Five of the Best

The top five comment pieces from today's papers and the web

The Independent's Johann Hari discusses the phrases that should be banished from the English language. They include "infant mortality", "Christian/Muslim children" and "climate change":

"Climate change". This phrase was invented by the Republican pollster Frank Luntz, when he discovered that focus groups found the phrase "global warming" too scary. Climate change sounds nice and gentle, and evokes our latent awareness that the climate has changed naturally throughout history. Even "global warming" is problematic, since it makes us picture putting our feet up in the sun. The more accurate phrase would be "the unravelling of the ecosystem", "climate chaos", or "catastrophic man-made global warming." They're a mouthful, but they are honest.

Jonathan Freedland writes in the Guardian about what the BBC must do to protect itself from a potential Murdoch-Cameron alliance:

(T)he BBC can rein in its ceaseless expansion. It had every right to move online, but it surely cannot justify buying up the Lonely Planet travel guides. Again, its unique privilege is that it does not have to operate according to market logic. Which means it does not have to behave like a rapacious media giant.

The Wall Street Journal's Thomas Frank argues that the Democrats have failed to make the case for health care as a public good:

(O)ur ancestors understood something that escapes those who brag so loudly about their prudence at today's town-hall meetings: That health care is not an individual commodity to be bought and enjoyed like other products. That the health of each of us depends on the health of the rest of us, as epidemics from the Middle Ages to this year's flu have demonstrated.

The human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson writes in the Independent that, among other things, the disgraceful release of the Lockerbie bomber has damaged the international campaign against the death penalty:

The decision will seriously damage the worldwide campaign to abolish the death penalty for international crimes. This relies upon the validity of assurances (such as that given by Robin Cook to Madeleine Albright) that genocidaires and torturers and terrorists will never be released. Now, such assurances cannot credibly be given by democratic governments, because Mr MacAskill's action illustrates the risk that within a few years, politicians will contrive to breach them.

At Liberal Conspiracy, Sunny Hundal defends the Climate Camp from those who argue it lacks political purpose:

The aim of Climate Rush, Plane Stupid and Climate Camp isn't to create mass-movements or write policy about the environment because the nature of their action means they'll always be a small hardcore bunch. It's the job of bigger organisations like Greenpeace to build mass movements and push forward on policy. It's the job of think tanks to produce the policy papers.

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.