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The Guardian view on climate and the budget: Sunak fails the green test | Editorial

4 March, by Editorial[ —]

By failing to plan for a low-carbon recovery, the chancellor has revealed his lack of vision

The absence of green measures was not the only sense in which this week’s budget was a missed opportunity. The failure to address social care was another sign that the government is far more interested in short-term point-scoring than forward planning. But it is hugely disappointing that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, did not choose to make the environment a big theme of this pandemic budget, all the more so in light of the UK’s crucial role as host of the upcoming Cop26 climate talks in November.

The UK is far from alone in failing to deliver the green recovery that climate experts are united in believing is necessary, if the world is to avoid catastrophic global heating. Research on 30 countries shows that the proportion of stimulus spending on green initiatives is even lower now than after the 2008 financial crash. But having previously been a global leader on climate policy, the UK under Boris Johnson now risks sabotaging itself. Mr Sunak’s failure to prioritise green measures, which did not even merit a mention in his glossy pre-budget video, is the worst possible sequel to the government’s shambolic recent record.

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The Guardian view on Lord Frost: control him or sack him | Editorial

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4 March, by Editorial[ —]

Boris Johnson’s new EU relations chief is wrecking the agreement he once negotiated. The prime minister must rein him in or give him his cards

Lord Frost became a member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet, in charge of relations with the European Union, only on Monday. He has wasted no time in wielding the wrecking ball. On Tuesday, he told the EU that Britain would unilaterally extend the “grace period” for checks on mainly food-related goods that ship between Britain and Northern Ireland. This has triggered a major row with the EU, done serious harm to Britain’s longstanding relations with Ireland, and significantly ramped up the political tensions in Northern Ireland. Lord Frost’s impact is seriously alarming. The effect on Britain’s standing with the US administration, and in the world, threatens to be dire. Thank goodness he never became national security adviser, as was once planned.

The cabinet office minister may see all this as a good first week’s work for an ardent hard Brexiter like himself. He will doubtless be cheered on by the usual xenophobic parts of the Tory party and the press. But this approach disables trust in the British government at home and abroad. Lord Frost’s reckless actions do nothing but damage to Britain’s international standing, show disrespect to our nearest and best international neighbour, and crank up an increasingly confrontational mood in Northern Ireland politics after two decades of peace. This has to stop, and it has to stop now. Boris Johnson must call Lord Frost off – or sack him.

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The Guardian view on Rishi Sunak's budget: Britain will go backwards with tax rises and spending cuts | Editorial

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3 March, by Editorial[ —]

The chancellor would like Britain’s relief response to be seen like Joe Biden’s in the US. But President Biden believes in the power of government, Mr Sunak does not

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has emerged in recent months with the plausible aura of a future Tory leader. This budget was a crucial one for two reasons. First, it was the biggest fiscal event since the UK left the orbit of the European Union. Second, it is dawning on Britons that they can see beyond the shadow of coronavirus. Both beg the question: what sort of country could we expect to live in post-pandemic? Mr Sunak did not have an answer, which exposes him as a man of style, not substance.

In doing less than he had promised, the chancellor revealed more about the government than he perhaps wanted. Brexit’s dividend is barely visible in an age of coronavirus. The climate emergency was noticeable by its absence. It is good news that part of the Treasury and a national infrastructure bank will be in the north. Britain is far too centralised a state. But there was a wider, troubling pattern of pork-barrel spending that saw Mr Sunak shower “red wall” seats that voted Tory with free ports and town deals, as well as thinly disguised bids to buy off independence demands in Scotland. The most tangible result of Brexit seems to be an elevated trade deficit.

