Instant Opinion

‘Fewer graduates flocking to London should be good news for levelling-up’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Sarah O’Connor at the Financial Times

In unequal Britain, why aren’t there more Dick Whittingtons?

on staying put

There’s a “widely held impression that Britain is a country where graduates flock to London to make their fortunes, just like folklore hero Dick Whittington”, says Sarah O’Connor at the Financial Times. But in reality, there are “a lot of people who stay put”, and evidence suggests this number is rising. The reasons for this “could be positive”, says O’Connor. Regional disparities in wages and employment rates “have gradually fallen since the 1990s, thanks in part to a booming jobs market and the rising minimum wage”. Or they may simply be “happier at home”. “Gloomier explanations” may include that “rents have outstripped earnings in areas with higher pay levels” between 1997 and 2018, and high housing costs are “likely to present a particular barrier” to young graduates from poorer backgrounds “whose parents can’t help with initial costs like rental deposits”. Policymakers “should be delighted by the growth of remote and hybrid work sparked by the pandemic”, but “rather than let it rip, ministers are chivvying people back to their offices”. O’Connor says “for the sake of ‘levelling-up’”, let’s hope everyone ignores these calls.

2

James Coney at The Times

A fraud epidemic is being swept under the carpet

on taking scams seriously

Before 87-year-old Indukumar Patel died, his family told him that the thousands of pounds he’d lost to fraudsters had been recovered. “The fib was a last loving gesture for a man who had spent his final 12 months wracked with the anguish of having been duped”, says The Times’ money editor, James Coney. At the weekend, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said that online scams were not things that “people experience in their daily lives”. By saying that, “he perpetuates a prejudice that has allowed these crimes to grow into an epidemic”, says Coney. Kwarteng “highlights the view” that bank fraud “is not ‘real’ crime” and “the victims are greedy fools who have only themselves to blame”. But scammers “are opportunistic, technologically savvy and highly skilled at psychological manipulation”, says Coney. They know they’re unlikely to be caught, and “the attitude of the banks adds to the problem”. The business secretary “is wrong. Fraud affects us all”, he writes.

3

The Sun

Macron must live knowing his cynical falsehoods over AstraZeneca jab were lethal

on reputational damage

French president Emmanuel Macron “must live out his days knowing he killed hundreds of thousands worldwide through his cynical falsehoods over the AstraZeneca jab”, claims The Sun. The newspaper has “speculated before that the baseless scares he and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen promoted over Britain’s vaccine will have proved lethal”, and “it gives us no pleasure” that the suggestion has been backed by Professor John Bell, one of the Oxford scientists behind the AZ jab. “Sir John says the reputational damage deterred vast numbers in Europe and Africa” from getting the vaccine, and many “will have caught fatal Covid infections waiting for alternatives”, despite the Oxford-developed doses being “cheaper, easier to transport and store, and hugely effective at preventing serious illness and death”. France “binned huge stocks” and EU leaders “spread deadly disinformation… purely for petty revenge over Brexit and the success of our vaccine rollout”, concludes the paper.

4

Simon Jenkins at The Guardian

Wasteful, costly and cruel: it’s time to bin GCSEs for good

on testing times

Two years ago, Simon Jenkins “prayed” that the government might permanently cancel GCSE exams. “This wasteful, costly, cruel and pointless ritual of teenage evaluation could at last be binned” because of Covid, he writes at The Guardian. But “no such luck.” Thousands of pupils will start mocks this week, before exams begin in May and results in August lead on to A-level study. “The exam hall has become the high temple – or torture chamber – of schooling, the great God of metrics rule.” Nadhim Zahawi “has decided to make things a bit easier” this year, and examiners “are being asked to be ‘more generous’ to allow for the disruption of the pandemic”. The education secretary “is angry that teachers who have been ‘informally’ assessing their pupils” during the pandemic “have been biased in their favour”, and is “retaliating with proposed tests at 14 as well as GCSE”. That “should do wonders for teacher morale”. The last three years were “a golden opportunity”, but “all we have demonstrated” is that the education system is “in the grip of archaic interests and lobbyists with too much to lose”.

5

Melissa A. Sullivan at The Washington Post

I used to work on the Hill. The Dear White Staffers Instagram account is a long-overdue reckoning

on a toxic work culture

Melissa A. Sullivan was “seduced” into government service by The West Wing. She landed an internship on Capitol Hill, where “the verbal abuse began minutes into my tenure”, she writes at The Washington Post. A colleague “ridiculed” her “slight accent”, and “launched into an expletive-laden tirade in full view of the entire office. No one blinked,” she recalls. She soon resigned, but the “poor treatment I experienced was not relegated to the House”. Serving as a legislative assistant for a Senate committee years later, “alcoholism, extramarital affairs and bullying were rampant”, she says. “The toxic work environment… and dysfunctional culture of Capitol Hill are common knowledge” among its staffers, but an anonymous Instagram account, Dear White Staffers, has taken “a digital sledgehammer to the situation”, she continues. Highlighting the experiences of minority Hill staffers, hundreds of current and former employees have submitted anonymous “stories about their bosses, pay inequity, sexual harassment, racism” and more. Sullivan says she’s “grateful to the faceless hero behind Dear White Staffers. It’s about time members of Congress were held accountable.”

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