In Depth

Instant Opinion: Conservatives ‘hollowing the state and consolidating power’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Monday 30 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 Fisher in The Guardian

on dismantling the system from within

The Conservatives are hollowing the state and consolidating power: democracy is at stake

“For 15 years now, the Freedom of Information Act has been hugely important in increasing the transparency and scrutiny of government. Strangely, Blair continues to defend the Iraq war but regrets the act for partially opening up the ‘confidentiality’ of government. Michael Gove clearly shares his scepticism, as under him the Cabinet Office has established a unit that is actively delaying or blocking the release of information legally demanded under the act. The Conservative party chair, Amanda Milling, has said the Electoral Commission should be overhauled or abolished. Its current chair, John Holmes, is being forced out and mandatory voter ID is being mooted, which would suppress working-class voters who are less likely to have ID – another unwelcome import from the US, where voter suppression has long been part of Republican strategy. The Electoral Commission has been a brake on well-funded Conservative party election campaigns, as well as the leave campaign in the 2016 referendum.”

2. Trevor Phillips in The Times

on pointing fingers

The woke are gaslighting us into surrender

“Dismayingly, those allegedly responsible for the education of young minds are caving under the pressure and abandoning principle for the quiet life. Cambridge University is proposing a change in statutes that would require staff to display respect for the views of all colleagues — inter alia misogynists, fascists, Islamists, homophobes, flat-Earthers, climate change deniers, racists and antisemites. Despite a spirited campaign led by a minority academic, Arif Ahmed, the five men and one woman who occupy the most senior roles in the university — all white — appear to have been manipulated into overturning centuries of dedication to freedom of thought and tolerance under the guise of compassion for minorities. Maybe when they read the ‘woke’ bible White Fragility, they took the title as an instruction to deliver rather than a warning to avoid.”

3. Rana Ayyub in The Washington Post

on India’s deepening schisms

The hateful love ‘jihad’ conspiracy in India is going mainstream

“In recent weeks and days, the Indian right has been waging a campaign against any depictions of interfaith relations, including attacking Netflix for showing a kissing scene between a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl. These attacks keep feeding the dangerous ‘love jihad’ conspiracy theory, the proponents of which seek to ultimately constrain and restrict the freedom of Hindu women and further demonize Muslims in India. Videos of Hindu vigilantes beating up Muslim boys for allegedly falling in love with Hindu girls once generated universal condemnation. Now these attacks are gaining legitimacy. In a country whose guiding principle was love and respect for a plurality of views, faiths and cultures, the ruling party’s attacks on interfaith love to consolidate the support of Hindu nationalists are part of Modi’s broader assault on our once-vibrant democracy.”

4. Will Bunch in the Philadelphia Inquirer

on cinematic slaughter

From Terre Haute to Tehran to your grandma, Trumpism is revealed as a death cult in the end

“For a man who too often talked and occasionally governed more like a mob boss than like the 45th president of a democratic republic, it’s sadly fitting that the final days of Donald Trump’s White House are playing out like a closing montage from one of The Godfather movies. Cue the operatic aria, or maybe the piano riff from Layla, as the camera pans over the bloody pavement in a faraway village in Iran and the windshield of a sedan riddled with bullet holes, as a top nuclear scientist is brutally whacked just days after a not-so-secret sit-down between the crime bosses of Saudi Arabia and Israel with Trump’s traveling consigliere. The brutal killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is arguably the most cinematic moment in our Trumpian death montage, but it’s not the most lethal. At a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department is racing to commit state-sanctioned murder against five more inmates before Trump leaves office — the first time since 1889 that a lame-duck presidency has carried out any executions at all.”

5. Hugh Eakin in the New York Times

on the ancient spoils of modern war

When an enemy’s cultural heritage becomes one’s own

“Perched on a rugged slope in the western part of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region, Dadivank is one of the hundreds of Armenian churches, monuments and carved memorial stones that will come under the control of predominantly-Muslim Azerbaijan according to a cease-fire agreement reached earlier this month. Some of those structures — like the Amaras monastery and the basilica of Tsitsernavank - date to the earliest centuries of Christianity. For many Armenians, turning over so much of their heritage to a sworn enemy poses a grave new threat, even as the bloodshed has for the moment come to an end. Their concern is understandable. Under the cease-fire, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis uprooted by a previous war in the early 1990s will be able to return. In a victory speech on Nov. 25, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan suggested that Armenians have no historical claims to the region, asserting that the churches belonged to ancient Azerbaijani forebears and had been ‘Armenianized’ in the 19th century.”

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