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The Observer view on triggering article 50 | Observer editorial

26 March, by Observer editorial[ —]
As Britain hurtles towards the precipice, truth and democracy are in short supply

Like sheep, the British people, regardless of whether they support Brexit, are being herded off a cliff, duped and misled by the most irresponsible, least trustworthy government in living memory. The moment when article 50 is triggered, signalling Britain’s irreversible decision to quit the EU, approaches inexorably. This week, on Black Wednesday, the UK will throw into jeopardy the achievements of 60 years of unparalleled European peace, security and prosperity from which it has greatly benefited. And for what?

The ultra-hard Tory Brexit break with Europe that is now seen as the most likely outcome when the two-year negotiation concludes is the peacetime equivalent of the ignominious retreat from Dunkirk. It is a national catastrophe by any measure. It is a historic error. And Theresa May, figuratively waving the cross of St George atop the white cliffs of Dover like a tone-deaf parody of Vera Lynn, will be remembered as the principal author of the debacle. This is not liberation, as Ukip argues, nor even a fresh start. It is a reckless, foolhardy leap into the unknown and the prelude, perhaps, to what the existentialist writer Albert Camus described in La chute – a fall from grace, in every conceivable sense.

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London, always defiant and determined – cartoon

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/iraplay episode download
26 March, by Chris Riddell[ —]

Chris Riddell on the Westminster attack and the capital’s long history of resistance to terror

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Is it really healthy to use tradition as a comfort blanket? | Catherine Bennett

26 March, by Catherine Bennett[ —]
Laws written on vellum, men in tights and royal yachts should have no place in a grown-up, confident society

It may yet to be reflected in the crime statistics, but, as of January, Britain’s laws have been, to quote Jacob Rees-Mogg, “in some sense lesser”. That, at least, was his mournful prediction in the Guardian, should parliament choose to give up recording public statutes on vellum – calfskin – and print them on cheaper, archival paper instead.

Woeful indeed, Rees-Mogg warned last year, as the vellum argument raged back and forth, between the pro-vellum Commons and the anti-vellum Lords, would be the consequences if, for an estimated annual saving of £80,000 (excluding a replacement printer), some laws ceased to be written on a material first introduced to Britain in the middle ages.

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The Observer view on the response to the Westminster attack | Observer editorial

26 March, by Observer editorial[ —]
Acts of terror must not incite us to turn on each other

Terrorist outrages can serve as a brutal reminder of humanity’s capacity for cruelty. Yet it is so often the brave responses of ordinary citizens that we remember. In London last week, the reaction to the trail of death and brutality that Khalid Masood left in his wake proved the point: the sacrifice of PC Keith Palmer, who laid down his life keeping MPs and citizens safe; the actions of the MP Tobias Ellwood, who performed first aid; the medical staff of St Thomas’ hospital who ran on to Westminster Bridge to help the wounded; and the ordinary men and women who reacted with compassion and courage to the distress of the victims.

In the days since, some on the fringes have sought to use the attack to perpetrate a different sort of hate: to imply that Britain is no longer safe; that British Muslims bear a particular responsibility; or that blame should be directed at liberal immigration policies, even though Masood appears to be a British jihadi who was a relatively late convert to Islam. These sentiments must not be allowed to obscure a political response that has been dignified and reflective, from the defiant words of London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, to the reassuring statement from the prime minister, Theresa May. And we must stand united with Muslim communities, which are vulnerable to backlash.

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Parliament can’t be defeated by terror, but it will be changed | Andrew Rawnsley

26 March, by Andrew Rawnsley[ —]

Those who work in the Palace of Westminster are members of a family who will resist hiding behind locked doors

When I started to earn my living at the Palace of Westminster, a time so long ago that Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp and some of you were not born, I did not even require a photopass to get on to the premises. A piece of card with my name on it and an official signature was enough to be waved in by the police officers at the gates. After I’d been working there a short while, it was rarely necessary even to produce the bit of card because the police and doorkeepers had a brilliant capacity to memorise faces. It was easier in those days, because fewer people worked on the parliamentary estate.

