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The Observer view on the future of Israel and Palestine | Observer editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/israelplay episode download
30 April, by Observer editorial[ —]

Unless both sides bend, there can be no resolution. Imaginative leadership is essential

It has long been considered axiomatic, at least on Europe’s political left, that Palestine lies at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict and that lasting peace in the Middle East depends, first and foremost, on resolution of this decades-old struggle. In recent years, such thinking has been overtaken by events. The problem has been sidelined. Yet as the region approaches the 50th anniversary of the six-day war that left Palestinian land under permanent occupation, and as hundreds of Palestinian prisoners begin their third week on hunger strike in Israeli jails, fears of a new intifada are growing. It is time to refocus attention on this dangerous stalemate before it again explodes into open, violent confrontation.

Related: Wife of jailed Fatah leader tells of her fears for hunger strikers

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The Observer view on Theresa May’s lack of a credible programme | Observer editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/general-election-2017play episode download
30 April, by Observer editorial[ —]
The prime minister is offering nothing apart from cliched slogans and personal attacks

Over the course of the last week, it has become increasingly clear that the prime minister intends to fight this general election not on the basis of her vision for Britain, but with a risk-averse campaign that will be defined by its negativity. In the run-up to June, voters look set to be treated to the spectacle of ad hominem insults being slung at the leader of the opposition and predictable sloganeering without substance, deployed in an attempt to deflect scrutiny of Theresa May’s programme for government.

No general election campaign unfolds without its fair share of cliched slogans and unpleasant attacks on political opponents. For better or worse, they are part of our political culture. But they should not preclude developing a deeper vision that sits behind the slogans or the articulation of policies and pledges that can be scrutinised by the public. What is concerning about May’s pitch to the country is that beyond the nasty attacks and tired old slogans, there is nothing but blank space.

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The Guardian view on Donald Trump: 100 days of failure | Editorial

28 April, by Editorial[ —]
It is no surprise dissembling has been the defining feature of his first 100 days. If he admitted the truth of his shambolic presidency, it would shorten its span

On Saturday Donald Trump will have been in the White House for a hundred days, and he has been a disaster for American democracy. His narcissism and incompetence has allowed little time for reflection and self-correction. His megalomania is such that he views himself as hounded by “enemies of the people”. In his contract with America, candidate Trump told voters that he would “restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities and honesty to our government”. These words, like much Mr Trump has said, have proved worthless. In terms of probity, there’s the matter of the FBI investigating whether and how the Trump campaign may have colluded with Moscow’s efforts to influence the presidential election. The ethics of the presidency are constantly called into question because Mr Trump, his family and his appointees insist upon maintaining their investments in various businesses, while at the same time conducting official US government policy.

On security Mr Trump’s cruel, stupid and bigoted travel bans, which were designed to hurt and divide, have been blocked by federal courts not once but twice. Mr Trump’s rash and self-defeating campaign promise to pull the US out of Nafta, the trade agreement he once described as a “total disaster”, was dropped after Mr Trump realised that it would decimate jobs and industry in the farm belt that voted for him. One has to wonder about how a country, let alone the world’s richest, can be governed in such a way for much longer.

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The Guardian view on Tony Harrison: a people’s poet | Editorial

28 April, by Editorial[ —]
In embracing the past as a way of tackling the present, he remains a constant reminder of the power of words to tell us about the world we all live in

The 80th birthday of the poet Tony Harrison brought scholars from all over the world to London this week for a two-day conference topped off by an evening of recitals and reminiscences. There were fond anecdotes from the golden era of the National Theatre when he commanded the main stage with fiery demotic adaptations of world classics such as The Oresteia and The Mysteries. As emcee Melvyn Bragg pointed out, such productions were not only a high point for public poetry but for state education. When, before or since, might one witness the domination of one the UK’s most prestigious national institutions by a stationmaster’s son from Suffolk, a bus conductor’s son from Greenock and a baker’s son from Leeds (directors Peter Hall and Bill Bryden and Mr Harrison, respectively)?

