Instant Opinion: launching HS2 now ‘is a disgrace’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 17 April

(Image credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

on the tasteless timing of the high speed rail project

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HS2 was always a white elephant. To launch it now is a disgrace

“It is beyond cynical. Almost every business in Britain is in lockdown. Shops are shut, factories padlocked, firms bankrupted, millions pushed into short- or long-term unemployment. They are told by the cabinet, ‘We are all in this together’. No we are not. Somewhere contractors are popping the champagne and consultants carting their fees to the bank. These are not medical suppliers, care home operators or testing centres. They are not the broken-backed small businesses to whose half-hearted aid the Treasury still fails to come. The lucky ones are the backers of Boris Johnson’s beloved HS2.”

2. Joe Lockhart on CNN

on expectations in US politics

The secret weapon hidden in Obama's endorsement of Biden

“Sometimes in politics the least surprising development can be the most important. This is a true thing that has often been lost amid the reality show-style administration of our current President. While it was expected, Barack Obama's endorsement Tuesday of Joe Biden is still critically important to the Democrat's chances of winning back the White House. Let's start with the raw politics. Former President Obama's nod reinforces Biden's existing strengths among the Democratic constituencies he needs to win the election, particularly black Americans. More importantly, Obama's help on the campaign trail will motivate young people, many of whom have only recent memories of two presidents in their lives.”

3. Tom Harris in The Daily Telegraph

on how Labour should hit the reset button

Keir Starmer can outflank the Tories if he takes a surprising stance on the economy

“As soon as the current restrictions begin to be lifted, the new Labour leader, Keir Starmer, will come under intense pressure from his party and the trade union movement to take advantage of the new paradigm, one in which the value of public sector workers has finally been recognised by a grateful public, where Left-wing solutions have been implemented even by a Tory government and which demands a radical, socialist approach. Expect louder demands for the long dreamed-of Universal Basic Income (UBI) to take centre stage in Labour’s internal debates. These unprecedented times have created an unprecedented opportunity for the hard Left, one that (we must all hope) will never come again. So will Starmer listen to his movement’s demands to reshape our society and economy in the socialist model?”

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4. Former US national security advisor H.R. McMaster in The Atlantic

on cynicism in the politics of the East

How China sees the world

“As China pursues its strategy of co-option, coercion, and concealment, its authoritarian interventions have become ubiquitous. Inside China, the party’s tolerance for free expression and dissent is minimal, to put it mildly. The repressive and manipulative policies in Tibet, with its Buddhist majority, are well known. The Catholic Church and, in particular, the fast-growing Protestant religions are of deep concern to Xi and the party. Protestant Churches have proved difficult to control, because of their diversity and decentralization, and the party has forcefully removed crosses from the tops of church buildings and even demolished some buildings to set an example.”

5. Robert Fisk in The Independent

on the dangerous power vacuum in the Middle East

Russia is about to face its biggest test yet in Syria

“Russia, we are now led to believe, is losing ground in Libya as its most recent ally, the Libyan-American – and erstwhile friend of Washington – General Khalifa Haftar retreats from Tripoli, losing even the city of Sabratha to the ‘internationally recognised’ government. The quotation marks are important because Turkey’s men and materiel, including mercenaries from the wreckage of the old Free Syrian Army, have been supporting al-Sarraj’s Tripoli government. The Libyan war, just like the Syrian war and the Lebanese civil war before that, is now a playground for quite a lot of my American reader’s gangsters-in-chief.”

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