Instant Opinion

‘The delay to Tony Blair’s award could be a royal comment on his botched job’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

‘Sir Tony Blair’? How cheaply knighthoods come in our broken honours system

on a controversial knighthood

So, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair “must now be called Sir Tony”, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. The former prime minister is to wear a royal garter, “the highest honour the monarch can bestow”, which was the Queen’s “personal decision”. This is not out of the ordinary, continues Jenkins. James Callaghan got a garter, “as did Margaret Thatcher”. “The difference is that Blair’s honour has been delayed for 15 years.” But why the delay? It “looks like a deliberate judgment somewhere in Buckingham Palace”, continues Jenkins. “Were some courtiers muttering, ‘Must we really, what with Iraq and all that?’ Were others saying, ‘It’s over, just get on with it’?” Perhaps the delay is a “royal comment” on Blair’s “botched job”. But whatever the reason, “the case is overwhelming for a commission to clean up and modernise the hierarchy of national awards”.

2

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet for The Daily Telegraph

Macron’s bid for EU domination is unravelling fast

on the upcoming French election

On Sunday night, the “single, large blue-and-gold EU flag” which had been fluttering under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to mark France’s six-month presidency of the European Union had been taken down. Why? It depends on who you listen to, says Anne-Elisabeth Moutet in The Daily Telegraph. “Predictably”, Marine Le Pen “submitted the case against the flag to the Council of State”, complaining that having a “foreign” flag hanging over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was unpatriotic. Other right-wing commentators followed suit. The spin doctors of Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, attempted to “paint the episode as a cunning plan to draw the president’s competitors into time-wasting ‘sterile arguments’”. And Europe minister Clément Beaune “said the flag was always meant to fly over the weekend only”. But does any of this really matter, asks Moutet. With just three months until the election, Macron “can hardly be unaware of the growing unpopularity of Brussels”. He’s staked his re-election on France’s role in Europe – but is that enough to keep him in the Élysée?

3

Vicky Spratt for the i news site

Being able to borrow seven times your salary for a house will only inflate house prices further

on Habito’s new fixed-term mortgage

“Do you know where or, even, who you will be in 40 years’ time?” asks Vicky Spratt on the i news site. “Life throws up curveballs – relationships break down, jobs change and our desires about where and how we want to live shift.” But to take out Habito’s new fixed-term 40-year mortgage, you will need to have “some idea”. This new mortgage product marks the first time a lender will allow homebuyers to borrow “as much as seven times their salary since Northern Rock was nationalised in 2008 following the global financial crash”. This, Spratt writes, “is a double-edged sword”. If it were to become more widespread, this could be the thing that “turns ‘Generation Rent’ into ‘Generation Buy’”. But there could be “worrying consequences” as more accessible credit “would risk driving up house prices further”. During the pandemic, “house price growth has outpaced income growth”, resulting in a “house price-to-earnings ratio that is now at its highest since records began in 1983”. Says Spratt: “It is absurd that homes now earn more than people in this country.”

4

Francis Fukuyama for The New York Times

The impact of Jan. 6 is still rippling throughout the world

on ‘sealing and deepening’ divisions 

The attack on Congress on 6 January last year by a mob inspired by former President Donald Trump “marked an ominous precedent for US politics”, writes author Francis Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, for The New York Times. “Not since the Civil War had the country failed to effect a peaceful transfer of power, and no previous candidate purposefully contested an election’s results in the face of broad evidence that it was free and fair.” A year on, the event “continues to reverberate in American politics”, says Fukuyama, “but its impact is not just domestic”. It needs to be “seen against the backdrop of the broader global crisis of liberal democracy”, he continues, where some of the world’s largest democracies – including the US and India – are experiencing setbacks. People around the world once looked up to America’s example “as one they sought to emulate” but now things “look very different”. “If Americans cease to believe in an open, tolerant and liberal society, our capacity to innovate and lead as the world’s foremost economic power will also diminish,” he concludes. The attack on Congress “sealed and deepened the country’s divisions, and for that reason it will have consequences echoing across the globe in the years to come”.

5

Harriet Walker in The Times

My trendy friends are leaving London: will I join the exodus?

on loving city life 

Once upon a time, Harriet Walker was “the most zealous convert to life in the capital”. “The suburban streets of my youth were deserted by 8pm every night,” she writes in The Times, “and I still have acute and constant fomo because of it”. Walker has lived in London for 15 years but now, “aged 36 and bringing up two small children in Zone 2”, she is thinking about leaving “all the time”. The number of London deserters grows “every year”; in 2021, Londoners spent “more than £55 billion on some 112,000 properties beyond the smoke”. But, asks Walker, where could we go? “The capital’s excellent public transport system means I still haven’t got round to learning to drive, so the countryside is out”, she says. “So is the commuter belt (death by Wagamama).” “Bristol looks lovely, so does Glasgow. Manchester and Liverpool are fun, and York is pretty,” she concludes, “but if it’s city living I’m after, why leave?”

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