Instant Opinion

‘Labour ought to be leading the work to strengthen our democracy’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press


Cat Smith for The Independent

Keir Starmer isn’t doing enough to fight for democracy and defend it from Tory attempts to weaken it

on an affront to democracy

“Keir Starmer’s refusal to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn to the Parliamentary Labour Party when he has been readmitted to the party at large is not the action of a democrat,” says Cat Smith. The Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood argues that Starmer is instead “fuelling factional strife at the expense of good party governance and goodwill among our massive membership”. Writing for The Independent, Smith says that despite having quit the shadow cabinet amid last week’s reshuffle, she remains “wedded to the cause of creating a true democracy where everyone’s voice counts”. She bemoans the current Labour leader’s “apparent contentment with the status quo”, arguing that “Labour ought to be leading the work to strengthen our democracy”. As world leaders prepare to gather virtually later this week at the first of Joe Biden’s two planned Summits for Democracy, Smith hopes that by the time part two rolls around a year from now, the UK is “represented by a Labour prime minister who doesn’t just talk of democracy but acts to ensure ours is the gold standard”.


Clare Foges in The Times

Don’t make martyrs of ignorant antivaxers

on glorification

The combination of “ignorance and arrogance” shown by vaccine refuseniks is “so irritating” that we here in the UK “might look wistfully at the approach they are taking on the Continent”, says Clare Foges. As Austria opts for compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations and Greece plans fines for over-60s who refuse the jabs, a more hard-line approach “may sound appealing to those at the end of their tether with antivaxers”. But such policies “will do more harm than good”, she argues in The Times. Aside from the “obvious concerns about bodily autonomy”, the risk is that “by ‘persecuting’ this group of people, as the antivaxers would surely brand it, governments risk glorifying the cause, creating martyrs with every jab, fine and prison sentence,” Foges continues. Indeed, “antivaxers trying to evade the legally mandated needle might take on some of the romance of resistance fighters, drawing more teens and twentysomethings to their cause”. But “between authoritarian and laissez faire”, there is a middle path: vaccine passports. “Don’t want to be jabbed? Fine – just forfeit your right to access sporting events, music concerts, some shops and hospitality venues.”


Emily Watkins at the i news site

Alice Sebold’s memoir once gave hope to rape victims, now it shows the legal system has failed

on another failed victim

Anthony Broadwater was wrongfully convicted of raping Alice Sebold and served 16 years in prison before being exonerated by a New York court last week. Publisher Scribner responded by pulling her memoir Lucky from the shelves for possible revisions, but “Sebold’s authorial debut has been irreversibly reframed”, writes Emily Watkins for the i news site. In both Lucky and Sebold’s subsequent novel, The Lovely Bones, the author’s “treatments of rape present it as a trauma with an accompanying catharsis”, which comes as “no great surprise, considering the ostensibly successfully conviction of her own attack”. Both books have “offered strength and solidarity to countless survivors of sexual crimes”. But now “Lucky’s victim-eye view of the legal system ‘working’ has been suddenly infused with a retrospective understand that it wasn’t working at all”, says Watkins. Re-reading the book now, “it is hard to unsee another victim embedded in its pages”. Broadwater has accepted Sebold’s apology, but his exoneration “does little to redress the injustice of his incarceration”.


Jane Shilling at The Telegraph

William Shakespeare can never be cancelled

on resilient narratives

“Domestic violence, coercive control, teen suicide, the drugging and sexual exploitation of unconsenting women” are all themes that occur in the plays of William Shakespeare, Jane Shilling writes at The Telegraph. But unlike modern dramas and works that deal with these issues, “plays such as OthelloThe Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream attract a prudish determination to shield fragile sensibilities from the flawed aspects of human nature” that the playwright explores. This push “to adapt Shakespear’s plays to make them conform to current taste” can “certainly leave their mark on audiences, in the form of a truly awful night at the theatre”, says Shilling. But “we need not worry unduly about the affront to Shakespeare’s texts”, she adds. “Again and again they emerge unscathed” from what Samuel Johnson described, in the introduction to his edition of the Plays, as “the petty cavils of petty minds”.


Richard Seymour at The Guardian

Jack Dorsey’s ditched Twitter for bitcoin. Has the social media bubble burst?

on competing platforms

After resigning from Twitter, Jack Dorsey plans to spend more time on his other venture, Square. The payment platform “is worth almost three times Twitter’s current value”, says Richard Seymour at The Guardian, so in some ways, it was simply a “straight choice between political clout and profit”. Twitter may have hit the “limits of its growth”, and its commercial reach “is no competition” for social media industry giants such as Facebook and TikTok. But “this isn’t just about profitability”, Seymour continues.“It is about the economic power of belief.” Dorsey is a “cryptocurrency fanatic” and a “doom-monger about fiat currencies”, those issued by governments. And although his vision of “a single global cryptocurrency is not likely to happen”, the rest of us “would be fools to underestimate belief backed up by spare investment capital”. Seymour predicts that Dorsey’s “messianic” faith “in the power of crypto will probably be rewarded with profit for some time, in a way that the hype around Twitter never was”. 


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