Instant Opinion

‘We live in Nixonland – where presidents determine what is and isn’t legal’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Julian Zelizer at CNN Opinion

Ripping and burning: how Trump White House handled some legally protected documents

on recording keeping

“In one form or another, most presidents have violated the Presidential Records Act,” writes Julian Zelizer at CNN Opinion. But former president Donald Trump’s actions amount to “egregious violations of a law that came about in the aftermath of President Richard Nixon’s traumatic Watergate scandal” requiring the “proper preservation of presidential records”. The US has recently learned that Trump “made a habit of tearing up documents” and there have been reports of “staffers putting documents in burn bags to be destroyed”. “At least 15 boxes of documents and other items” went with Trump to Florida when “his term came to a tumultuous close” too. The “fundamental problem” with the legislation is “there isn’t a strong enforcement mechanism. The entire process depends on administrations acting in good faith”. Unless this is addressed, “we will continue to live in Nixonland – a world in which the president determines what is and isn’t legal”. For every American, “that’s a dangerous place to be”.

2

Larry Elliott at The Guardian

Unions don’t call the shots any more – but we’d all be better off if they did

on todays workforce

The 1972 battle of Saltley Gate “holds a special place” for “those versed in trade union folklore”, says Larry Elliott at The Guardian. Birmingham factory workers “downed tools to support striking miners”, and the action proved “pivotal” in winning the miners’ strike. Today is the 50th anniversary of Saltley Gate, and though “there is much talk about how Britain is returning to the 1970s”, the “detour down memory lane” shows “how fatuous” the comparisons are. Four million of the 6.6m trade union members today are public sector workers, “while those in the lowest-paid, highly casualised sectors, who would benefit most from the support of a trade union, are least likely to be members of one”. Power has shifted “too far in favour of employers”, Elliott says, “and even the Conservatives can sense there is a problem”. There are some “positive signs”, like the TUC being involved in designing the furlough scheme, and the increase to the national living wage. “All that said, a piece of the jigsaw is still missing, and that is unions.”

3

Eva Simpson at The Mirror

State school pupils put in real effort during Covid but two-tier system fails them

on inequaltiy in education

Parents who pay for their children’s education “want bang for their buck and boy did they get it” last year, says Eva Simpson at The Mirror. An investigation has revealed “private schools ‘gamed’ the system after the pandemic forced the cancellation of exams” and teachers were left to determine students’ grades instead. “Surprise surprise, children in fee-paying schools scored highest.” This isn’t “just about questionable grade inflation”, says Simpson. While private school pupils “switched seamlessly to online classes”, “for many state school kids there often were no lessons from teachers for months”. “Private sector kids could log in from any number of devices” but “other children, especially those in more deprived parts of the country, were scrabbling for laptops and tablets, struggling with Wi-Fi issues and parents who didn’t have enough data”. Simpson fears this will “exacerbate” inequality. “Education is meant to be the great leveller, but the playing field has never been so unequal.”

4

Janice Turner at The Tmes

Try putting the high heel on the other foot

on blame games

“There’s a handy test to ascertain whether criticism is sexist,” says Janice Turner at The Times: “ask how a man would be treated in a similar situation.” Lord Ashcroft’s unauthorised autobiography contains allegations that Boris Johnson’s wife has meddled in his decisions for several years. So, “let’s pretend Carrie Johnson’s alleged crimes were committed by the spouse of a female prime minister”, says Turner. Imagine “Denis Thatcher pressured his wife to ensure safe passage of caddies from Kabul golf club” during the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan last August. “It would still be a political scandal.” And if “key members of Wimbledon Conservative Association, where Philip May was briefly chairman, were fast-tracked into Downing Street with the best man at their wedding seated outside the prime minister’s door”, Turner asks, “would this not be news?” In each hypothetical case, as with the accusations against Carrie, “the prime minister is ultimately to blame. But Philip or Denis would have been seen as having full ‘agency’ in such acts”. Denying Carrie of this is “what’s truly sexist”.

5

Esther Walker at the i news site

We can’t blame Prince Charles if he didn’t want to live in Buckingham Palace, it’s spooky with awful carpets

on changing rooms

“It’s no secret that Prince Charles doesn’t love Buckingham Palace,” says Esther Walker. And while some may think this proves “he is spoilt and silly”, the i news site’s writer gets it. Years ago, she “ended up” in a “massive official building after hours, which is probably the closest I will ever get to being in Buckingham Palace”. It was “hands down, the spookiest place” she’d ever been, and she imagines “if you lived there, it would be impossible to relax.” The Queen’s London residence “must be like this”, she says. “It’s probably why [Meghan] ran a mile.” There’s the “hideous carpets and revolting gilding; the sheer volume of memories at every turn”, and the “inescapable evidence that you live at the expense of the taxpayer”, Walker says. “Decrepit for years”, the palace is now being renovated, and sources say Charles will move in once he’s king. “Charles somehow now understands that we don’t care what he wants”, and that being in the Palace is “the only set-up that we, their judgemental and capricious masters, can handle”.

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