Instant Opinion

‘You can’t calm the tabloid sharks by throwing steaks at them’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press


Hugo Rifkind in The Times

Celebrities like Meghan are there to be eaten

on celebrity obsession

Yesterday’s airing of Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle prompted a “news meltdown” among the UK press, writes Hugo Rifkind in The Times. It was an unsurprising reaction given that “royalty is Britain’s oldest soap opera”. And while it is hard not to sympathise with the “daily, grinding attention” to which Markle was subjected, it is puzzling that the royal couple saw this interview as “the way out”. “You don’t calm the sharks by throwing steaks at them”, he adds. The Royal media machine will “never calm down”, and the couple’s interview fed its “insatiable” appetite.


Jill Rutter in The Guardian

The Priti Patel bullying case shows the wider damage done to the civil service

on ministerial standards

The year-long Philip Rutnam “saga”, which began with his “dramatic” accusations of bullying against Home Secretary Priti Patel, ended this week with the two sides agreeing on a large cash settlement. But the Cabinet Office investigation into Patel’s behaviour has led to two departures, notes Jill Rutman in The Guardian. Alex Allan, an adviser on ministerial standards, and Helen MacNamara, head of propriety and ethics, have both resigned, with MacNamara heading to the Premier League. Civil servants may read this as a message that “standing up to ministers over behaviour, extravagance or rule breaking is not a well-appreciated protection from potential scandal”, but “career suicide”, she adds.


William Hague in The Telegraph

Like the Tories in 1997, Labour is in a far worse position than it realises

on Labour's identity crisis

“What exactly is the moderate Left?”, asks William Hague in The Telegraph. Answering this question is the dilemma facing Keir Starmer, having established that he is closer to the centre than his predecessor. To make things even more difficult, many of the announcements in last week’s Spring Budget sounded like “Labour positions”, the former Tory leader adds. Twenty years ago, the Conservatives were “struggling with daily life as an opposition because we hadn’t sorted out in our minds what conservatism should become”. “Today, Labour is in a similar bind”, he says. “It knows it wants to stand for greater equality. It has yet to decide what is the effective and up-to-date way of achieving it.”


Katy Balls in The Spectator

Sunak’s NHS payrise headache

on an NHS pay rise

Rishi Sunak’s recommendation for NHS pay is proving “contentious for ministers”, says Katy Balls in The Spectator. The chancellor may argue that pay rises cannot be justified for public-sector workers during a pandemic, but this is an argument that has had a “mixed reception” among the parliamentary Tory party. It is excellent fodder for Keir Starmer’s party too, and Conservative MPs are beginning to worry that they have the beginnings of another “politically painful row akin to the free school meals fiasco” on their hands.


Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times

Trade unions are back after a long absence

on the return of trade unions

Trade unionists have reasons to be “optimistic” in the UK, says Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times. When Boris Johnson told people to go back to work after the first lockdown, “the website that helps people find a trade union to join had more hits than ever before”. Political attitudes to unionisation are also softening in the US, and in New Zealand. And among young economists, there has been a “quiet change in economic orthodoxy”. The question now is whether unions themselves can make themselves “fit for the future” or will remain dominated by “structures and work cultures from the 1970s”, she adds.


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