In Depth

Instant Opinion: the Tories are ‘hollowed out and filled with Boris Johnson’s vanity’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 26 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. Rafael Behr in The Guardian

on a loss of patience on the Conservative backbenches

The Tory party has been hollowed out and filled with Boris Johnson's vanity

“There is a warning in the condition of the US Republican party, which this week adopted a policy platform of explicit, blind allegiance to Donald Trump. Nothing else. Differences of culture and constitution diminish the comparison with American politics, yet there is a likeness in the way the Tories fell in thrall to a cult of incoherent nationalistic vandalism, called it renewal, and allowed their party to be hollowed out for use as a vessel to be filled with one man’s vanity. Last year Conservative MPs thought Johnson was their saviour. In time they may see him as a parasite. They aren’t at that stage yet, not while the party is just about ahead in opinion polls. If that changes, the unravelling could be fast and messy. The one Tory ethic that persists through every ideological mutation is the will to power. Johnson delivered it, thus earning the right to mould what it means to be Conservative in his own image. But it is a thing without substance, a brittle shell around a void. It only looks solid in the hands of a winner.”

2. Alice Thomson in The Times

on getting children back in the classroom

It’s adults who are the real school snowflakes

“It’s not children who are the snowflakes any more: they have been resilient and adaptable as they learn to cope with the dystopian Covid world that is discombobulating their vital early years. It’s adults who are having the meltdown... As a school governor I’ve seen the endless conflicting advice given to head teachers by the government, preventing parents from discovering what the new arrangements will entail. No wonder their WhatsApp groups are full of anxious concerns as they weigh up whether to buy new shoes for next week. Instead we should be sending all pupils back and promising their education will improve, that we have learnt from the virus, that there will be less of an obsession with exams and more emphasis on hobbies that they may have enjoyed during lockdown — sport, art, leisure activities — and more judicious use of online learning.”

3. Patrick O’Flynn in The Daily Telegraph

on heritage being progressively eroded away

We, the patriotic majority, must fight for the Empire against woke culture warriors

“Ladies and gentlemen, from this point on we must gather our courage and speak up in public, in mixed gatherings, online and everywhere else in defence of and even outright praise of the British Empire, risking the wrath of ‘cancel culture’ in the process. We must insist on a balanced account of its pluses and minuses, noting the gifts of the ideal of an impartial civil service and a robust, non-corrupt courts system that it bestowed on many countries, along with amazing wealth-generating infrastructure. We must point out that the Empire inspired genuine affinity among many of its subjects, such as to inspire them to lay down their lives when Britain stood against the unique evil of Nazi Germany. And we must say that the creation of the Commonwealth after the voluntary rolling back of the Empire was an inspired and humane way of Britain expressing its sense of ongoing sense of obligation towards former colonies and they, in return, expressing their complex and abiding bond with us.”

4. Tom Peck in The Independent

on another strange night at the Republican National Convention

Melania Trump really did just say America deserves ‘complete honesty’ from its president

“Giving her first speech in four years, the keynote address at the second night of an ever more unhinged Republican National Convention, she did her best to stick to her one true guiding principle of complete moral invisibility, but circumstances rendered the task impossible. Ultimately, the potential re-election of Donald Trump in three months’ time rests on the bullshit-swallowing capacity of the American people, and it’s best to understand the still early stages of the race as a kind of test run. Here really was Melania Trump, standing in the White House Rose Garden, reading from a teleprompter, offering solidarity with the fears of mothers all across America about what social media is doing to their children. She said these words as part of her own central role in the presidential election campaign of the world’s leading online troll, whose own accounts have had to be censored and moderated on account of their containing flagrant lies and mad conspiracy theories. She really did do her level best to look America in the eye and tell them that they ‘deserve complete honesty from their President.’”

5. Frank Bruni in The New York Times

on lies and conspiracy in Trump’s re-election pitch

The Epic Shamelessness of the Republican Convention

“Conventions lie. Or at least they tell extravagant fibs. That’s how they transform their nominees from mere mortals to near messiahs. That’s how they whip up the faithful and woo the agnostics. But the Republican convention is going well beyond that. It’s less a feat of pretty storytelling than an act of pure derangement. To turn Donald Trump into a president worthy of a second term, speakers are conjuring an entirely different person in his place. I can tell that Trump is the man they’re talking about, because he keeps popping up amid all the monumental imagery. (Did Leni Riefenstahl consult via séance?) But I otherwise don’t recognize their version of Trump. Their Trump brims with empathy. Their Trump burns with passion to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. Their Trump heroically spared the country from the worst ravages of Covid-19, which is surely news to the relatives and friends of more than 175,000 Americans (and counting) who have died from it.”

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