There were no officers carrying automatic weapons on the precincts. None that I saw, anyway. The only person visibly armed was the serjeant at arms, with his ceremonial sword. So relaxed was security that protesters for this cause or that frequently got into the public gallery to disrupt proceedings by yelling at MPs and sometimes chucking things down at parliamentarians. On one occasion, startled MPs were bombarded with three bags of horse manure.

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Motherhood, the great leveller? Not quite, Kate | Barbara Ellen

26 March, by Barbara Ellen[ —]
Kate Middleton can never be an Everywoman, however hard the palace tries

The Duchess of Cambridge gave a talk at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists last week on behalf of a series of films – Out of the Blue – produced by the Best Beginnings organisation, promoting good mental health for parents and their children.

Her talk, saying that motherhood was “overwhelming” and a “huge challenge”, was lauded for proving that, whoever you are, motherhood is a great leveller, placing everyone in the same boat. Presumably, the idea was that ordinary mothers everywhere could now turn to each other and cry: “Thank God, we’re not alone, even Kate struggles with her lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance.” While I know it’s Mother’s Day, and the talk was for a good cause, isn’t this just blatant rubbish?

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Enough of the language and politics of fear. We remain a calm, sane and robust society | Nicci Gerrard

26 March, by Nicci Gerrard[ —]
The emotive and intemperate response to the attacks in Westminster serves only to divide us further and to collude with the very people who seek to terrorise

Words matter. “Maniac who knifed Britain in the heart”, read the Sun headline; “terror rampage”, according to the Express; London is a “city of monkeys” where liberals “actually think multiculturalism means we all die together”, wrote a Mail columnist who I’ll not bother naming.

No. Last Wednesday, a wretched, angry man, brought up in Kent and with a history of violence and a string of criminal offences behind him, drove over Westminster Bridge. His victims were an unarmed police officer; a woman from Spain with a British passport, who had two children and worked at a sixth-form college; a man from Utah, who was in London with his wife celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary (it was their last day in Britain and his wife is still in hospital with serious injuries); and a 75-year-old man, a retired window cleaner, from Streatham, south London.

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Are we finally reacting to the disruptive supremacy of Facebook and Google? | Will Hutton

26 March, by Will Hutton[ —]
Germany challenges Facebook on personal data, Google agrees to police its ads: are these landmark events?

The internet celebrated its 28th birthday a fortnight ago. It’s an invention that ranks alongside the wheel, immunisation against disease and the internal combustion engine as a transformer of human existence. As an open information digital connector, it is an extraordinary force for individual liberation, embodying the very best of Enlightenment values: more information is available to more people through their mobile phones and personal computers than ever before.

The world can then follow the Enlightenment injunction to dare to know to a degree that the great philosophers, arguing for a free public realm where information and evidence could be openly marshalled and tested for human betterment, could never have foreseen.

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Overseas aid is most effective when local communities can help | Letters

26 March, by Guardian Staff[ —]
Indigenous knowledge must be harnessed in drought-hit Kenya

I am from Marsabit in northern Kenya and have seen how the drought has left pastoralist communities with no other choice but to rely on aid. It was heartening to read that the UK’s development secretary, Priti Patel, has pledged more support to East Africa (“Patel to defend aid budget as famine crisis spreads”, News).

There is no doubt that this money will save lives, but for it to be as effective as possible the aid response must be locally led. There has been a growing realisation of the need to empower local organisations and communities, with international aid agencies working alongside.

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Our divisive education system is damaging social cohesion | The big issue

https://www.theguardian.com/education/grammarschoolsplay episode download
26 March, by Guardian Staff[ —]
The school system needs unity, not increased selection

It is heartening that a campaign is under way to frustrate Theresa May’s desire to go back to secondary modern schools (“On this we can all agree. Selection is bad for our schools”, Comment).

The article by Nicky Morgan, Lucy Powell and Nick Clegg makes many of the familiar arguments but, like much of the current opposition to selection, it is based on concern for social mobility. I would argue that a much more serious objection concerns social cohesion.

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