‘The assumptions of postwar politics are crumbling’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

The Royal Family, 1951
OFF/AFP via Getty Images

1. Certainties of the postwar world are ending

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times

on a post-Covid world

The death of Prince Philip is a reminder we are “coming to the end of the postwar era and are entering the post-postwar world”, writes Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. “The assumptions of postwar politics are crumbling,” he says. As a description, “postwar” denoted the world order and was synonymous with modernity, but these are “no longer universal assumptions”, writes Finkelstein. “In particular they are not the assumptions of new generations of voters.” There are examples of this, “big and small”. Firstly, “American power” and the country’s “status as a success story that demanded emulation” is “much more widely questioned”. As the Cold War recedes in memory too, those “wishing to associate capitalism with prosperity and freedom” are no longer able to “rely on the immediate postwar experience of communism to make the argument for them”, says the writer. “All these changes mean that it no longer makes sense to talk with ease about our era as postwar,” he adds. “Maybe we need a new term. Post-Covid?”

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2. Brexit isn’t the cause of the Belfast riots – but it is harming political reconciliation

Matthew O’Toole in The Guardian

on Northern Ireland violence

“Contrary to some excitable hot takes, Belfast is not in flames, nor are the riots all about Brexit,” writes Matthew O’Toole in The Guardian. “But what has happened is contextualised by Brexit and the sharpening of sovereignty that is demanded by that project,” says O’Toole. “Brexit is the opposite of reconciliation: it means standing apart rather than coming together, asserting distinctiveness over finding common ground.” And for those who “still question the damage that the UK leaving the EU has done to the architecture of the Northern Ireland settlement” just “look at the difficulty the two governments now have in simply agreeing to convene a formal meeting to discuss what is happening in Northern Ireland,” he adds. “For more than four decades, the margins of European council meetings offered a place for UK and Irish ministers to engage without formality and pressure. Not any more.”

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3. How the Greensill scandal has become more dangerous for the Conservatives

Stephen Bush in the New Statesman

on Conservative conduct

The Greensill affair is in danger of turning from a story “about a former prime minister’s texts to one about how a government that has been in power for more than a decade conducts itself”, writes Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. After all, “Boris Johnson’s biggest political success since becoming Tory leader has been in imbuing his party with the impression that it is fresh and different: that this isn’t an 11-year-old government,” he writes. However, “a scandal stretching right across the lifetime of the Conservative government may well be more damaging than one that implicates ministers in the present day.”

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4. Will Boris the liberal ever return?

Nick Tyrone in The Spectator

on Johnson's liberal instincts

“As Prime Minister, Boris’s liberal side has barely reared its head,” writes Nick Tyrone in The Spectator. “Of course, a big reason for this is the pandemic”, writes Tyrone, which has required “big government with a slight authoritarian bent.” “But when Covid finally goes away, can carefree Boris make a comeback?”, he asks. It seems likely “we will soon reach a point – and it’s probably not far off – when the libertarian wing of the Conservative party comes to the end of its patience with authoritarian measures that seem increasingly harsh against the background of low and falling infection rates”, says Tyrone. Johnson’s popularity “relies on his ability to move us on from this crisis and back to some semblance of normal”. It’s time for Johnson to look back on his two-term career as Mayor of London, a man who then “understood how to balance liberalism and statism to create a winning formula”.

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5. The domino effect of working from home could be disastrous

Jonathan Saxty in The Telegraph

on the work-from-home revolution

“The shock therapy of the work-from-home revolution could destroy any hope of a great economic comeback”, writes Jonathan Saxy in The Telegraph. “If millions of us remain reluctant to flood back into workplaces and urban areas, the impact could be catastrophic for sectors banking on commuters and consumers returning in large numbers,” he writes. “The Government may now be panicking about this domino effect. Eased in gently, working from home could be a very good thing. But brought in overnight – and without mitigating strategies in place – it could be devastating.” But with home working, “the genie” may already “be out of the bottle,”, Saxy writes. “If so, we need to get real about the ramifications of such a massive cultural shift.”

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