Instant Opinion

‘Boris Johnson’s real danger is sat behind him’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Giles Fraser for UnHerd

Will the Tories pay for their sins?

on where Boris’s worries should lie

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, “greed, lust and gluttony are Tories, surely”, writes Giles Fraser for UnHerd. “Collectively” they amount to “sleaze”. Conservative ministers’ “fall from grace” is usually “all about willies and wallets”, but “Tory sleaze presents a kind of trap for Labour”, writes Fraser. “The naughtier Boris gets, the more Keir Starmer is transformed into some sort of lawyer/teacher authority figure whom we would secretly like to thumb our noses at,” and voters continue to “fall for” the Conservatives’ “juvenile bullshit”. Boris Johnson remains ahead in the polls, and Owen Paterson’s constituency “seem relatively unperturbed by last week’s shenanigans”. What will do it for Johnson is “his political cack-handedness”, says Fraser. Many of the PM’s own ministers were “fuming and embarrassed” after being “frogmarched” to vote against Paterson’s suspension on Thursday. “The real danger” is behind the prime minister, not in front of him. Tories “too do wrath”, says Fraser. “Boris beware.”

2

Lorna Finlayson for The Guardian

Cutting tuition fees in England wouldn’t be good news for universities - or students

on paying the price of marketisation

The government is said to be contemplating a tuition fee cut of £750. Why? Because “the large and growing proportion of graduates unable to repay their debts” has not “reduced the cost of higher education to the taxpayer”, as promised when fees tripled in 2012, writes the University of Essex’s Dr Lorna Finlayson at The Guardian. The rise was entangled with “a broader project of marketisation”, and the “architects” of today’s system “always anticipated that some institutions would go bust”, and “new, private ‘providers’ would take their place”. Competition “has transformed higher education to a degree that is difficult to appreciate from the outside”, writes Finlayson. University life has become “a never-ending student recruitment drive”, while “ever-increasing resources are ploughed into vanity building projects” as “support services are cut or outsourced”. Casual contracts are increasingly the norm, and “workloads have spiralled”. Reducing fees “won’t solve any of this”, and “a reversal of marketisation” ultimately “seems further away than ever”.

3

Edward Lucas for The Times

Feeble EU lets Russia get away with murder

on lacking leadership

You’d be forgiven for mistaking “the geopolitical drama swirling across the continent of Europe” as “the stage-setter for an airport thriller”, writes Edward Lucas for The Times. The death of diplomat and undercover Russian security services officer Kirill Zhalo in Berlin last week “is the murkiest twist”. Clearer is “the message on the Polish frontier”. But Russia “has broader divide-and-rule plans”, with energy “its biggest weapon”. The “supply squeeze” is hitting European countries, with the “immediate aim” of the Kremlin securing the green light on Nord Stream 2. Longer term, it hopes to “bust Europe’s liberalised gas market and return to an era of long-term contracts” that would “entrench Russian influence”. Decision-makers across Europe “are failing badly”, writes Lucas, and the European Union “crippled by its divisions” as it “yearns vainly for dialogue” with Russia. “A systematic, coordinated response” is needed to challenge Moscow’s “bluff and bullying”.

4

Annaliese Griffin for The New York Times

How to buy nothing new this holiday gifting season

on second-hand festive shopping

“If you’re getting a gift from me this year, it’s probably going to be second hand,” writes Annaliese Griffin for The New York Times. Disrupted supply chains “do not have to ruin the holidays”, and may in fact bring pause for thought about “the annual marketing drive telling us that we must start spending now and keep spending through December to manifest a Christmas morning of abundance and cheer”. Griffin’s view is not that of “a Grinch”; it’s more about “breaking out of a consumer mind-set that demands we constantly buy things”, she says. Every item bought “puts into motion a global chain of events”, usually starting with oil extraction and plastic packaging until, after some time, they “most likely end up in a landfill”. These gifts bring “so little pleasure”, and while present shopping that doesn’t depend on a wish list “requires more thought and work”, it’s ultimately “a lot more fun”, Griffin says.

5

Victoria Richards for The Independent

In coming for Big Bird from Sesame Street, the anti-vaxxers have finally pushed it too far

on unstable arguments

“Everyone’s favourite giant yellow bird” tweeted that he’d received his Covid-19 vaccine at the weekend, writes Victoria Richards for The Independent. President Joe Biden expressed his support for the Sesame Street character, but Big Bird’s news sparked a “downright abusive” response from certain corners of the internet. The “sweet irony” of an anti-vaxxer who said parents letting their children get jabbed exhibited “strange cultish behaviour” was not lost on the writer. The “furore” was “another example of a distracting ‘culture war’ designed to take our attention away from bigger issues”. But it raised a question on the responders’ reasoning, says Richards: if anti-vaxxers’ arguments “are so fragile that they feel threatened by a person dressed up in an animal costume, then do they have an argument at all?” They’d be better off reminded of Big Bird’s own advice to “never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself”.

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