Maybe it was a different, more rebellious, socially mobile time. True, all three rose through selective education. But to become misty-eyed about the glory days of grammar schools, and the public figures they created, is to miss the point of Mr Harrison, who remains a politically abrasive presence and has always embraced the past as a way of tackling the present. For more than a decade he was the Guardian’s own unofficial poet laureate, invoking figures from Greek myth to frame furious responses to wars in the Gulf, Bosnia and Iraq. His poem Iraquatrains, published in April 2003, a month before the “dodgy dossier” scandal hit the news, urged readers to “Go round to Downing St, get Tony Blair’s hard disc”. Coincidentally, Mr Harrison’s birthday week also marked another cause for celebration among those who believe in the power of old-fashioned literary values, with a report from the Publishing Association that sales of physical books were up 8% year on year, while those for consumer ebooks had dropped by 17%.

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The Guardian view on air pollution: playing politics with the nation’s health | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/general-election-2017play episode download
27 April, by Editorial[ —]
The high court shouldn’t have been asked to decide on this. But it has rightly ruled against the government’s latest efforts to delay action on air quality

Thanks to this government’s intransigence about tackling air pollution, the battle to improve the quality of the air we breathe has played out not in the political arena, but in the courts. Time after time, the government has found itself on the wrong side of the law: first for its failure to meet legally binding European targets on harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions; then, for failing to produce an adequate plan to address these. Its latest delaying tactic has been to claim it could not meet this week’s court-imposed deadline for publishing a new draft plan, because of the “purdah” convention ruling out new government announcements in the run-up to an election.

And so it has fallen to judges yet again to take the government to task over its failure to act. Today’s ruling took apart the government’s case: its own purdah guidance sets out exemptions where public health is at risk. As the judge pointed out, why would it be better to have parties debating what ought to be in a draft air pollution plan, when it could be debating what is actually in it?

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The Guardian view on political debate: dangerously unserious | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/general-election-2017play episode download
27 April, by Editorial[ —]
A focus on trivia and personality is nothing new, but recent campaigns have accelerated a decline in proper scrutiny

It is not news that a Conservative cabinet minister has a low opinion of the leader of the Labour party. The florid phrases that Boris Johnson used to express his disapproval of Jeremy Corbyn today elevated his intervention only from banal to diverting. Yet the BBC’s Today programme propelled the words “mutton-headed mugwump” to the lead item in their morning headlines.

The alliterative abuse eclipsed interesting things that Mr Johnson said in an interview: his refusal to commit to Theresa May’s numerical targets for reducing migration, for example, and his readiness to commit British troops to military action in Syria without parliamentary approval. Mr Johnson’s felicitous phrasemongery is a tactic to avoid scrutiny and disarm critics. Ideally it would be ignored, above all by Labour, who need to talk about policy and not be drawn into squabbles over personality. But the confection of news out of a meaningless insult was too egregious a lapse in Westminster’s efforts to conduct politics sensibly to pass without comment. It is symptomatic of a dysfunction in the conduct of British elections: a process that is meant to advertise policy choices to voters looks ever more like an exercise in the deliberate suffocation of ideas.

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The Guardian view on the last PMQs: now the unnecessary election | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/general-election-2017play episode download
26 April, by Editorial[ —]
The shortest parliament for 45 years ends next Tuesday. Now make Theresa May answer for her actions

The business of the shortest parliament since 1974 is nearly done. It all ends at midnight on 2 May, just 25 days before its second anniversary, in an unnecessary election imposed on a reluctant country by a prime minister who disguises her political objective of a greatly enlarged majority behind a spurious narrative of damaging division. It is important, as the campaign progresses, to bear in mind Theresa May’s real purpose: to establish herself as the unchallenged interpreter of Brexit.

There was something of this ruthlessness in this afternoon’s final prime minister’s question time. Behind the rowdiness and the fuzzy sentimentality of a final session, Mrs May was rarely rattled and never surprising. In the set piece exchange with the Labour leader, the words “strong”, “strength” and “stability” featured in every answer. She and Jeremy Corbyn operated on entirely separate tracks, he spattering her with questions on the NHS, taxes, pensions and the housing crisis, all of which she ignored in order to launch her prepared attacks.

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The Guardian view on Apple-Uber affair: reasons to tame Silicon Valley | Editorial

26 April, by Editorial[ —]
The dealings of two of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies shows that there remains an urgent political task to bring a rogue culture to heel

The taxi-hailing company Uber brings into very sharp focus the question of whether corporations can be said to have a moral character. If any human being were to behave with the single-minded and ruthless greed of the company, we would consider them sociopathic. Uber wanted to know as much as possible about the people who use its service, and those who don’t. It has an arrangement with unroll.me, a company which offered a free service for unsubscribing from junk mail, to buy the contacts unroll.me customers had had with rival taxi companies. Even if their email was notionally anonymised, this use of it was not something the users had bargained for. Beyond that, it keeps track of the phones that have been used to summon its services even after the original owner has sold them, attempting this with Apple’s phones even thought it is forbidden by the company.

