Instant Opinion

‘Mikheil Saakashvili is fighting for Georgia’s ailing democracy’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Lara Spirit at Tortoise

Georgia: a democracy on the edge

on the fight to save Saakashvili

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili is on the 48th day of hunger strike, in protest against his imprisonment since returning to the country from self-exile in Ukraine. Whatever the ex-leader’s motives for going back, “even his most opportunistic imaginations would’ve fallen short of the seismic crisis this has become”, says Lara Spirit at Tortoise. The government has refused a request to transfer Saakashvili from his prison ward to a civilian hospital, “which experts say he needs to safely end his strike”. Tens of thousands of people have marched on the streets calling for his safe transfer, and ten opposition ministers have also gone on hunger strike. To many in the West, the escalating row “amounts to a fight for Georgia’s ailing democracy”. Saakashvili is viewed as “the bombastic reformer” who “unambiguously rejected Russian control”, and whose return to Georgia “embodied the country’s final chance to integrate with Europe”, Spirit writes. If he dies, so too will the nation’s hopes of continuing his democratising reforms. “Few would predict with much certainty the outcome of Georgia’s latest crisis.”

2

Madeline Grant at The Telegraph

Blood-letting at the Westminster jungle as hyenas surround hoarse Boris Johnson

on feeding time in Parliament

Boris Johnson “rasped” through Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, notes Madeline Grant at The Telegraph. “He’d lost his voice – and he could not have picked a worse day for it.” In one of the “rowdiest” PMQs in recent memory, “it wasn’t just his own vocal chords” that appeared to have “given up on him”. The Tory benches appeared “sparsely populated”, and those MPs who did show up “slouched feebly while their Labour counterparts crammed in like hyenas at a watering hole at feeding time on the Serengeti”. Fending off the opposition’s questions about sleaze, Johnson pointed repeatedly to Keir Starmer’s ties to law firm Mishcon de Reya, “to the irritation of the speaker”. Lindsay Hoyle “fought a long and doomed battle to restore order”, says Grant, but eventually “he snapped”. As anger bubbled over in the Commons, Starmer described Johnson as “no leader”. The PM didn’t hear “this most barbed of disclaimers”, however, having “already cantered away like a panicked wildebeest”.

3

Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times

The truth about Kyle Rittenhouse’s gun

on a case of public safety

It looked like Kyle Rittenhouse would be “certain to walk” after the teenager sobbed on the stand at his murder trial last week, says Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times. But in his closing argument, lead prosecutor Thomas Binger “deftly summarised all the ways Rittenhouse acted unlawfully” on the night he killed two people and injured a third during  protests in Wisconsin last year against racial injustice. Binger’s argument “cleverly unravelled some of the foundational tenets of gun advocacy” – that guns are necessary weapons of self-defence, that without them tyranny would prevail, and that “in the hands of the ‘good guys’”, they promote public safety. “In the Rittenhouse case, none of that was true,” writes Manjoo. At every turn, the accused killer’s semiautomatic rifle “made things worse, ratcheting up danger rather than quelling it”. If Rittenhouse “was your good guy”, Manjoo continues, “what good did his gun do? How did it help anyone in the community he was trying to protect?” Whether the jury will buy Binger’s argument remains to be seen, but his points “had a power beyond this case”.

4

Hannah Fearn at The Independent

Child obesity is rising – it’s time to undo the damage done by poorly planned Covid lockdowns

on undoing lockdown damage

After entering the first UK lockdown last year, “we became more sedentary, filling our time on screens and sofas”, writes Hannah Fearn. It was a “stark” change for children, whose “natural state is that of motion”. And unsurprisingly, children began to gain weight. A quarter of children aged ten and 11 are now classed as obese, “up from 21% a year ago”. Less than 60% are a healthy weight, and “we can predict with some confidence” that a more in-depth analysis would find that those from underprivileged backgrounds are more likely to have “made the transition into the obese category over the course of the pandemic”, Fearn says in The Independent. These latest obesity figures “cannot be dismissed as an aberration”, and the reopening of public spaces won’t be enough to reverse the damage, she argues. A radical change is needed, and it could begin with the school curriculum. “There’s no other universal service that will reach all children and their parents”, and the government can show its commitment to saving lives by funding this work.

5

Harry Mount at the i news site

The Royal Family’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ are rallying around the Queen to restore calm to the House of Windsor

on stepping up

“The Magnificent Seven are coming back to look after the Queen,” says Harry Mount on the i news site. “No, not Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen”, but rather Prince Charles and Camilla, William and Kate, Anne, Edward and wife Sophie. As the monarch recovers from back strain and cancels public engagements on doctors’ orders, her royal back-ups have “clicked into action”. A courtier tells Mount, editor of The Oldie, that the monarch is “very robust”. But while she rests, “the support system lent by the Magnificent Seven is working well”, he writes. The group was instituted following the “self-imposed California exile of Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex” last year, and with embattled Prince Andrew “unlikely to return to royal duties”. The wider family will help too, of course. “Despite recent dramas”, concludes Mount, the monarch knows “she can completely depend” on the rest of The Firm.

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