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The Guardian view on the pope in Iraq: in the footsteps of Abraham | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/iraqplay episode download
3 March, by Editorial[ —]

The first papal visit to Iraq can promote inter-faith dialogue in an age of religious polarisation

The lead-up to the first-ever papal visit to Iraq has been somewhat overshadowed by concerns over its timing. Last month, a surge of coronavirus cases led the Iraqi government to impose a partial lockdown and curfew. The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, is currently self-isolating after testing positive for Covid, and there are fears that crowds enthusiastic to see Pope Francis could ignore social distancing rules at public events. Security concerns have also been heightened by the double suicide bombing at a Baghdad market in January, which killed at least 32 people.

The Iraqi authorities are confident that the risks can be managed. But given the circumstances, there was certainly a case for delaying the trip, which begins on Friday and will last four days. The pope’s determination to go ahead testifies to the significance he attaches to a visit that sums up two key themes of his papacy: the need to develop genuine inter-faith dialogue with Islam, and a non-sectarian vision of the church as a “field hospital”, where the spiritual wounds of the suffering are healed.

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The Guardian view on Saudi Arabia: on Khashoggi and Yemen, the west too must answer

https://www.theguardian.com/world/arms-tradeplay episode download
2 March, by Editorial[ —]

Mohammed bin Salman is stained by the murder of a journalist and a devastating war. The US response remains limited – and the UK’s is worse

On 2 October 2018, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi walked into Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. Within minutes he was murdered and his body dismembered; his remains have never been found. While the last of Riyadh’s many stories portrayed it as a “rogue operation”, the CIA swiftly concluded that the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, approved his killing. But Donald Trump, an admirer of the brash young prince, declared otherwise and declined to act.

Joe Biden, then a presidential candidate, vowed that he would make Saudi Arabia “pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are”. Now in a position to act on his pledge, he appears to have changed his mind. On Friday, Washington declassified an intelligence assessment on the killing, as promised; the president is also to snub the crown prince, dealing only with King Salman. But while the US declines to say whether Prince Mohammed is included in the “Khashoggi ban” that it has imposed on visas for 76 Saudi officials, the clear message is business as usual, with only minor changes.

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The Guardian view on Nicolas Sarkozy: another name on the roll of dishonour | Editorial

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2 March, by Editorial[ —]

French society is no longer prepared to tolerate a culture of impunity at the top of politics

In all likelihood, next year’s presidential election in France will come down – as the last one did – to a contest between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, the leader of Rassemblement National. This confrontation between Mr Macron’s liberal centrism and the far-right nationalism of Ms Le Pen is the current default setting of French politics. The traditional struggle between French socialists and conservatives for occupancy of the Elysée has, for now, been consigned to the past.

Perhaps at least part of the explanation for that can be found in the proceedings of France’s criminal justice system. Nicolas Sarkozy will appeal against Monday’s humiliating verdict by a Paris court, which found him guilty of corruption and influence peddling. But if the judgment – and an unprecedented prison sentence – is upheld, the former conservative president will join the centre-right’s presidential candidate of 2017, François Fillon, in a lengthening roll of dishonour. Three years ago, Mr Fillon was leading in the presidential polls, until it was revealed that about €1m from the public purse had been illegally paid to his wife and members of his family. The fortunes of his party have yet to fully recover.

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The Guardian view on Covid-19 variants: lax rules create needless risk | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/brazilplay episode download
1 March, by Editorial[ —]

Yet again, the UK’s defences against the virus have been exposed as faulty. Despite the vaccines, there are still dangers

It was a weekend of bright sunshine, with daffodils blooming alongside snowdrops in southern areas and a spectacular full moon, as families with children in England began readying themselves to return to school, with just one more week to spend at home (most pupils in Scotland and Wales must wait a while longer). The sense of eagerness for a return to something closer to life before the pandemic was palpable, with parks full and the longer afternoons holding out the promise of better times ahead. Then, on Sunday, came the announcement that six cases of the Brazilian coronavirus variant known as P1 have been identified, three each in England and Scotland, with the whereabouts of one of the infected people unknown.

