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The Guardian view on defending democracy: avoid the politics | Editorial

24 May, by Editorial[ —]
It was right to halt the election campaign. But May must be scrupulous not to let national tragedy play to her advantage

We are heading into a general election that may be one of the most consequential of our lifetimes: one that will mandate the reshaping of the state, allow new treaties to be drawn up with our nearest neighbours, and perhaps even end with national borders redrawn. Yet it is entirely understandable that the election campaign was suspended. The awful cold-blooded murder of innocent men, women and children means this is not the time for partisan politics. Every one of the lives lost is a tragedy. The consequences of the loss for each family will be difficult and painful to bear. What to say to the children who went to a pop concert and left to find their waiting parents blown apart by the hate and callous indifference in the foyer? What about the police officers involved in a manhunt for terrorists, who wake up to find out that one of their own has been killed by a bomber? It is in these stories that we as a nation will share grievance and, perhaps, the urge to avenge. It is these instincts that need to be led and shaped. If they are left unchecked, if private reason is allowed to become supreme, if each is left to judge for themselves what is right, then we will be left with the chaos of conflicting claims. That is why we need not politics but leadership.

When terror struck, Theresa May correctly halted the election campaign. She has rightly consulted regularly with the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn. But the crisis has allowed Mrs May, after a dire week, to restate her credentials as a strong leader. She has commanded the airwaves, personally appearing to raise the terror threat to critical – an announcement usually reserved for the home secretary. Terrorism is familiar territory for Mrs May, who displays an ease with the language of security and a fluency with the subject that sometimes seems lacking in other policy areas. Although the campaign will resume locally tomorrow, and nationally on Friday, Mrs May will be off to a series of summits: first Nato and then the G7, where although she is not formally campaigning she will be able to give interviews about defence and counter-terrorism. Mrs May has done nothing wrong. But to some she has given the impression that a moment of national crisis has worked to her advantage. Britain was the first country in the world to make opposition part of government, in the sense that better decisions were made by bridging differences. Mrs May could have followed the example of her predecessor John Major, who, in another time dealing with the tragic killings of children, took the welcome step of inviting his opponent, Tony Blair, for a joint visit to the shattered community of Dunblane. This should have set a precedent to put aside politics in the name of national unity. Mrs May could have shared a stage with Labour as her ministers have done. She would have strengthened her claim to national leadership by inviting Mr Corbyn to visit Manchester with her, to show that there were times – even in a fiercely fought election – when national leadership mattered more than party politics.

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The Guardian view on Trumpian diplomacy: not up to much | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/pope-francisplay episode download
24 May, by Editorial[ —]
The US president’s foreign tour has underlined how inadequate his art of the deal is when handling relations between states

Just over halfway through his first foreign trip as US president this week, Donald Trump tweeted a typically modest assessment of his progress: “Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East were great. Trying hard for PEACE. Doing well.”

In a Trumpian context, that is perhaps closer to the mark than is usual for his pronouncements. The photo opportunities and soundbites have been a useful distraction from domestic woes: first, the mounting questions over his campaign’s relations with Russia. Second, a budget which is extreme and punitive towards poorer Americans and marked out by its highly questionable accounting. On the initial leg of his trip he avoided terrible errors – partly by avoiding press conferences – though his verdict on the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem (“so amazing”) was grotesque. He replaced his vicious portrayal of Islam as a religion of hatred with a tribute to “one of the world’s great faiths”.

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The Guardian view on reacting to terror: be Manchester | Editorial

23 May, by Editorial[ —]
The city’s solidarity and courage is a model for a national response that rejects fear and division

There was, in the early hours of Monday evening, joy in Manchester Arena: it was an Ariana Grande pop concert, an artist beloved by children and families. Then there was horror and a long night of blood. In an instant, the young life that coursed through that happy crowd was turned to death. It is no solace to know that we live in an age of terror. No easier to know, now, that on that spring night, among the thousands out in that northern English city, leaving pubs or walking home from a meal, preoccupied with their banal thoughts and quietly reassuring mundanities, there was a person whose thoughts were not banal or mundane at all. The result of a single suicide bomber’s lethal malice is the loss of 22 lives – including that of an eight-year-old girl – and dozens injured, some with life-altering wounds.

