Instant Opinion

‘You can’t just cancel cancel culture’

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


Daniel Finkelstein in The Times

A new free speech law will harm free speech

on over-legislating

“In the Queen’s Speech the government promised to introduce a bill that would add a number of new regulations and regulators designed to protect free speech. I’m struggling to see the point of it. In fact, it could harm the very cause it is trying to advance,” writes Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. “You can’t just cancel cancel culture. You have to defeat it by argument,” says Finkelstein. “And you can’t make it illegal for students to have stupid ideas or every student in history, including me, would have ended up in jail.”


Tom Rogan in The Independent

The US government is getting serious about UFOs. This is why

on flying saucers

Washington is “abuzz” with talk of UFOs or, as the US government refers to them: “unidentified aerial phenomena”, writes Tom Rogan in The Independent. “No, this is not a case of collective insanity. Instead, the chatter reflects a now-established fact that some UFOs are real and true unknowns.” There is compelling evidence that trained military observers “have repeatedly seen – and continue to see – UFOs that perform in extraordinary ways that seem to defy our understanding of physics”, and government officials believe it is “exceptionally unlikely” that these UFOs are operated by Russia, China or a “tech genius such as Elon Musk”, he writes. “The US government is taking such investigations seriously – so why shouldn’t we?”


Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times

Look to the US for ‘workweek’ laws that work

on fair work

“When you can’t agree on how to fix something, it is worth taking a look at what your neighbours have done,” writes Sarah O’Connor in the Financial Times. In the UK, arguments over how to deal with insecure jobs have “dragged on for years with no resolution,” she writes. Across the Atlantic, implementation of “fair workweek laws” in several major cities in the US has made strides towards “improv[ing] stability for workers without depriving employers of flexibility”. While these laws are far from a “panacea” in improving work conditions, there’s evidence to suggest they “have made people’s lives better” – and improved sales in stores where workers were given better schedule stability. “It is still early days to fully evaluate the impact of America’s fair workweek laws,” writes O’Connor. “But they serve as a useful reminder that policy interventions do not have to be heavy-handed to make a positive difference to workers’ lives – and they might just help employers in the long run too.” 


Zoe Williams in The Guardian

‘Wokeness’: the trumped-up charge that silenced the Labour party

on conceptual battlegrounds 

“‘Wokeness’ is such a key concept in politics at the moment, decried by everyone from Laurence Fox to Tony Blair, that it’s a considerable act of public service when someone writes down what it actually means,” says Zoe Williams in The Guardian. In politics, the concept has become a “fundamental binary” – the woke versus the anti woke – “which boils down to what counts as real and what as fake in contemporary discourse.” We are supposed to accept that “real people care that there’s too much immigration, while fake people care about conditions in the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre”. The idea has had “staggering success – in silencing the opposition, through a series of syllogisms.” Williams concludes: “It’s clever, but it’s not that clever: it only works if progressive voices accept the proposition, and voluntarily silence themselves.”


Kate Andrews in The Telegraph

Boris Johnson is wasting his majority with a left-wing agenda

on an expanding state

“If you had fallen asleep mid-afternoon on election day 2019 and woken up to last week’s Queen’s Speech, you might struggle to guess who had won the keys to Downing Street. Perhaps it was Jeremy Corbyn after all,” writes Kate Andrews in The Telegraph. “Imagine learning it was a Conservative government, with a stomping 81-seat majority, who put this agenda forward. Was it not Boris Johnson who recently railed against a milkshake tax and nanny-state creep?” “Yet apart from some positive noise about free ports, the Queen’s Speech was dominated by state-run programmes to enhance the economy, including more flexibility to bail out failing industries,” she continues. “The Prime Minister, it appears, is in no hurry to cut his administration back down to size”. 


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