Instant Opinion

‘In the real UK, 007 might be queuing for petrol in his gleaming Aston Martin’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Dan Sabbagh in The Guardian

James Bond’s mission stays the same: letting Britain think it’s still a superpower

on 007’s bigger mission

James Bond has faced many challenges but his “true purpose”, suggests Dan Sabbagh in The Guardian, is to be “a not very secret weapon in the struggle to assert Britain’s place as a cultural superpower”. Amid the fuel crisis, the Afghanistan retreat and the “bizarre, Franglais-laden tit-for-tat with Emmanuel Macron”, the new instalment of 007 out this week offers “an alternative universe in which a powerful British secret service ranges across the world, albeit to foil dastardly, non-state enemies”, writes Sabbagh. Over the years, the franchise has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of revamped film tax rules in 2007 and was product-placed in the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. And, this time around, No Time to Die features a British military warship and Army soldiers. “Whatever the reality of Britain’s standing in the world, the projection of power that comes via a Bond movie is something the UK cannot otherwise buy.” But, in a real-life version of the UK, says Sabbagh, “007 might be queuing for petrol in his gleaming Aston Martin”.

2

Stephen Bush in the New Statesman

Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner both have a big problem: each other

on finding trust

Despite their shared interest in leadership rule reforms, “Labour’s two most powerful politicians have a dynamic defined by mutual suspicion”, writes Stephen Bush in The New Statesman. Angela Rayner helped secure union backing for Keir Starmer’s change in rules to give MPs more sway over leadership elections, but “the view from the Labour leader’s close allies is that his deputy has her own agenda”. Some Starmer supporters feel Rayner’s “growing profile constitutes a barely concealed pitch for the party leadership”. Yet, in the service of her leader, Rayner has also “risked alienating a section of Labour MPs who would be her natural supporters when the next leadership contest comes”. The difficulty for both, says Bush, “is that between them they hold all the qualities of an unbeatable election-winning politician, and yet they remain stuck in a forced political alliance”. He concludes: “The reality is that neither’s ambitions are ultimately served by the other’s failure. If they want the next Labour conference to be more of a success than this year’s, they will have to learn to trust and even like each other again.”

3

Con Coughlin in The Telegraph

The energy crisis offers a taste of future war

on a lack of grit

“If a shortage of truck drivers can cause nationwide disruption and inconvenience, just imagine the panic that might ensue if Britain’s national infrastructure were to suffer a genuine catastrophic collapse,” says Con Coughlin, The Telegraph’s defence editor. The past week has seen “conduct associated more with failing states than the forecourts of British petrol stations”. Dramatic advances in technology mean that future state-on-state conflicts are more likely to involve attacks on an enemy’s critical infrastructure – such as knocking out electricity and water supply or crippling financial services – than on a traditional battlefield, argues Coughlin. Therefore, “if a media report that simply raises the possibility of fuel supply shortages can provoke the scenes of panic-buying that have been witnessed throughout Britain this past week, it almost defies imagination how the public might react to real shortages caused by an enemy attack on our national infrastructure”.

4

Anthony Pahnke for Al Jazeera

This is what the death of democracy looks like

on a quiet peril

“A coup d’etat with tanks rolling in the streets? Or a civil war that rages as soldiers and guerillas fight for political power?” writes Anthony Pahnke for Al Jazeera. “Such scenes probably come to mind when thinking of a country where democratic institutions and norms are in peril. But a better representation may be what is currently under way in the United States.” From Florida to Iowa, Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed bills into law that restrict voting, just as polls suggest a clear majority of GOP voters believe that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. While little evidence of the latter exists, there have been “partisan gerrymandering efforts throughout the country, for years, that have effectively been cases of politicians picking their electorate rather than the other way around”. These dynamics are “afoot in what is supposed to be the bastion of democracy”, says Pahnke. “America is in a dark place.”

5

Patrick Strudwick on the i news website

As a gay man, I refuse to feel grateful that a same-sex couple was allowed on Strictly Come Dancing

on misguided gratitude

“Have you ever seen such an outpouring from a tango?” asks Patrick Strudwick on the i news website, following the “history-making” first dance between two men on Strictly Come Dancing last Saturday. Underneath the “paroxysm of bittersweet joy bathed in relief” was a hum of gratitude – and “such gratitude reveals something appalling”, says Strudwick. “It exposes not how wonderfully liberal Britain now is, but how hard LGBT people have to fight for the basic rations of human dignity. The right to dance with each other on television? Wow. What next: the right to queue at the Asda checkout?” It’s not just the entertainment industry that elicits this reaction: gay people getting the “right” to join the Army, donate blood and get married provoked a similar response. But Strudwick says he will only feel gratitude “if, by some metaphysical miracle, I can relive my life without the threats and blackout denial of our existence”. Then, he says, “I’ll be so grateful I’ll be tangoing in the streets”.

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