Instant Opinion

‘President Zelensky is in over his head’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Olga Rudenko at The New York Times

He’s at the centre of the storm. And in over his head.

on an unsatisfying performance

“It’s not hard to guess what President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine must be craving right now: one normal day,” says Olga Rudenko in The New York Times. “The comic-turned-president surely never imagined the job would be quite so intense”, says The Kyiv Independent’s chief editor in her column. With the threat from Russia now “total”, Ukraine is in “a gravely serious situation” and Zelensky “is in over his head”. Back in 2019, “no one knew what to expect” when the comedian took power, “converting his TV fame into a stellar political career”. Opponents said “he was bound to be a disaster”, while supporters hoped “he would break away from the old ways and end corruption … Others said he was an oligarch puppet.” The truth, says Rudenko, “is more prosaic”. “Unmasked by reality”, Zelensky is “dispiritingly mediocre”. After almost three years in office “it’s clear what the problem is: Mr. Zelensky’s tendency to treat everything like a show.” His tenure began “brightly”, but “scandals and tolerance for corruption have chipped away” at his popularity. And “his tense relationship with the press doesn’t help”. “Insular, closed off, surrounded by yes men”, it’s “no wonder 53% of Ukrainians” don’t think he would be able to defend the country should Russia invade.

2

The Sun Says

Ignore doom-mongers and enjoy Covid restrictions ending – we are, at last, free

on pandemic positivity

Give “free cheers” for the end of Covid restrictions, says The Sun. News that the Queen has tested positive for Covid “would have seriously worried the nation” 12 months ago, but “yesterday, amid the well-wishing, there was no major cause for alarm. Duty personified”, the 95-year-old has said she will “continue to work”, and the newspaper sends its “get well” wishes to her. “What better sign could there be that we can all now – as Boris Johnson will say today – live with the virus?” Jabs are “doing their job”, as cases have fallen and “hospitalisations are low”. The “Labour Party and left-wing British Medical Association seized on the Queen’s illness” to say Johnson “is jumping the gun to save his own skin”. “Ignore them,” says the newspaper, and “instead, enjoy the long-awaited moment when all restrictions come to an end on Thursday”.

3

Ryan Coogan at The Independent

Angela Rayner’s views on shooting suspects aren’t ‘controversial’ – they’re monstrous

on ‘alarming’ assertions

“Conversations about politics are now often framed as self-preservatory rather than optimistic,” says Ryan Coogan at The Independent: “support X, because Y will ruin your life.” This “has worked in favour of Labour”, who say “we aren’t uninspiring” but “at least we aren’t explicitly evil”. Speaking on Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast last week, Angela Rayner said “her stand is to ‘shoot your terrorists and ask questions second’”. She acknowledged the comments were “controversial”, but a better word says Coogan might be “‘negligent’, or even ‘monstrous’”. The suggestion that due process be suspended for any crime “is always wrong, not least because it risks punishing innocent people”. And it’s “alarming” that she implied “shooting is an acceptable punitive measure for certain offences”. Coogan says “murder is wrong”, a point that “really doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that should need to be pointed out to a potential future leader of the UK”. The deputy Labour leader’s comments “represent the worst of British politics” but also the “fastest and most effective course to electoral success”.

4

The Guardian View

Selective sixth forms: elitism for teenagers

on unequal access

“A contradiction sits at the heart of the British education system,” says The Guardian. In the 1960s, “most secondary schools” switched from a selective system to a comprehensive one – but “the mixed-ability principle was never extended to higher education”. Today, “entry to a handful of elite institutions remains the ultimate prize”, says the newspaper. In the effort to level up the country, the rollout of “a new cadre of super-selective state sixth forms” is designed to address this issue. “The problem is that the purpose of post-16 education is much broader” than boosting “the chances of a handful of underprivileged teenagers getting their hands on one of these golden tickets”. What’s needed is “a system that benefits society overall, by putting more resources behind improved vocational options”. The Tories’ levelling up agenda “should have led them straight to colleges, which were particularly hard-hit by austerity, and also to the underresourced careers service”. Selective sixth forms “are a gimmick”.

5

Marie Le Conte at The New Statesman

Forget the pension plan: I’m blowing my savings on a trip to Venice

on spending, not saving

“What would  you do if you had several thousand pounds and were about to turn 30?” asks Marie Le Conte at The New Statesman. “Start saving for a deposit? Put them in an ISA? Invest them?” Faced with this predicament in November last year, this writer “had no idea what to do” with the “surprising amount of money” she’d come into – “until I did”. She booked flights and moved to Venice for two months, with “no intention of doing any work while there; instead, I will spend those eight weeks floating around, doing as I please”. She admits: “It is, objectively, an absurd thing to do” but “there is no point” setting aside those “few thousand pounds” for the future, “because that money is nowhere near enough to make a difference to my material circumstances. I will not be able to buy a house with them; they will not grant me any tangible sense of financial stability”. But they can “guarantee that I will have absurd, happy things to look back on for years to come”. Le Conte has “decided to invest in my future – just not in the traditional sense. Ciao!”

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