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Quickfire

Fresh perspectives on today's stories

5:58 pm

Europe’s worst drought on record needs to trigger a flood of climate action

We should consider this a warning.

By India Bourke

Between inflation and the soaring cost of living, there is already plenty to be anxious about. The cloudless blue sky, meanwhile, seems almost to forbid gloom. Can't we just call the sunny weather a win and leave it at that? In the face of Europe and the UK’s unfolding drought, climate-sceptic voices offer up various seductive brainworms. They query the science (which is extremely clear), blame water shortages on mismanagement (only part of the story), and belittle the threat. Satellite views of the UK may look as if someone has held a blowtorch to the eastern coast – but just look at Ireland, Wales and most of Scotland, the climate sceptics will say: they're still reassuringly green. Yet this summer’s heat is ...

12:55 pm

Britain needs a new approach to extremist violence

One year on from the Plymouth shooting, policy is still struggling to keep up with new types of terrorist threat.

By Milo Comerford

A year ago today, a 22-year-old man shot dead five people in Plymouth before turning the gun on himself in the worst mass shooting in the UK for a decade. The attacker Jake Davison had been immersed in a parallel online world, engaging with both extreme involuntary celibate (incel) subcultures and broader far-right online communities. An inquest due early next year will hopefully start to answer questions raised since the attack about failures in the systems built to prevent this kind of violence. This includes an alleged referral to the counterterrorism Prevent scheme made by the attacker’s mother in November 2016, the decision to remove – and then return – a firearms certificate to the shooter, as well as details around ...

8:00 am

Do stereotypes of British people make any sense?

We don’t queue when it comes to visas, and we don’t apologise when it comes to colonialism.

By Bilal Aly

I personally have never understood British stereotypes. Yes we do drink tea, but beyond that I’m not sure how many of them are true – the weather here isn’t so unpredictable, and most people don't speak like they're in Downton Abbey. But even beyond that, there are some British stereotypes that not only feel flawed, but like complete paradoxes; to the extent that they should be turned on their head. For one thing, it’s funny that we should have a reputation for loving queues – we so often invoke the glory of standing in line outside Wimbledon or tut when someone jumps the customs queue at a foreign airport. Yet on a global scale, we don’t actually seem to have much ...

2 days ago

Gordon Brown is wrong – we need to renationalise energy permanently, not just temporarily

It would be an act of corporate welfare to privatise when the good times return.

By Andrew Fisher

Very few politicians have faced a major economic crisis, and even fewer have won plaudits for how they handled it. When the global financial crash occurred a decade and a half ago, the UK’s longest-serving chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, had recently become prime minister. With a combination of international co-ordination – which he led – temporary nationalisation, and fiscal policy, Brown had steered the UK economy back to growth by the time he left office in 2010. Now Brown is back setting out proposals for how to deal with a very different crisis – the spike in energy bills that threatens to devastate household finances and is driving inflation to levels not seen for 40 years. Brown has proposed ...

2 days ago

Why do we still have a problem with “unlikeable” female characters?

Warning: this article contains discussion of an imperfect woman.

By Ellys Woodhouse

There is a moment in the opening seconds of Not Okay, the black comedy recently released on Disney+, that has sparked viral discussion online. Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) is a struggling “zillennial” writer who fakes a trip to Paris by editing her Instagram posts. When a series of terrorist attacks is carried out across the city and threaten to reveal her lie, Danni rebrands herself from basic influencer to survivor activist – what can I say, the internet loves trauma. But before we meet Danni, or hear of any terrorist attacks, an opening message flashes across the screen. It reads, “CONTENT WARNING: This film contains flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist. Viewer discretion advised.” This warning appears initially ...

2 days ago

The strangeness of Liz Truss attacking the media

Contrary to what she told TalkTV, Truss knows only Boris Johnson brought down Boris Johnson.

By James Ball

Liz Truss, for all her pledges of hefty tax cuts and a dramatic change in direction from her predecessor, is ultimately running as Boris Johnson's continuity candidate in the Conservative leadership contest. However, given her policies are so radically different from his (presuming she intends to follow through on any of them once Tory members likely install her in No 10, of course), she is having to perform said continuity through style rather than substance. One front on which Truss has succeeded spectacularly is in her handling of the media. In a hustings organised by the Rupert Murdoch-owned TalkTV, hosted by Tom Newton Dunn, Truss was asked who was responsible for the downfall of Boris Johnson. As she paused to consider ...

3 days ago

Censoring university reading lists is crude and condescending

“Offence” isn’t the only way to measure the worth of literature.

By Tomiwa Owolade

No book or play or poem has a god-given right to be studied at university. Change is normal: it reflects shifts in the wider intellectual culture and the individual preferences of an intelligent and well-qualified academic. One year a student may study Dorothy Richardson’s sequence of modernist novels Pilgrimage, the next she may focus on the brilliance in miniature of Katherine Mansfield’s short stories. The study of the humanities is never fixed, and nor should it be. Over the past few years, though, there seems to have been more than the normal rate of exchange. The academic study of literature is threatened. Last year, Leicester University said it would no longer offer a medieval module as part of its English undergraduate ...

3 days ago

Liz Truss plays into every sexist trope there is about women

We’ve been trying to tell men for years we’re not airheads, Instagram-obsessed or flighty.

By Pravina Rudra

That the UK looks set to have its third female prime minister might seem encouraging news for women. Yet, in the case of Liz Truss, I feel precisely the opposite. We all know that the stereotype of women as Instagram-obsessed intellectual lightweights lacking gravitas or charisma is outdated and unfair. So it’s immensely frustrating to watch Truss play into so many of these sexist tropes, making people suspect they might carry some weight. For years women have been told to forget their impostor syndrome – the tendency to not be confident in a job because they feel unqualified or as if they don’t belong. Unfortunately, Truss is someone who could actually do with more impostor syndrome; she proves why bravado should always ...