This missing person arrived at Heathrow (from Sao Paulo, via Zurich) before hotel quarantine regulations were introduced on 15 February. So this bad news isn’t the result of anyone having disobeyed rules, although a test registration card was left incomplete. Hopefully they will respond to a public call for anyone tested on 12 or 13 February to come forward. But if any reminder were needed of the significant risks that remain as we inch towards a lifting of restrictions, the frantic efforts now under way to find this person should leave no one in doubt. While it isn’t known exactly how dangerous the P1 variant is, the reason it has sparked alarm is evidence suggesting that it is more transmissible than other variants and also, crucially, that it may be capable of antigenic escape. In other words, vaccines may not grant as much protection against it.

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The Guardian view on the return of Donald Trump: plotting a hostile takeover | Editorial

1 March, by Editorial[ —]

Nationally, the former president is a vote loser. The trouble for Republicans is his grip over the party rank and file

In the United States, the Republican party has been unmistakably corrupted by power. Its leadership did not call out Donald Trump for his “high crimes and misdemeanors”, his savage politics, his cruelty, his lies and his conspiracy theories. Voters had to wait until Senate Republicans had refused to convict Mr Trump of impeachable crimes before their leader, Mitch McConnell, would speak truth to power. By then, the question was not whether there was a war over the soul of the party but whether Republicans had a soul worth fighting for.

At the weekend Mr Trump revealed that there would be payback for Mr McConnell and other Republican lawmakers for their “disloyalty”. In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr Trump flirted with running again in 2024 and took swipes at the Biden White House. But he reserved his punches for his own side – targeting “Republicans In Name Only” who voted to impeach him and criticised his incitement of the mob that stormed Capitol Hill in January.

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The Guardian view on madhouse economics: Tories bet it makes political sense | Editorial

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28 February, by Editorial[ —]

Britain presently needs government support rather than belt-tightening. But the chancellor sees a benefit in raising taxes now so he can cut them to boost Conservative prospects ahead of the next election

The centrepiece of the government’s economic strategy is to bring the rest of Britain level with London and south-east England in terms of wealth and opportunity. The public remains concerned about regional and income gaps. “Levelling up” – however genuinely believed by some people – is a facade. Boris Johnson’s slogan requires a shift in the scale of public spending that his policies will not concede in substance.

Last November, Rishi Sunak announced he would slice £10bn from departmental budgets in 2021, despite the prime minister ruling out cuts to public services. The chancellor hints that tax rises are needed now to bring down the deficit, a policy that owes more to austerity economics than Mr Johnson cares to admit. It is progressive to raise taxes on the wealthy or on excess business profits because it makes for a fairer society. But it is not progressive to do so to “balance the books”.

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The Guardian view on a heritage culture war: stop weaponising history | Editorial

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28 February, by Editorial[ —]

Oliver Dowden should be championing museums and heritage charities, not stoking anger against them

Last Monday, culture secretary Oliver Dowden had his much-trailed video meeting with 25 heads of heritage bodies and museums. It is to be hoped that he has now satisfied the desires, misplaced and embarrassing as they are, of those on the right who have been clamouring for some kind of showdown with supposedly “woke” English cultural organisations. It is time for arguments about monuments and statues, which have been cynically and quite unforgivably stoked by the Conservatives, to be quietly de-escalated, and for the unhappy rhetoric that has developed on the right since last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests to be put aside in favour of a more sensible, calmer conversation about how best to understand Britain’s fascinating, complex and, yes, often difficult past.

It has been reckless and cynical of Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, and others to fan the flames of discord, characterising English councils, museums, charities and community leaders as rippers-down of monuments and deniers of history. It is notable that the mood has been a good deal calmer in the other countries of the UK, where the Tories do not hold sway on cultural policy. In England, one might think hordes of iconoclasts had been roaming the country. Precisely one statue, a long controversial sculpture of slave trader Edward Colston, was torn off its pedestal in Bristol last summer.

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