‘Happy birthday Bob, you magnificent jerk’

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

1. Bob Dylan doesn’t like you

Dorian Lynskey in UnHerd

on Dylan’s 80th birthday

“When Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, he didn’t acknowledge the honour for two weeks, and then refused to attend the ceremony, reducing the Swedish Academy to the plaintive status of autograph-hunters waiting by the stage door,” writes Dorian Lynskey in UnHerd. “For Dylan’s admirers, his freewheeling attitude to social niceties is not just part of the package but positive proof of his brilliance.” Dylan’s fans are “practised in lowering the bar. A crowd-pleasing set of beloved hits? Grow up. A hello, goodbye or thanks-for-coming? Dream on.” It’s hard to imagine we’ll see another star who “gives so little and is so widely admired for it”, writes Lynskey. “By making it abundantly clear that he doesn’t need any of us”, Dylan “remains unknowable and unbound” in a way modern celebrities might envy. “That is a unique kind of power, albeit faintly inhuman. So happy birthday Bob, you magnificent jerk.”

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2. Clock is ticking on Johnson’s people-pleasing

Max Hastings in The Times

on Johnsonian nationalism

Though today Britain is governed by a party called “Conservative”, this government is “nothing of the sort”, writes Max Hastings in The Times. “Trending right on culture, left on economics, it represents instead Johnsonian nationalism,” he says. It derives its “mastery” from the prime minister’s “personal popularity”, with Johnson’s ministers serving as “lightning conductors for failure”. “It is hard to imagine Gavin Williamson or Robert Jenrick, to name but two, reaching a shortlist for town dogcatcher if they lost their jobs,” Hastings writes. It’s important, he says, to “keep flagging the weirdness of the presidential imposture and abolition of accountability that characterise the Johnsonian age, from which honesty, and thus moral authority, have sailed away on a balloon ride”.

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3. Dominic Cummings should hold no fear for Boris now

Tim Stanley in The Telegraph

on settling scores

Dominic Cummings will meet MPs on Wednesday. For Cummings, “it’s a chance to show he was right about the virus, that Westminster is inept and that Boris Johnson lacks the strategic insight – or self-discipline – to reform government,” writes Tim Stanley in The Telegraph. In short: “He wants to destroy the PM.” “We’ve had a preview of his line of attack because he can’t stop tweeting it, and some of his substantive points will land because, while embarrassing, they are not strictly speaking controversial,” Stanley notes. But while “Boris’s sunlit uplands outlook was naive at the beginning of this crisis”, now we’re attempting to “shrug off the regulations that have been forced on us by nannies like Cummings” it is clear this is now the “direction many of us prefer to go”. Cummings may want to “defend his philosophy of government”, but most have “no desire” to see their country “in a knee-jerk reaction to a once-in-a-generation event, be remade in the image of Taiwan”.

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4. Can anything control a new generation of tiger parents?

Leo Lewis in the Financial Times

on China’s education battle

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua’s memoir of “granite-fisted, Chinese-style child rearing”, was published a decade ago. But “Chua’s approach now looks like light skirmishing compared with the educational wars waged today” in China, writes Leo Lewis in the Financial Times. “Tigerised parents everywhere are increasingly conditioned to fear that they are locked in a zero-sum game where victory is worth any price.” “The competitive forces at work are so powerful that they appear to defy demographics,” writes Lewis. While the under-18 population of Japan has fallen 8.2%, the number of students enrolled in cram schools has risen by 16%. “China’s ministry of education looks justified – even noble – in trying to legislate on behalf of browbeaten, sleep-deprived children by restricting private tutors’ hours.”

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5. MPs know our drugs policies don’t work – only reforming them can reverse 50 years of deadly failures

Ian Birrell in the i newspaper

on following Portugal’s lead

“Drug legalisation is often seen, wrongly, as a liberal pipe dream,” writes Ian Birrell in the i newspaper. “Yet clearly current policies are failing when so many people are dying, prices are falling, purity is rising and when new synthetic drugs flow constantly on to the market,” he says. The Misuse of Drugs Act, given Royal Assent 50 years ago, is “arguably the most damaging piece of legislation passed in our nation’s recent history.” It’s time to follow in the footsteps of Portugal, whose drug-related deaths are “50 times lower than Scotland”. “The reason is simple: at the start of this century it stopped viewing drug use as a criminal concern and started seeing it as a health issue.” Indeed, several UK police forces are already “ignoring Westminster” by adopting Portugal’s approach, “rather than wasting resources on repeat prosecutions of people who need help to confront their demons.”

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