart from public hostility, the biggest problem with road pricing schemes is that they will inevitably cost a fortune to set up and administer. There is another option, which is to sell off the motorways and the trunk roads, raising about £100 billion, and charge a toll to use them. We could call them Boris boulevards.”

2. John Gray in the New Statesman

on the relevancy of an ancient Chinese military general

What Sun Tzu knew

“In Britain The Art of War is known to be one of the inspirations of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings. Removing the Conservative whip from Tory rebels last September provoked shock and horror in the liberal commentariat – not necessarily a disadvantage from Cummings’s point of view – while securing the party against further damaging divisions. A Conservative majority of 20 following a general election would be of little use if it could be undone at any point by a faction of 21 Tory Remainers. Sun Tzu writes: ‘The only way to manage the troops consists of making them equally resolute, so they act as one.’ As if illustrating this point, Johnson’s withdrawal bill has gone through the Commons without a single Tory dissenter or abstainer.”

3. David Howell in The Japan Times

on a soft new world

Is the world growing softer or just becoming wiser?

“The world is still a hard place — very hard indeed for millions of suffering refugees and displaced families, and oppressed minorities. And there is still North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with his ridiculous rockets, or China with its dodgy combat aircraft on its even dodgier South China Sea instant islands, to remind us that some people think hard power gesturing remains the winning way. But it is becoming slowly recognized that violence backfires and that soft methods, rather than harsh and confrontational measures and battle plans, now stand the best chance of stabilizing societies and alleviating the conflicts out of which suffering comes.”

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4. Patrick Gathara in Al Jazeera

on revisionism in Kenya

Singing the song of Daniel arap Moi

“Today, in death, the former dictator has not only escaped justice but has left behind a country that still sings his song. More than 17 years after he was forced from office, Kenya remains a country where power is primarily exercised for the benefit of those who wield it rather than for the sake of its citizens. It is a nation of nearly 50 million disposable people where the richest one percent, the vast majority either politicians or closely linked to them, may control anywhere between half and two-thirds of the nation's wealth. It is a country made in his image where a Kenyan official, who gets one of the highest salaries for a member of parliament in the world, can brazenly shoot a citizen in a nightclub.”

5. Kawther Alfasi in The Atlantic

on the changing nature of friendship

What happens to your social life when you have a baby

“I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that the structure of my life has indelibly changed - I can momentarily step outside of my parental identity, but I can never entirely cast it off. I have to work harder than I did pre-kids to make my old friendships work. For now, my benchmark for social fulfillment isn’t a state of pre-child ‘normalcy’, but a constant negotiation: I do my best to make room for the friendships that matter to me while accepting that I - at least occasionally - might have to comply with my child’s dubious taste in playmates.”

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