We must recognise that the aim of such a nauseating attack is to stir fear in our populations, and to change how we think about our lives and ourselves. A pop concert is a rite of passage for many young people, simultaneously signifying a break with the choices of parents whose musical tastes rarely coincide with their children’s, while affirming a cultural affinity shared only by their peers. It is a mark of our times that such a moment in a young person’s life could be deemed a battleground, and that such innocence should be violently shredded in the pursuit of an ideological or political aim.

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The Guardian view on Brazilian corruption: the public deserve a voice | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/brazilplay episode download
23 May, by Editorial[ —]
The explosive allegations faced by Brazil’s president Michel Temer are just the latest manifestation of a sprawling scandal. A quick political fix will not solve the problems

“I will not resign. Oust me if you want,” Michel Temer said this week. Brazilians would like to take the president at his word. After three years of political turmoil and public disgust, the “Carwash” investigation into corruption that involved some of the country’s biggest companies and a frightening number of its politicians was under growing pressure; some feared it was being neutered. Then came explosive allegations that a secret tape captured Mr Temer discussing hush-money. His ratings had fallen to single figures even before these latest claims. Now Brazil’s top prosecutor has formally accused him of conspiring to silence witnesses and obstruct a corruption investigation; and he has dropped a legal bid to have the case suspended.

Mr Temer denies wrongdoing, insisting the recording has been doctored, and says stepping down would be an admission of guilt. Other considerations are no doubt weighing on his mind – notably that he would lose legal protections. As president, impeachment would require approval by Congress to proceed, and he cannot be charged over allegations that precede his time in office. Support within his Brazilian Democratic Party and coalition is crumbling. Allies can see the attractions of letting him take the flak for weakening the Carwash inquiry, and handle a case beginning next month in the supreme electoral court, which could annul the 2014 election. But even so, Brazil could soon have its third leader in under a year.

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The Guardian view on the social care debacle: weak and wobbly | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/general-election-2017play episode download
22 May, by Editorial[ —]
It’s a crisis that urgently needs a solution, but not this one, and not like this

Never, in the long history of election manifestos, has a party done a U-turn on a proposal that has already been included in its offer to the electorate. Sir David Butler, who has covered every general election since 1950, used his new Twitter account to declare it unprecedented. A manifesto is set in stone, a sales pitch to voters that becomes a mandate for the exercise of power.

But on Monday morning the unprecedented happened. Three torrid days after her “dementia tax” had been unveiled, Theresa May roared into a U-turn on it. There would, after all, be a cap on how much any individual would have to pay. The principle, she insisted to widespread scepticism, was unchanged. This was a mere extra detail. But in fact the plan now looks very like Sir Andrew Dilnot’s plan, endorsed by the Conservatives at the last election, and dismissed only last Thursday. This is all Mrs May’s own work.

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The Guardian view on moderating Facebook: we need to talk | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/australia-newsplay episode download
22 May, by Editorial[ —]
Should Facebook be policed as a public space or a private one? We need a wide-ranging debate on this giant company’s responsibilities

Facebook became one of the largest media companies in the world by positioning itself as not a media company at all. That way it could not be held to the same kind of legal responsibilities as its competitors were. Instead it was, and remains, largely free to set its own editorial standards. As our revelations this week show, these are sometimes shocking. Now that Facebook has grown so large that it is no longer just a media company but a kind of hybrid beast that does not fit into any of the traditional categories, the question of who should control its content is hard to dodge and harder to answer. At the moment, Facebook claims the right to determine its own policies, although this is constrained by national or – in the case of the EU – supranational laws.

