Instant Opinion

‘The winter of discontent should serve as a warning to Boris Johnson’

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

1

Liam Halligan in The Telegraph

Beware, Boris: Britain is hurtling towards a winter of discontent

Britain's turning point

“September represents new beginnings, a time to consider what lies ahead – for the government and the UK as a whole”, writes Liam Halligan in The Telegraph. “It strikes me that Britain, both economically and politically, is at a turning point not dissimilar to the mid-1970s”, he notes. And that time of “chronic uncertainty” culminated in the 1978/79 “winter of discontent” writes Halligan, where a “combination of soaring prices, intensifying strike action and a breakdown of vital public services sparked a radical political reset, embodied by Margaret Thatcher.” Of course, there are “key differences” between then and now – but “the similarities are eerie and should serve as a warning to the Prime Minister of just how quickly the economic and political tide can shift and the electorate’s patience can snap.”

2

Stephen Bush in the New Statesman

Why ‘the Biden doctrine’ on foreign policy is here to stay

on a new era

“How important was the speech Joe Biden gave last night?” asks Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. “The headline-grabbing parts are his defence of the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan”, yet the key part of his statement was about his intention to end major military operations to “‘remake other countries’”. “Whatever happens to Biden politically, what you might call ‘the Biden doctrine’ on American foreign policy will almost certainly be more enduring – and that reality is something that all politicians in the democratic world will have to adjust their own foreign policy to.”

3

John Rentoul in The Independent

The PM has ‘full confidence’ in his foreign secretary – but that doesn’t mean accountability is dead

on ministerial resignations

“I doubt that Raab will be moved in the next reshuffle unless other things go wrong,” writes John Rentoul in The Independent. “Being on a beach during an international crisis looked bad, but it is hardly the worst thing a minister has done,” he says. And that doesn’t mean that that “political accountability is dead.” Indeed, “[t]he idea that ministers used to resign with honour but now cling to office despite being bang to rights is refuted by a list of ministerial resignations compiled by Whitehall Monitor,” he continues. In the end, “accountability comes via public opinion”, Rentoul says. The reason Matt Hancock, for example, had to go “is that it would have been disastrous for the government to have kept a law-maker who was a law-breaker. And the reason Raab can stay is that public opinion is largely unmoved.” 

4

Sebastian Payne in the Financial Times

Britain needs to find a better role for its former prime ministers

on lost expertise

Theresa May is “the only living former UK prime minister still in parliament,” notes Sebastian Payne in the Financial Times. The remaining four have “left the political stage, declining a customary pew in the House of Lords.” While “[t]he honourable reason for quitting the Commons after leaving Number 10 is to avoid undermining one’s successor”, it seems “most former PMs really leave for money. Having enjoyed the gilded Downing Street existence of chauffeurs and private jets, few embrace a return to normal life.” Our ex-MPs should be persuaded to stay on in some form, argues Payne: one can “imagine how much richer the debate over Brexit would have been if Blair, Brown and Cameron had been present on the green benches.” Indeed, “British politics is sorely missing leaders with wisdom and expertise. Our ex-PMs have both.”

5

Charles Swanton in The Times

Britain’s cancer survival rates risk going backwards

on the waiting-list crisis

“Once again, ahead of the spending review, the health sector and its allies are lining up to make the case for more money. But this autumn will be different. For the first time in years, the government is expected to set out its spending for a longer period: the next three years,” writes Charles Swanton in The Times. “This is a huge opportunity to fix chronic problems of the NHS, particularly in workforce and infrastructure, drive innovations and address persistent inequalities in care,” he continues. But the challenges facing the NHS “pre-date the pandemic”, he notes. Dispiritingly, “the last time the NHS met its two-month cancer waiting time target was in 2015” and “[b]y the time Covid arrived, this statistic was the worst on record”. “We now risk a crisis, with cancer survival potentially declining,” writes Swanton. “But with political will and targeted investment this can be avoided.”

Recommended

Backstage in the White House: what is at stake for Boris Johnson?
Boris Johnson in New York
Behind the scenes

Backstage in the White House: what is at stake for Boris Johnson?

‘Why is there a shortage of CO2? Well, it’s got naff all to do with Brexit’
Piglets
Instant Opinion

‘Why is there a shortage of CO2? Well, it’s got naff all to do with Brexit’

‘Ignore Twitter and it becomes Angela Rayner in a broom cupboard’
Nadine Dorries
Instant Opinion

‘Ignore Twitter and it becomes Angela Rayner in a broom cupboard’

Quiz of The Week: 11 - 17 September
New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss departs No. 10
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week: 11 - 17 September

Popular articles

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying
The feet of a person sleeping in a bed
Tall Tales

Doctor says we should not sleep naked because of flatulent spraying

Abba returns: how the Swedish supergroup and their ‘Abba-tars’ are taking a chance on a reunion
Abba on stage
In Brief

Abba returns: how the Swedish supergroup and their ‘Abba-tars’ are taking a chance on a reunion

The man tasked with putting a price on 9/11’s lost lives
Kenneth Feinberg at a Congressional hearing
Profile

The man tasked with putting a price on 9/11’s lost lives

The Week Footer Banner