Instant Opinion

‘Let puritanical values govern parliamentary rules’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press


David Aaronovitch in The Times

Britain is only clean if it clings to the rules

on Tory sleaze 

“Something that had previously just been bent was broken last week and the prime minister personally broke it,” writes David Aaronovitch in The Times. Boris Johnson’s decision to whip his Commons majority in favour of setting aside Owen Paterson’s suspension for breaking parliamentary rules “was an act belonging to a different dimension”, he continues. “We’ve learnt recently, not least from Donald Trump, that many rules are only rules until someone powerful and with popular support says they aren’t,” Aaronovitch says. The government’s eventual U-turn on standards was not due to any “virtue” on their part, “because we know that if they could have got away with it, they would”. “Let’s make tougher rules. Once made, let’s enforce them officiously,” he concludes. “Let’s make it as hard as possible for our leaders to be unaware of them and let’s punish or restrict those public officials who put their personal gain above their duty to the country. On this, let puritanical values govern.”


Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian

Muddled, top-down, technocratic: why the green new deal should be scrapped

on an unworkable ideal

“What binds together such disparate souls as Noam Chomsky and Keir Starmer, Yanis Varoufakis and Joe Biden, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Caroline Lucas?” asks Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian. “They all want a green new deal.” There is “only one project [that] truly unifies the mainstream left across Europe and America today: trying to limit climate breakdown by overhauling a noxious economic model”, he writes. “So aren’t I, as a gainfully employed Guardianista, coming to join the joyous party?” His answer is no. “The project itself – supposedly a stark, bold, urgent idea – is a conceptual fog,” he argues. “Like some kind of policy peasouper, it nestles densely around arguments of ecological limits, social justice and economic transformation, allowing only a glimpse of their outlines.” That may suit many on the left, serving, as it does, “to obscure all their disagreements and so keep the peace just a little longer”. However, “at some point the warm words and the broad coalitions lose their charm and you are left just as the delegates in Glasgow are: facing the grim reality of a planet on fire”.


Marina Koren in The Atlantic

The Uncomfortable Truths of American Spaceflight

on space ambitions

“Update your calendars, everyone: NASA isn’t going to put people on the moon in 2024,” writes Marina Koren in The Atlantic. “If your reaction to this news is something like, Wait a second, what? NASA is trying to land people on the moon again? – that’s fine,” she says. There have been “many more pressing matters” to occupy American minds. Indeed, “ignoring the reality of America’s ambivalence toward space travel is becoming much more difficult,” Koren writes, with the public keen on other sorts of space activities being prioritised, such as “climate-change research and the study of asteroids that could strike Earth”. Public officials continue to “trot out the usual reasoning that has underpinned the American space effort since its beginnings”, namely that the “wonder of space travel” is proof that we “we can meet any challenge” on Earth, Koren says. And “American leaders have ridden this logic for 50 years. In the next 50, they might have to accept that it isn’t as compelling as they think, and that the American populace might prefer some more earthly proof first.”


Allister Heath in The Telegraph

This feckless Tory Government has charted a course to absolute failure

on lost purpose

“What is wrong with Conservative governments? Why do they always end up disappointing their most ardent supporters?” asks Allister Heath in The Telegraph. “Dispiriting doesn’t even begin to describe the current Government’s performance,” he says. “It is increasingly defined by a palpable, debilitating sense of drift. It exhibits a shocking inability to control events, a lack of interest in gripping and remodelling the machinery of state, and an unhealthy obsession with polling.” There is still time “for Boris Johnson to turn things around, but for now the outlook is dismal,” he continues. When Heath asks Tories the purpose of this government, “they look at me with incomprehension, chant their ‘levelling up’ mantra or assure me that things would be even worse under Labour,” he writes. “The latter is right, of course,” says Heath, “but hardly a ringing endorsement.”


Harriet Williamson in The Independent

Prince Harry is right - ‘Megxit’ is sexist

on media misogyny

“Prince Harry dubbed the term ‘Megxit’, widely employed by the British press to describe the couple’s decision to step back from royal duties, as sexist,” writes Harriet Williamson in The Independent, and he is “absolutely right”. “The word ‘Megxit’ in itself is an implication that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to lead a more independent life in California was down to Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle. It wasn’t known as ‘Hexit’, or more mutually as ‘Sussexit’, was it?” It is “a sexist term, born out of the press’ blatantly misogynistic and racist treatment of Meghan, and then gleefully adopted by the very same media organisations”, writes Williamson. “‘Megxit’ is the snake of racism and sexism devouring its own tail.”


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