The main policy is that nothing should be taken down without a complaint, although some clearly objectionable content has in the past been left up even after complaints. The company has responded to criticism and hired thousands of new moderators. Pornography and pirated intellectual property can be detected and zapped by algorithmic analysis. But that’s the easy bit. The hard part is making judgments about human interactions: bullying, hatred and exploitation. Facebook executives in Australia have just been found touting the ability to target users as young as 14 for advertising when they are feeling “stressed … worthless … or insecure”. Although the company denies that it uses or condones the use of these powers, it is a horrifying example of the reach it gains from its industrial collection and processing of personal data. It also shows up the limitations of the company’s categorisation of “vulnerable” people, which forms a central part of its policy on abusive or violent speech.

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The Guardian view on the Green party: useful and necessary | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/electoralreformplay episode download
22 May, by Editorial[ —]
The Greens should be praised for wanting to flatten inequalities. The Conservatives’ plans to change the electoral system in England are a cynical act to silence their voice

Britain’s political parties are bundles of opinion, yet this diversity is often submerged by party unity. Even worse, the distance between parties shrinks because of Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral arrangement. It’s an unforgiving system that disadvantages smaller parties, which tend to represent distinct interest groups. To some extent the Green party has bucked this trend, energised by parliamentary success and a membership that briefly surpassed that of the Lib Dems.

Its manifesto fizzes with ideas, so many in fact that the party’s raison d’etre – the environment – sometimes feels pushed into the background. The retail offer is a four-day week, a nod to universal basic income and a second Brexit referendum. The Greens see a broken Britain where the rich run away with the nation’s wealth and hoard power thanks to a system rigged in their favour. They propose higher taxes and spending on essential public services. They should be praised for wanting to flatten inequalities.

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The Guardian view on fear of the future: a failure of political imagination | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/general-election-2017play episode download
21 May, by Editorial[ —]
A general election campaign is meant to offer vision for the road ahead but Labour and Tories are both blocked by nostalgia

Election campaigns routinely prove the wisdom of Simon Hoggart’s “law of the ridiculous reverse”, which states that a political phrase is meaningless when no one in their right mind would assert the opposite.

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The Guardian view on marriage: not what keeps couples together

21 May, by Editorial[ —]
This weekend’s glamorous wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews provided pages of pictures but no truths about life together

Wittily dubbed the wedding of the rear, Saturday’s marriage of the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister, Pippa Middleton, to a banker, James Matthews, has provided some sunny uplift in dreary times. Good-looking couple, cute kids, extreme frocks, and royalty too: it’s such good newspaper-selling cheer that some produced souvenir picture pull-outs. It was also, in the sheer eye-widening expense (estimates vary but they start at around £250,000 – the cost of the average home), a vivid commentary on how what used to be a sacramental rite of passage has become about many other things too.

Marriage has always been a celebration, but its scale has ebbed and flowed in line with prosperity and social attitudes. For some couples, its roots in the long history of female oppression are happily obscured under heaps of rose petals and frothy lace like that on the £40,000 Giles Deacon dress that Pippa Middleton wore. For others, those roots make the whole idea of marriage unacceptable, which may be one reason why the marriage rate has been in steady decline since the 1970s. Even people who do get married are less likely to have a religious than a civil ceremony.

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The Observer view on gay rights and the progress achieved | Observer editorial

play episode
21 May, by Observer editorial[ —]

It has been a long, slow road, but we can be proud of a more civilised life in Britain

Oscar Wilde was released from Reading jail on 19 May 1897, having completed two years of a brutal sentence for “acts of gross indecency”. One hundred and 20 years later, Irish and English homosexuals can flourish in a society that would be unrecognisable to the author of The Importance of Being Earnest. Fifty years on from the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised homosexual acts between adults, we celebrate this anniversary as a landmark in the progressive humanisation of British society.

Ever since Shakespeare wrote in Sonnet 20 of “the master-mistress of my passion”, our culture has grappled with unresolved, and sometimes troubling, issues of gender and sexuality. There is a side of English life that’s raucous, philistine and homophobic. But there’s respect and affection, too. Before his disgrace, Wilde was spoofed by Gilbert & Sullivan in Patience. It is also intrinsic to the national tradition that “the poorest he” should have a fair hearing.

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