Instant Opinion

‘Boris Johnson measures success in biceps rather than brain power’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

Scrapping the NI protocol is just the start. Johnson’s trade wars are Trumpism in action

on populist policies

Britain’s foreign policy is “at the mercy of Boris Johnson’s reckless quest for survival”, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Every trip abroad “is treated as a photo opportunity” as he promotes “the most intense economic disruption” in Europe’s peacetime history, Jenkins says. An “absurd ‘bromance’ is even staged” with Emmanuel Macron; “never was machismo so synthetic”. Yesterday’s vote on a bill that would permit the scrapping of the Northern Ireland Protocol “was a classic”, being “motivated by a desire to appease the province’s fast-disintegrating Unionist majority”. Johnson’s suggestions for “a ‘soft’ border with Ireland are actually quite sensible. But Downing Street’s three years of anti-EU rhetoric have exhausted any wish in Brussels to be co-operative.” The prime minister is “set on” a trade policy that is “not Toryism but Trumpism”. As a “populist” leader, Johnson “measures success in biceps rather than brain power”. This, says Jenkins, “is not democratic government”.

2

Melanie Phillips in The Times

Cutting literature degrees is cultural vandalism

on concerns about courses

Sheffield Hallam University has suspended its English literature course due to graduates’ difficulties in securing high-earning jobs. The news “follows a threat by the Office for Students” that universities face penalties for courses with low rates of graduate employment, writes Melanie Phillips in The Times. When this writer studied English, she assumed it would equip her “for nothing practical and everything that mattered”. Studying literature “was in essence a moral project”. Vocational skills are “vitally important”, says Phillips. “Britain has always shamefully neglected them, largely through its identification of social status with a university degree.” Phillips says it was “snobbishness, masquerading as a drive to improve social mobility” that led to polytechnics becoming universities, with “the doubly unfortunate result” of reducing high-value vocational course numbers and lowering the standards of degrees to accommodate many students “unsuited to academic study”. Sheffield Hallam’s decision may be “cultural vandalism”, she concludes, but universities “have already long vandalised themselves”.

3

Tom Røseth and John Weaver at The Hill

Questioning Nato relevance is misguided and dangerous

on international allies

Nato leaders are gathering in Madrid this week for the alliance’s annual summit. “Despite its longevity and success – or perhaps because of it – many people question NATO’s relevance today,” write associate professors Tom Røseth and John Weaver at The Hill. Some have even called for the US to withdraw from the alliance. “These attitudes are misguided and dangerous,” the writers say. Nato is “not only still relevant” to its members, “it’s necessary”. It has been “a key pillar in the fight” against Islamic State, and the alliance “came to the aid” of America following 9/11. Today, Nato’s contributions of weapons and training to Ukrainian forces “have been a testament” to its “resolve”. Nato’s allies “would be better served by using the summit as a means to strengthen their purpose”, particularly given the “shifting” geopolitical landscape. And allowing Finland and Sweden membership would “send a strong message to other would-be aggressors, that NATO is alive and well”.

4

Clemmie Moodie in The Sun

Our Auntie BBC loves all 150 genders… but not the over-60s

on audience demographics

The BBC is “the most inclusive state broadcaster in the world”, says Clemmie Moodie in The Sun. China’s citizens “would kill for such diversity”. The Beeb recently hired non-binary inclusion consultants “to teach staff there are at least 150 different genders”. Staff “are being urged to declare their pronouns on emails with a list which has expanded to include newly invented ones such as ‘xe, xem, xyrs.’ Really,” says Moodie. “So far, so ‘inclusive’… unless, that is, you’re edging towards a bus pass”, in which case “watch ya back, you senile, lumbering ol’ lump of lard!” The BBC “goes all-out to be all-things to all-people” but “the one demographic it appears to despise is the very one it should be nurturing”. DJ Tony Blackburn has “hinted at ageism” after his Radio 2 show was moved from a Friday to a Sunday, and learning that “some employers were not considering over-55s for jobs”. Moodie says that “woke Aunty needs to start rewarding” audiences’ loyalty – “quickly”.

5

Simon Fletcher in The New Statesman

Keir Starmer’s stance on the strikes is a betrayal of the people who need Labour

on political positioning

“Keir Starmer’s handling of the rail strikes has taken a wrong turn,” writes Simon Fletcher, a former adviser to the Labour leader, in The New Statesman. A “monumental battle is underway” over incomes and “plummeting” living standards. Labour “cannot afford to stand on the sidelines”. When rail strikes were announced, the party’s transport team started out with a “creditable” position – that the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps should “take responsibility for the dispute”. That “shifted”. Starmer said he was “against the strikes”, and instructed frontbenchers “to stay away from picket lines”. Political management, says Fletcher, “is not just ordering people about”. And “a public bunfight between the party, the unions, the left, the party’s membership” and Labour voters is “what the Conservatives want”. These “new and extreme” economic times “demand a new political approach”. Just as the government “is not neutral over the strikes, neither should Labour be”. The party “has a rare opportunity to forge a new consensus” and unite “everyone who needs an alternative”.

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