Uber has also tweaked its software so that regulatory agencies that the company regarded as hostile would, when they tried to hire a driver, be given false reports about the location of its cars. Uber management booked and then cancelled rides with a rival taxi-hailing company which took their vehicles out of circulation. Uber deny this was the intention. The punishment for this behaviour was negligible. Uber promised not to use this “greyball” software against law enforcement – one wonders what would happen to someone carrying a knife who promised never to stab a policeman with it. Travis Kalanick of Uber got a personal dressing down from Tim Cook, who runs Apple, but the company did not prohibit the use of the app. Too much money was at stake for that.

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The Guardian view on Barack Obama: don’t go chasing Wall Street cash | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/barack-obamaplay episode download
26 April, by Editorial[ —]

He doesn’t really need the money and it will allow his opponents to claim he is a creature of moneyed interests. Give the cash to charity

There’s little doubt that President Obama was a historic leader of the world’s most powerful nation. In his eight years in office, the economy was steered clear of a looming depression. His healthcare reforms are established as a totemic policy in American politics. In global affairs he looked for no new dragons to slay. He can also claim credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Iran nuclear deal and the opening up of Cuba. When he reappeared in public life, after three months off, it was to encourage young people to participate in political life. Yet now it has emerged that he is to be paid $400,000 to speak at a Wall Street conference. This is a mistake. He should give the fee to charity.

What message does this send to young people? That a career in politics is a way of getting rich? Tony Blair has destroyed his reputation by chasing money. Hillary Clinton’s standing among leftwing voters was sunk by her highly-paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. Mr Obama should not allow populist critics to paint him as a pawn of moneyed interests. He doesn’t need the money: he and Michelle have a two-book deal worth $65m. Mr Obama won many of the white suburban or post-industrial counties that Mrs Clinton lost in 2016. His success rested on the symbolism of hope. Don’t tarnish it now.

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The Guardian view on Labour’s Brexit: out of the EU, but close to it | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/liberaldemocratsplay episode download
25 April, by Editorial[ —]
Though Labour now has a plan to leave the EU, it has avoided spelling out in detail how Britain can depart without a deal in place. This may be embarrassing, but it is politically necessary

Labour’s policy on leaving the European Union is probably best summed up by the Rolling Stones line “you can’t always get what you want”. On Tuesday morning the party’s Brexit spokesman, and one of its brightest talents, Keir Starmer, tried to explain what Labour’s policy on leaving the EU was and what it was not. Until recently Labour had tried to be many things, understandably so because the party had to bridge the gulf between its remain-voting and leave-voting seats. Since parliament, with the support of most Labour MPs, voted to trigger Article 50, the party’s position has become clearer. Rightly, Sir Keir insisted that EU nationals won’t be bargaining chips in forthcoming talks. He also outlined a significant shift on immigration. Even a few weeks ago, Labour’s position was perceived to be soft on freedom of movement. Labour’s policy is now to prioritise jobs, workers’ rights, and living standards in Britain over the right for people to work and travel around the continent. It is undeniable – and a tragedy – that Britain’s vote to leave the EU was founded on fears over immigration.

Sir Keir’s position, at first glance, looks very much like the one offered by his Conservative opponents. Both Labour and the Tories now accept restrictions on freedom of movement despite the implications for access to the single market. Both will have a vote in parliament on the deal, although Labour envisages time to go back to Brussels if MPs reject it. Both parties want the best deal possible for Britain. Sir Keir differs from the Tories in that he would start negotiations with all options on the table and drop them one by one until a deal is reached. Theresa May would start from a blank sheet of paper and work out a deal that both sides could agree on. So far, so similar. The difference is that Sir Keir has declined to explain what would happen if the EU told Britain that the deal on offer in March 2019 was a “take it or leave it” one. When pressed he said the country could fall back on transitional arrangements and contingency measures – an answer that felt like a political deus ex machina conjured up to escape a seemingly unsolvable problem. If Mrs May could not get a deal from EU that she found agreeable, then Britain would crash out of the EU. This would be a disaster for the country, and a warning about the strength of the hardline Euroscepticism in the Tory party that seeks to remould the country as regulation-lite tax haven on the edge of Europe.

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