The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog


Five of the Best

The top five comment pieces from today's papers

The Independent's Yasmin Alibhai-Brown calls for the introduction of an alternative history syllabus in schools:

[O]ur children have a right to learn about British fascism as well as the battles and ultimate victory over Hitler; they need to be taught about how this country set up the conflict in Palestine, a conflict without end, and the mistakes made by the British government when Zimbabwe was created -- mistakes that are still used by the despicable President Mugabe. Idi Amin would not have taken control of my old homeland, Uganda, without British, Israeli and American connivance. Hardly anyone over 20 in Britain knows this.

In the Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson hails Samuel Johnson's literary achievement 300 years after his birth:

It took 40 Frenchmen 55 years to produce a dictionary of French. It took the Accademia della Crusca 20 years to produce a dictionary of Italian. It took Johnson nine years to produce his dictionary, and he personally wrote 40,000 entries. When the Victorians began their great oeuvre in 1888, they called it the New English Dictionary, and it was new in the sense that it was the first to presume to move out of the shadow of Johnson.

The Guardian's Jackie Ashley argues that cutting middle-class benefits such as the winter fuel payment and child benefit would be a vote-winner for Labour:

If it were still 1996, or even 2001, this would have been suicidal. The whole game was about triangulation and persuading floating, aspirational middle-class voters to back New Labour. But times have changed. Millions of these people -- though not those in the public sector -- have already defected in their minds to Cameron and are a lost cause for Labour. What would be catastrophic would be the simultaneous defection of Labour's core vote.

The New York Times's Ross Douthat compares Barack Obama's attempt at health-care refrom with Bill Clinton's in 1994 and predicts that the Republicans won't capitalise in next year's congressional elections:

The even better news for Democrats is that they aren't up against Newt Gingrich this time. Gingrich was an ideological figure, but he was savvy enough to grasp the essentially nonideological character of the public's anger in 1994. The Contract With America, remembered as a right-wing document by liberals and conservatives alike, was actually a model of center-right incrementalism, with every bullet point carefully crafted to appeal to the voters who went for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996.

In the Times, Peter Riddell says that the meetings between David Cameron and Brendan Barber are evidence of declining union power:

The unions hope they will have contacts with a Tory government, unlike their lack of access after 1979 when the Thatcher administration came to power. But that is a reflection of the unions' weakness now, not their strength. Mr Cameron is happy to talk to the unions because they are no longer a serious threat.

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