In Depth

Instant Opinion: Nationalists are ‘less united than ever’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Thursday 23 April

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

1. Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times

on authoritarian leaders

Trump, Xi and other nationalists are less united than ever

“There are theoretical contradictions within populism. This is a creed that cannot decide what it thinks about personal freedom. It resents technocratic bossiness while brooking no checks and balances in the protection of the homeland. Mr Trump claims ‘total authority’, yes, but to loosen restrictions on people, not to tighten them (except for would-be immigrants). If this tension is evident in one leader, imagine its permutations for policy across several governments across several continents across several issues. Even according an ‘-ism’  to such a disparate bunch is to flatter them. It is understandable that we do. We are a pattern-recognising species, and sometimes a pattern-inventing one. It is consoling to detect some kind of shape to the world. But the point is to not make the pattern itself more frightening than anarchic reality. No doubt, the momentum has been with authoritarians in recent times. The question is whether they add up to a cohesive front against democracy. An empire of illiberalism, on which the sun never sets, assumes more unity than could feasibly exist among national egoists. It just took a crisis to show it.”

2. The Guardian Editorial

on Dominic Raab

Out of his depth

“[Confusion over EU procurement schemes] reinforces the impression of a government that was ill prepared for a crisis that demanded competence more than rhetorical bluster, and is failing now to get sufficient grip and undo damage done. Partly that is a symptom of over-centralisation and reliance on the individual authority of the prime minister, whose focus is necessarily elsewhere. But capable ministers and a resilient administration would be compensating better for Mr Johnson’s absence. That they are not, that the whole system seems obviously adrift, running on bluster and improvisation, testifies to flaws. Mr Raab is obviously out of his depth. Sadly, it seems his painfully shrunken stature is an accurate measure of the government he currently leads.”

3. Sherelle Jacobs in The Telegraph

on coronavirus and Brexit

Despite liberal bubble hysteria, the public will back Boris over lockdown crunch-time

“If he allows the pandemic to wreck his mission to deliver liberty from rule by Brussels and London-centric elites, his new base will collapse. On the other hand, if he can use the importance of this imperilled mission as his mandate for weening the people off lockdown, he’ll come out stronger. It smells like the Government gets this. It has ruled out an extension to the transition, making a no-deal Brexit highly likely, and confirmed that HS2 will go ahead; groundwork-laying, maybe, to square with the public that to achieve Brexit systems change and level up the country, Britain must go back to work.”

4. Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail

on a Virgin Atlantic bailout

Branson may be a tax-avoiding wastrel, but Virgin still deserves a lifeline

“The whole point of the Government’s business rescue is to hibernate the UK economy and bring back normally profitable companies. There should be no special deals for Branson but his UK Virgin Atlantic employees should be entitled to furlough funds and the group to apply for credits under the Bank of England’s financing scheme for larger companies. If this can’t work technically then the Government should be prepared to take a temporary equity stake as it did with the banks. Branson created something good. There will be no economic benefit if the transatlantic routes largely are reduced to a code sharing BA-American alliance versus a United Airlines duopoly.”

5. David Aaronovitch in The Times

on lessons from the Spanish Flu

We’ll be free to enjoy the Roaring 2020s

“You might expect the 1920s to have been a decade of painful reconstruction, caution and cultural conservatism. Instead we got what became known as ‘The Roaring 20s’. In America and in Europe the postwar, post-pandemic reaction was an explosion of cultural and artistic innovation and a revolution in social attitudes.”

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