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Editorials | The Guardian

Latest news and features from, the world's leading liberal voice

Published: Sat, 29 Apr 2017 17:40:47 GMT2017-04-29T17:40:47Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017

The Guardian view on Donald Trump: 100 days of failure | Editorial

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:49:02 GMT2017-04-28T18:49:02Z

It is no surprise dissembling has been the defining feature of his first 100 days. If he admitted the truth of his shambolic presidency, it would shorten its span

On Saturday Donald Trump will have been in the White House for a hundred days, and he has been a disaster for American democracy. His narcissism and incompetence has allowed little time for reflection and self-correction. His megalomania is such that he views himself as hounded by “enemies of the people”. In his contract with America, candidate Trump told voters that he would “restore prosperity to our economy, security to our communities and honesty to our government”. These words, like much Mr Trump has said, have proved worthless. In terms of probity, there’s the matter of the FBI investigating whether and how the Trump campaign may have colluded with Moscow’s efforts to influence the presidential election. The ethics of the presidency are constantly called into question because Mr Trump, his family and his appointees insist upon maintaining their investments in various businesses, while at the same time conducting official US government policy.

On security Mr Trump’s cruel, stupid and bigoted travel bans, which were designed to hurt and divide, have been blocked by federal courts not once but twice. Mr Trump’s rash and self-defeating campaign promise to pull the US out of Nafta, the trade agreement he once described as a “total disaster”, was dropped after Mr Trump realised that it would decimate jobs and industry in the farm belt that voted for him. One has to wonder about how a country, let alone the world’s richest, can be governed in such a way for much longer.

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The Guardian view on Tony Harrison: a people’s poet | Editorial

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:22:16 GMT2017-04-28T18:22:16Z

In embracing the past as a way of tackling the present, he remains a constant reminder of the power of words to tell us about the world we all live in

The 80th birthday of the poet Tony Harrison brought scholars from all over the world to London this week for a two-day conference topped off by an evening of recitals and reminiscences. There were fond anecdotes from the golden era of the National Theatre when he commanded the main stage with fiery demotic adaptations of world classics such as The Oresteia and The Mysteries. As emcee Melvyn Bragg pointed out, such productions were not only a high point for public poetry but for state education. When, before or since, might one witness the domination of one the UK’s most prestigious national institutions by a stationmaster’s son from Suffolk, a bus conductor’s son from Greenock and a baker’s son from Leeds (directors Peter Hall and Bill Bryden and Mr Harrison, respectively)?

Maybe it was a different, more rebellious, socially mobile time. True, all three rose through selective education. But to become misty-eyed about the glory days of grammar schools, and the public figures they created, is to miss the point of Mr Harrison, who remains a politically abrasive presence and has always embraced the past as a way of tackling the present. For more than a decade he was the Guardian’s own unofficial poet laureate, invoking figures from Greek myth to frame furious responses to wars in the Gulf, Bosnia and Iraq. His poem Iraquatrains, published in April 2003, a month before the “dodgy dossier” scandal hit the news, urged readers to “Go round to Downing St, get Tony Blair’s hard disc”. Coincidentally, Mr Harrison’s birthday week also marked another cause for celebration among those who believe in the power of old-fashioned literary values, with a report from the Publishing Association that sales of physical books were up 8% year on year, while those for consumer ebooks had dropped by 17%.

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The Guardian view on air pollution: playing politics with the nation’s health | Editorial

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:25:09 GMT2017-04-27T18:25:09Z

The high court shouldn’t have been asked to decide on this. But it has rightly ruled against the government’s latest efforts to delay action on air quality

Thanks to this government’s intransigence about tackling air pollution, the battle to improve the quality of the air we breathe has played out not in the political arena, but in the courts. Time after time, the government has found itself on the wrong side of the law: first for its failure to meet legally binding European targets on harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions; then, for failing to produce an adequate plan to address these. Its latest delaying tactic has been to claim it could not meet this week’s court-imposed deadline for publishing a new draft plan, because of the “purdah” convention ruling out new government announcements in the run-up to an election.

And so it has fallen to judges yet again to take the government to task over its failure to act. Today’s ruling took apart the government’s case: its own purdah guidance sets out exemptions where public health is at risk. As the judge pointed out, why would it be better to have parties debating what ought to be in a draft air pollution plan, when it could be debating what is actually in it?

