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Instant Opinion: Boris Johnson’s ‘backbenchers are running out of patience’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 21 August

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

1. Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph

on how the PM’s worst enemies may be his MPs

Be careful Boris: your backbenchers are running out of patience

“Tory MPs usually come in two types: pre-regicidal and actively regicidal. Yet none of them are close, this time, to wanting Boris Johnson gone. They’re still willing him to succeed, return to form, raise spirits and apply the daring leadership he showed in the Brexit referendum. But they are wondering whether this will ever happen. And whether it’s true that, as the Westminster rumour has it, the Prime Minister keeps switching moods over the virus: one day mustard-keen to get the economy moving, the next day terrified of a second wave. The moaning is growing into soft rebellion... A few months ago, it would be hard to think that a newly-elected Prime Minister with an 80-strong majority would have a serious party management problem. But in the last few months, all kinds of trends have been accelerated - including the speed with which a party loses patience with its Prime Minister.”

2. Michelle Cottle in The New York Times

on the former vice president’s unifying impulse

Joe Biden: The Anti-Chaos Candidate

“Many Democrats understandably long for their own bomb-throwing revolutionary. But Mr. Biden’s solid, soothing approach resonates with the legions of Americans who were exhausted by all the Trumpian turmoil even before the coronavirus upended their lives. Mr. Biden’s steadiness — his regular Joe-ness — won out over flashier, more exciting primary rivals. And as this pandemic drags on, the nation grows ever wearier. More than any ideological or policy particulars, at the core of the Biden candidacy is a promise to end the perpetual chaos of The Trump Show. This is what Team Biden was selling. Next week, as Mr. Trump takes center stage, the contrast between the two visions of leadership will become even clearer... Mr. Trump has never been interested in being a president for the entire nation. At his convention, as in his campaign, Joe Biden wanted to make sure that Americans know they have an alternative.”

3. Emily Tamkin in the New Statesman

on the fraud arrest of Trump’s ex-adviser

Steve Bannon and the art of the con

“... this allegation, potentially Bannon’s most transparent con, gives the rest of the game away. The people who donated to him and his cohort apparently felt passionately enough about a wall to keep out migrants and asylum seekers that they gave money from their own pockets to this cause. The state now accuses these four men of drawing on these donations for their own use. But that’s the whole point of courting and being courted by politics like Bannon’s. Someone promises to make you feel better by giving language with which you can, if you choose, openly hate people who are different, and in exchange you give them power. You feel more emboldened and they, in turn, become more prominent and more powerful. Maybe they can even enrich themselves. That you aren’t any better off, that the swamp isn’t actually drained, that the forgotten man and woman are still forgotten, isn’t the point. It never was.”

4. Max Hastings in The Times

on the death of boarding schools

The private schools racket is falling apart

“The coming winter promises to be a nail-biting season for the heads of independent schools, especially the less distinguished. The Covid-19 wolf is at their door. They face immediate anxiety about how many of the foreigners who now represent almost 40 per cent of their intake will turn up. Meanwhile, even before the virus many British parents were struggling to afford the fees. Uncertainty will persist through the coming economic tempest about who can and cannot keep paying. Sixty-something years ago, when my sister was at a London day school and I was at a boarding public school, the combined bills represented maybe one tenth of my parents’ combined gross earnings. In the 1980s and 1990s, I somehow educated three children out of my writing income and a scary overdraft. I could not achieve that now, however many books I sold.”

5. Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian

on how authoritarianism ultimately subverts itself

Belarus’s struggle is a powerful reminder of the value of freedom

“Of all the moving scenes from Belarus, one sticks in my mind. A man, probably in his 30s, holds his child on his arm. ‘The election was … ’ he says to the camera, pauses nervously for a long moment, glances sideways at his child, and then concludes explosively, ‘falsified!’ There you have the exact moment, crucial for any protest movement against any dictatorship, when the individual breaks through the barrier of fear. Yesterday, he would not have dared to complete that sentence in public. Today, he will find himself among tens of thousands who are shouting the same thing at the top of their voices, waving the red and white flag that stands for a better Belarus. Speak out for the future of the child on your arm.”


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