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Instant Opinion: Boris Johnson ‘needs more than a slogan’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 18 November

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

1. Andrew Grice in The Independent

on the PM’s empty words

Boris Johnson is in a tough spot over his ‘levelling up’ agenda – he needs more than a slogan

“For months a debate has simmered inside government about whether it could still afford an ambitious ‘levelling up’ agenda after pumping more than £210bn into the economy in the coronavirus crisis. Cummings’s departure has now blown the lid off. In the vacuum his absence leaves, figures including Johnson’s new press secretary Allegra Stratton and his fiancee Carrie Symonds are trying to soften the harsh edges of Vote Leave’s approach. The green agenda symbolises Johnson’s return to being the liberal conservative who was London mayor. Johnson allies insist he can both go green and appeal to the Tories’ new tribe, that it is not an either/or. They point out that Stratton has been pressing for more action on ‘levelling up’ for months. They rightly say it is patronising to assume that voters in the north don’t care about the climate crisis.”

2. Stephen Pollard in The Daily Telegraph

on the Corbyn crisis

Risible Keir Starmer has shown the very opposite of leadership

“For Sir Keir merely to stand back and watch while a defining case like this was played out at the NEC shows the very opposite of leadership. It is all very well speaking about no political interference, but when the party is riven with factionalism, with allies of Mr Corbyn still holding great influence over the party’s governance, and with the hard-Left machine still exercising control over many local parties, it is not interference but leadership to take charge of forcing the party to change. Neil Kinnock did not stand back while Militant was thrown out – it was his seminal contribution to British politics.”

3. John Avlon on CNN

on letting Democrats off the hook

Post-Trump, the need for fact checking isn't going away

“Let’s start by recognizing reality. Fact checking Democrats this election cycle has offered a far less target rich environment. This is not because either party has a monopoly on virtue or vice, but because Democrats’ falsehoods during their presidential debates have been comparatively pedestrian - likely to focus on competing claims about calculating the 10-year cost of Medicare for All, or who wrote-what-gun control bill, or how many manufacturing jobs have been lost, or when a candidate really started supporting a raise in the minimum wage.”

4. Barbara Wesel on Deutsche Welle

on bending the rules

With Hungary and Poland, who needs enemies?

“It's about time they read the accession treaties they signed when they joined the European Union in 2004, which state that EU members are bound by democratic principles. These treaties are neither vague, nor are they open to interpretation or negotiation. And they clearly include an obligation to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of the press. Both these values have been undermined in Hungary for years, and Poland has increasingly followed suit. This week's veto of the €1.8 trillion budget by Hungary and Poland has catapulted the EU back into crisis mode - and coming to an agreement on the Covid-19 recovery plan was hard enough. But the bloc has itself to blame: it dropped the ball when, for years, it passively watched as first Hungary, then Poland, set up authoritarian structures.”

5. Rebecca Lawrence in The Guardian

on judging others

If lockdown has tipped you into problem drinking, you're probably not alone

“We have been drinking alcohol for millennia, enjoyably and disastrously. It is embedded in our lives, and also to relieve physical and mental pain. Alcohol is unavoidable. My patients tell me so, and I see it for myself as I walk down the street. I have no doubt that some people are more prone to developing alcohol problems. The reward evoked by alcohol in their brains, the relief of pain and trauma, is such that there can never be enough, and they come back for more, hungrily, ignoring any damage. Those to whom this doesn’t happen as intensely, or at all, can drink a glass and stop. There are many shades in between, but don’t judge others if alcohol doesn’t do it for you.”

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