‘In the UK, class presents the biggest barrier to ambition and talent’

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

Eton College is one of the most expensive boarding schools in the country
(Image credit: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images)

1. Race matters but class is the biggest barrier

Trevor Phillips in The Times

on dividing lines

“Our bond may be special, even indestructible, but the United States and the United Kingdom are separated by more than a common language,” writes Trevor Phillips in The Times. “America’s racial divide is real,” he writes, but “the increasingly theatrical transfer of America’s culture wars to Britain is a desperate mistake”. In the UK, “race matters, but in truth, it is what we call ‘class’ that presents the biggest barrier to ambition and talent,” says Phillips. While it may be true that “the British knee no longer bends to inherited privilege”, there remains “a generation’s work to do to wear away centuries of coded opportunity-hoarding that denies merit and protects mediocrity”.

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2. How many times will it be ‘one last heave’ until we’re free?

Ross Clark in The Telegraph

on lifting restrictions

“One of Boris Johnson’s gifts is his ability to turn a pithy and memorable phrase. But it is a talent which has deserted him in appealing to us to tolerate ‘one more heave’ for freedom,” writes Ross Clark in The Telegraph. “It is one thing to ask passengers to get off your broken-down bus and ask them to heave it up the road; quite another when you keep changing the finish line, demanding the vehicle be shifted not just to the top of the immediate hill but to ever more distant laybys,” he writes. It seems that the government has quietly changed our destination to “Zero Covid”. “If we could have seen that at the beginning we would have given up heaving a long time ago and told the bus company to stuff it.”

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3. Can GB News live up to the hype?

Claire Fox in The Spectator

on a new TV contender

“British TV viewers have never had so many channels to watch, yet they’ve also never had so little choice. The Brexit referendum exposed this lack of political diversity all too clearly,” writes Claire Fox in The Spectator. “In newsrooms that were virtually unanimous that Brexit was a backward, parochial and inexplicable idea, so-called public service broadcasters offered little insight into the mood of the public,” and were duly shocked by the outcome. Indeed, the BBC is yet to realise that “it is quite possible to dump received pronunciation but continue to embrace a suite of received opinions”, writes Fox. If GB News can enliven public discourse, “all free thinkers and democrats should welcome it to the media landscape”.

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4. The G7 showed the West endures, but is not rising to the scale of its challenges

Jeremy Cliffe in the New Statesman

on Western limitations

“So is the West ‘back’? That was the big question looming over the G7 summit in Cornwall,” writes Jeremy Cliffe in the New Statesman. While the summit may have shown that “Yes, the leaders of the West’s biggest economies reminded the world that they can be civil and collaborative, and can do business with each other”, it seems that “a great deal of what was agreed in Cornwall amounts to what Laurence Tubiana, a major negotiator at the Paris climate conference in 2015, called ‘respond[ing] with a plan to make a plan’”. The summit was a “jumble of small to middling commitments, wrapped up in benign but vague language”, writes Cliffe. If this is what “‘the return of the West’ looks like, then that does pose some big questions about how ambitious and capable the West really is in the 2020s and beyond”.

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5. Though it is newly respectable, the Wuhan lab theory remains fanciful

David Robert Grimes in The Guardian

on a troubling theory

“In the storm of disinformation since the emergence of Covid-19, the assertion that the virus is human-created has lingered on the fringes,” writes David Robert Grimes in The Guardian. “This outlandish conjecture, once confined to conspiracy theorists, has undergone a renaissance after Joe Biden’s insistence that scientists should investigate the possible lab origins of Covid,” he writes. But “the fixation on the origin of Covid is a distraction. It does not advance our understanding, nor address how we ought to proceed,” says Grimes. “Throughout history, there has been an odious tendency to falsely attribute blame for pandemics, from assertions that Jews poisoned wells in the middle ages to decrying homosexuals for the rise of Aids. This has never been edifying or justified and we should strive to avoid it now.”

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