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Quickfire

Fresh perspectives on today's stories

5 August

How can Boris Johnson and Nadhim Zahawi be on holiday at a time like this?

You'd expect nothing less from the PM and his Chancellor as the economy slips into crisis.

By Martin Fletcher

“Britain slides into crisis”, proclaimed the front page of the Times on 5 August. “Recession to cause record drop in income”, the Daily Telegraph warned. Almost every newspaper led with grim reports of rising interest rates, soaring inflation, imminent recession and household budgets being squeezed as seldom before. And where was the government’s response to the Bank of England’s bleak prognosis? Where were the words of reassurance from the political leaders of our anxious nation? There were none. Boris Johnson is apparently on holiday in Slovenia and couldn’t be bothered to issue so much as a tweet. Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is also on holiday abroad, but we were asked to believe that he is working remotely and ...

5 August

Only radical solutions can tackle this cost of living emergency

Tinkering with interest rates won’t cut it.

By James Meadway

The cost of living crisis can be described very simply. Prices are too high and incomes are too low. Therefore, any proposal that doesn’t tackle either of these problems should be dismissed. The Bank of England jamming up interest rates addresses neither, and nor does its warning of mass unemployment and prolonged recession. The Bank is offering fantasy economics, in which wage rises are responsible either now or later for prices rising. But with inflation already at 9.1 per cent, and forecast to hit 13 per cent this year, while average wages are predicted to rise by only 4.5 per cent, it obviously cannot be the case that wage rises are driving general inflation. Nor will they, on the Bank’s own ...

5 August

Rishi Sunak’s mask has slipped – if ever he wore one

He wasn’t supposed to say what he really thought of “levelling up” out loud.

By Jonn Elledge

Can you really say that the mask has slipped when someone never realised they were meant to wear one in the first place? Rishi Sunak’s honesty about the fact that he believes his job is to shovel government money to people who don’t need it would be almost admirable, if it weren’t a complete and utter disgrace. The latest example of this honesty comes via a scoop from the New Statesman’s deputy political editor, Rachel Wearmouth: a video clip, filmed in a sun-drenched garden somewhere in Tunbridge Wells, showing the man who would be king bragging about his achievements as chancellor. “I managed to start changing the funding formulas, to make sure that areas like this are getting the funding that ...

5 August

The irony of the Commonwealth Games going woke

Athletes are taking on the contest’s colonial history.

By Poppie Platt

Birmingham, Britain’s industrial capital, is now home to the Commonwealth Games, that dazzling, unifying celebration of… what exactly? A hundred years ago, the Empire; now, apparently, taking a stand against injustice. First held in Hamilton, Canada, in 1930 as the British Empire Games, the sporting competition today features athletes from 72 member countries, including Australia, Barbados, Canada, India, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. It is held against a backdrop of growing anti-British feeling in former colonies. Barbados chose to become a republic in 2021, removing the Queen as its ceremonial head of state, and some Canadian and Australian politicians are also campaigning to cut their country's ties to the monarchy. The changing political climate perhaps explains the Games’ decision to allow competitors to ...

4 August

The pointlessness of Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip

Is the island any safer from China than it was before the US Speaker’s visit?

By Emily Tamkin

Now that her plane has left Taiwan and she is on her way, and now that we, the wider world, are waiting for and watching China’s response, perhaps we can ask – what did Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan achieve? What did it get Taiwan, which, unlike the US House Speaker, is left to live with China’s reaction? Is Taiwan safer than it was before the visit? Is its democracy more secure? Is it less threatened by Beijing than it was before she touched down? What we did most certainly get were stories about Pelosi’s long commitment to Taiwan, her long history of standing up to China. We got history-focused essays, the images of Pelosi standing in 1991 with a banner ...

4 August

The Bank of England is recklessly driving the UK into a deep recession

Rate rises will do little to control inflation but they will dramatically increase the threat of mass unemployment.

By David Blanchflower

This is as bad a day for the British economy as I can remember. The Bank of England, through its actions and loose talk by governor Andrew Bailey, is driving the UK into a deep recession. Their forecasts suggest something truly horrible to come before the end of the year.  It doesn’t help that the UK has no permanent prime minister and that we don’t know who will be chancellor and be tasked with stopping the recession turning into a depression. The markets will not like the lack of preparedness and the pound, increasingly likened to an emerging-market currency, is especially vulnerable.  This is the first time I have ever seen the Bank of England use the word “recession” in its forecasts. ...

4 August

Why did no one listen to black women about Tim Westwood?

We’re viewed as “on the take”, never innocent, fragile or vulnerable.

By Banseka Kayembe

“We all sort of knew”: an increasingly common phrase to hear when someone famous is accused of sexual assault. On 26 April the BBC and The Guardian jointly publicised accusations that the veteran DJ Tim Westwood had, over three decades, engaged in “opportunistic and predatory sexual behaviour” against women in their late teens and early twenties. In a documentary shown on BBC Three, six women testified that Westwood, now 64, used his status and power within the music industry to engage in deeply disturbing sexual behaviour including groping, unwanted touching and rape. All the women are black, and indeed anyone on black Twitter is most likely incredibly unsurprised by these accusations, which have been circulating for some time. The first ...

3 August

Why a bid to strip away abortion rights in Kansas backfired

You know something’s up when restriction fails in a Republican state.

By Emily Tamkin

On Tuesday 2 August, Kansas voters rejected a referendum that would have removed the right to an abortion from the state constitution. This referendum was the first major test of support for stripping away abortion rights since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade in June. It failed. The referendum was held during a primary in a state with more registered Republicans than Democrats. Voters who are not registered with either party cannot vote in the primary elections, though they could vote on the ballot referendum, which meant independents would have to remember to turn out for an election when they’d have normally stayed at home. The former president Donald Trump won the state handily in 2020. The referendum still failed. Those ...