Instant Opinion

‘If Michelangelo spent all his time on chin-ups he might not have done the Sistine Chapel’

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


Lionel Shriver on UnHerd

Your gym routine is worthless

on low-bar exercise 

“The elevation of fitness to the highest of attainments is a sure sign of a culture grown neurotically inward and stunted. It’s a sign of diminished aspirations,” writes Lionel Shriver on UnHerd.  “When ‘self-improvement’ entails not learning German but doing star jumps, we’re aiming to clear the lowest of bars,” she continues. “In the end, no matter how much agony we undergo to build our biceps, those perishable muscles will still atrophy in old age and then end up on the scrap heap – at which point, what have we got to show?” “The whole purpose of maintaining a functional body is to be able to do something else: write books, invent new software, land a rover on Mars. Theoretically, Michelangelo could have spent all his time on chin-ups and never have got round to the Sistine Chapel.” 


Charles Moore in The Telegraph

Andrew Marr can’t speak in his own voice on the BBC? Good

on impartiality rules

Andrew Marr is reportedly itching to leave the BBC after revealing the “biggest single frustration” of working for the broadcaster is “not being able to speak in your own voice”, notes Charles Moore in The Telegraph. “Good. That is exactly how it should be,” Moore writes. As the BBC is funded by a compulsory licence fee, the organisation “must not allow its employees to ‘speak in their own voice’ on controversial subjects”, Moore says. “If they wish to speak out, that is perfectly understandable, but they must follow the logic of their position and leave the BBC. It is as simple as that.” “The fact that Mr Marr feels this frustration is a small sign that perhaps, under the new director-general, Tim Davie, the corporation is paying more than lip service to its key founding principle.”


Hugo Rifkind in The Times

I’m proud of my country, warts and all

on interpreting the past 

Last week, Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, wrote an article in The Sunday Telegraph hitting out at what he sees as a new tendency for the public discussion of history to “automatically start from a position of guilt and shame or the denigration of this country’s past”. In Dowden’s argument, however, there is something “dishonest and malign going on”, writes Hugo Rifkind in The Times. “He claims to want a ‘comprehensive, balanced account of the past’ but he has nothing but spluttering damnation for people who point out the bad bits,” writes Rifkind. The culture secretary “particularly madly” insists our museums and churches were “built for joy”. “Seriously? Has he not seen the guy in some of them who has been nailed to planks?” Dowden “is as much of a censor, of a totalitarian moralist, of an advocate of the memory hole, as any statue-smasher. He claims to want more history. He actually wants less.”


Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times

Netanyahu’s master plan for Israel and Palestine has failed

on a lack of statesmanship

“Until about a week ago, it looked like Benjamin Netanyahu had a good chance of disproving the adage that ‘all political careers end in failure’,” writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. “His grip on power in Israel was weakening. But even if he lost office, Netanyahu would still leave politics as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister ever – and one of its most consequential.” But over the past week, writes Rachman, “Netanyahu’s plan for securing Israel’s future has collapsed. The Israeli prime minister’s hope that the Palestinian issue was safely sidelined has proved to be a delusion.” There is one upside to the current crisis, however. “After the fourth inconclusive election in a row, [Netanyahu’s] opponents were on the brink of forming a coalition government that would finally lever him out of power.” “A successful effort to cling on to power – and to fend off the corruption cases against him – would demonstrate that Netanyahu remains a master political tactician. But the upsurge of violence this week has gravely undermined his claim to be a statesman,” Rachman concludes. 


Polly Toynbee in The Guardian

Covid experts warn against foreign holidays, so why is Boris Johnson so keen?

on a lax approach

“Here we go again, opening up foreign travel and pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues indoors, despite the health secretary, Matt Hancock, warning that this new variant transmits faster and could spread ‘like wildfire’ among the unvaccinated,” writes Polly Toynbee in The Guardian. “The mystery is why holidays abroad are given such priority. Though the risk is hard to quantify, leading experts warn against travel,” she writes. It is an odd political choice, too, for a prime minister “greedy for popularity”. Boris Johnson “oddly ignores public opinion on the borders: the public puts safety well above foreign holidays”, notes Toynbee. He could end up paying “a high political price for a third wave”.


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