Instant Opinion

‘Theresa May is reborn after a painful political death’

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

1

Cathy Newman in The Independent

When it comes to former PMs, some reinvent themselves better than others

on May’s rebirth

“In a premiership lasting a little under three years, the world watched [Theresa] May’s painful political death many times over,” writes Cathy Newman in The Independent. “Humiliated and lonely, she seemed destined only to enter the history books for what she failed to achieve.” And “yet she’s been reborn”, Newman writes. “Incapable of greatness as a prime minister, she is nevertheless making a mark on the backbenches.” Bolstered by a series of “well-chosen interventions”, it’s clear that “when she speaks, people from across the Commons now listen”. “No small feat for a woman who had been reduced to a meme by the time she left office.”

2

Stephen Bush in The New Statesman

I find taking the knee depressing – but I wouldn’t boo it

on weak gestures

“I have to be honest: I find ‘taking a knee’ profoundly depressing,” writes Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. “To me, it symbolises the endless ability of elite football to make rhetorical commitments to big and important changes without ever delivering on them,” he writes. “Arsenal Football Club’s players have knelt before every one of their games since the murder of George Floyd in May 2020,” notes Bush. Yet “in the same period of time, they have publicly distanced themselves from criticism of the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang to safeguard the club’s commercial interests in China, and they have continued to take money from the repressive governments of Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates, as evidenced by the slogans on their shirts”.

3

James Marriott in The Times

The culture war is running out of steam

on ideological battlegrounds

“When will the culture war end?” asks James Marriott in The Times. “To this I have two answers. The first: never. The second: sooner than you might think,” he writes. He starts with never: As “secular, individualistic modern society came of age in the Sixties, battles over faith were replaced with battles over personal identity”, and the “extraordinary influence of that revolution is demonstrated by the fact that all subsequent culture wars have been fought on the same template: our moral battles over race, gender and language,” contends Marriott. “There is no reason why this struggle shouldn’t replace the old religious culture wars as the West’s new normal,” he writes. But “my suspicion is that they have already peaked with the statue wars of last summer, perhaps”, he writes. “Eventually they will fade. Before they come back again, and again, and again.”

4

Jemima Kelly in the Financial Times

Covid lab-leak theory shows the ‘fact wars’ are still raging

on politicised truths

“The conversation around Covid-19’s origins has shifted markedly in recent weeks,” says Jemima Kelly in the Financial Times. “Suddenly, the idea that the virus could have come from an accidental lab leak, once dismissed as a conspiracy theory, is considered a possibility – even a likelihood, by some.” Where has the shift come from? While one might assume it’s “on the back of new evidence”, it appears “the facts haven’t changed in any material way, though some new information has emerged”. “What has changed, however, is that the lab-leak theory has become politically acceptable,” she writes. “It seems it is only now that Donald Trump – who claimed in April 2020 to have evidence that Covid-19 had emanated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – has departed the White House that the possibility that the virus was man-made can be entertained.”

5

Kristina Murkett on UnHerd

Abolishing grammar schools created today’s poshocracy

on fighting polarisation

“If grammar schools had been allowed to continue, would private schools have been the casualties of Britain’s ‘meritocratic moment’?” asks Kristina Murkett on UnHerd. “And if so, is the abolition of grammar schools at least partly to blame for our current poshocracy?” That’s not to say that grammar schools were, or are, “perfect” – far from it. “The 11+ is a crude, overly coached entrance exam and existing grammar schools only take a tiny percentage of students on free school meals,” she writes. Nonetheless, academically selective schools have a track record of “providing an escalator into the elite”. Indeed, the “smug superiority of the self-perpetuating elite is partly responsible for the political upheavals of the last five years”, Murkett writes. “If we want to fight polarisation between the Right and Left in our politics, then we must also fight polarisation between private and state schools.”

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