Instant Opinion

‘Three decades of progress in Russia have been thrown into reverse in three weeks’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

The FT editorial board

Putin’s war is a tragedy for the Russian people, too

on the end of ‘normal’

“Barely three weeks ago, despite Russia’s steady reversion to authoritarianism, its people – especially in the big cities – were still closely entwined with the outside world,” says the Financial Times. “They bought Swedish furniture, took package tours to Turkey and shared clips on TikTok,” the paper continued. “At a stroke, Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has upturned their lives and prospects.” Regardless of the outcome of the conflict, “Russians now face potentially years of isolation, economic struggles and a crackdown on free speech recalling Soviet days. Three decades of fitful progress towards ‘normal life’ have been thrown into reverse”, said the paper. “An accelerating brain drain will rob Russia of some of its best human talent, just as sanctions squeeze the funding and knowhow the country needs.” And while “none of this compares with the human and physical destruction being visited on Ukraine by Putin’s forces”, the longer the conflict goes on, “the clearer it becomes that the president’s war is a calamity, too, for his own people”.

2

Libby Purves in The Times

Robbing workers of pride comes at a price

on the perils of outsourcing 

“Two hundred years after Brodie Willcox MP and Arthur Anderson founded what became P&O, the shipping line’s present owners trashed its reputation in minutes,” said columnist Libby Purves in The Times. “Displaying neither care nor respect, without notice they brought the ships alongside and sacked 800 workers by video as buses of cheaper crews arrived, many recruited through opportunist fledgling agencies,” she continued. “The company was not on the brink and legalities apart there is moral disgrace in treating trained employees as disposable economies,” writes Purves. P&O’s behaviour should make other companies reconsider the prevalent modern business practice of outsourcing, she says. While it is sometimes “logical” and agencies can be “excellent”, what is lost is the “intangible human element of pride and belonging”.

3

Lucy Burton in The Telegraph

Crackdown on City ‘boys’ nights’ is also good for men

on the final whistle

“Men in the City of London who have unwittingly been on a tedious, banterous ride for most of their adult lives will be quietly relieved about the latest crackdown on heavy drinking, sexist boys’ nights,” writes banking editor Lucy Burton in The Telegraph. While the “few graduates who genuinely enjoyed these pastimes” might insist that “the game must go on”, the reality is that “the game does not have to go on”. And it is not just women who suffer from “loutish behaviour which normalises sexism and turns overt abuse into a joke”, she continues. “Men who want to work in sectors, such as finance and insurance, should not have to feel that toxic masculinity and mindless nights out is their fast-track ticket to getting ahead.”

4

Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer

Rishi Sunak’s charm won’t save him if he is seen to fiddle while Britons’ pockets burn

on a risky strategy

For Boris Johnson, the war in Ukraine means that “partygate has been effaced from the headlines”, but for Chancellor Rishi Sunak it presents challenges that make his position “hellishly more difficult”, writes chief political commentator Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. While Britons will not be alone in facing the “brutal crunch” on the cost of living, “Sunak is unlikely to win the hearts of voters or the confidence of colleagues by telling them that Americans and other Europeans are afflicted too”. It seems Sunak may be waiting until the autumn budget to confront his toughest choices “in the hope that by then things might look clearer and better”. But that is “actually highly risky. Failing to take decisive action now will leave him exposed to the charge that he is a ‘do nothing’ chancellor who fiddles while his fellow Britons are burned by the worst living standards crisis in a generation,” says Rawnsley.

5

Phil McDuff in The Independent

Traditional conservatism is being subverted by the Ukraine crisis

on a Kafkaesque immigration system

There has been an “upsurge in sympathy for the plight of displaced Ukrainians” in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country, writes Phil McDuff in the Independent. But this “sharp change in sentiment” has “run afoul of a major issue”, he writes. “The UK has spent several decades making the process of migrating to the UK more difficult, time-consuming and costly.” Now, thanks to the UK’s insistence on requiring visas to enter the country, in contrast to other European countries, many Ukrainians have been introduced to a system “which is both byzantine and Kafkaesque by design, its very complexity and inaccessibility a part of the system of deterrence”. There is a “hard lesson” to be learned from the debacle, he writes: “to have a system capable of helping the most vulnerable, it must help everyone”. But, he adds: “There is no point, in 2022, asking why the Home Office is behaving this way towards Ukrainians who clearly deserve better, when it is simply doing exactly what we have asked it to do.” 

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