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The Guardian view on political debate: dangerously unserious | Editorial

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:24:16 GMT2017-04-27T18:24:16Z

A focus on trivia and personality is nothing new, but recent campaigns have accelerated a decline in proper scrutiny

It is not news that a Conservative cabinet minister has a low opinion of the leader of the Labour party. The florid phrases that Boris Johnson used to express his disapproval of Jeremy Corbyn today elevated his intervention only from banal to diverting. Yet the BBC’s Today programme propelled the words “mutton-headed mugwump” to the lead item in their morning headlines.

The alliterative abuse eclipsed interesting things that Mr Johnson said in an interview: his refusal to commit to Theresa May’s numerical targets for reducing migration, for example, and his readiness to commit British troops to military action in Syria without parliamentary approval. Mr Johnson’s felicitous phrasemongery is a tactic to avoid scrutiny and disarm critics. Ideally it would be ignored, above all by Labour, who need to talk about policy and not be drawn into squabbles over personality. But the confection of news out of a meaningless insult was too egregious a lapse in Westminster’s efforts to conduct politics sensibly to pass without comment. It is symptomatic of a dysfunction in the conduct of British elections: a process that is meant to advertise policy choices to voters looks ever more like an exercise in the deliberate suffocation of ideas.

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The Guardian view on the last PMQs: now the unnecessary election | Editorial

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:29:44 GMT2017-04-26T18:29:44Z

The shortest parliament for 45 years ends next Tuesday. Now make Theresa May answer for her actions

The business of the shortest parliament since 1974 is nearly done. It all ends at midnight on 2 May, just 25 days before its second anniversary, in an unnecessary election imposed on a reluctant country by a prime minister who disguises her political objective of a greatly enlarged majority behind a spurious narrative of damaging division. It is important, as the campaign progresses, to bear in mind Theresa May’s real purpose: to establish herself as the unchallenged interpreter of Brexit.

There was something of this ruthlessness in this afternoon’s final prime minister’s question time. Behind the rowdiness and the fuzzy sentimentality of a final session, Mrs May was rarely rattled and never surprising. In the set piece exchange with the Labour leader, the words “strong”, “strength” and “stability” featured in every answer. She and Jeremy Corbyn operated on entirely separate tracks, he spattering her with questions on the NHS, taxes, pensions and the housing crisis, all of which she ignored in order to launch her prepared attacks.

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The Guardian view on Apple-Uber affair: reasons to tame Silicon Valley | Editorial

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:23:34 GMT2017-04-26T18:23:34Z

The dealings of two of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies shows that there remains an urgent political task to bring a rogue culture to heel

The taxi-hailing company Uber brings into very sharp focus the question of whether corporations can be said to have a moral character. If any human being were to behave with the single-minded and ruthless greed of the company, we would consider them sociopathic. Uber wanted to know as much as possible about the people who use its service, and those who don’t. It has an arrangement with, a company which offered a free service for unsubscribing from junk mail, to buy the contacts customers had had with rival taxi companies. Even if their email was notionally anonymised, this use of it was not something the users had bargained for. Beyond that, it keeps track of the phones that have been used to summon its services even after the original owner has sold them, attempting this with Apple’s phones even thought it is forbidden by the company.

Uber has also tweaked its software so that regulatory agencies that the company regarded as hostile would, when they tried to hire a driver, be given false reports about the location of its cars. Uber management booked and then cancelled rides with a rival taxi-hailing company which took their vehicles out of circulation. Uber deny this was the intention. The punishment for this behaviour was negligible. Uber promised not to use this “greyball” software against law enforcement – one wonders what would happen to someone carrying a knife who promised never to stab a policeman with it. Travis Kalanick of Uber got a personal dressing down from Tim Cook, who runs Apple, but the company did not prohibit the use of the app. Too much money was at stake for that.

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The Guardian view on Barack Obama: don’t go chasing Wall Street cash | Editorial

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:19:17 GMT2017-04-26T18:19:17Z

He doesn’t really need the money and it will allow his opponents to claim he is a creature of moneyed interests. Give the cash to charity

There’s little doubt that President Obama was a historic leader of the world’s most powerful nation. In his eight years in office, the economy was steered clear of a looming depression. His healthcare reforms are established as a totemic policy in American politics. In global affairs he looked for no new dragons to slay. He can also claim credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Iran nuclear deal and the opening up of Cuba. When he reappeared in public life, after three months off, it was to encourage young people to participate in political life. Yet now it has emerged that he is to be paid $400,000 to speak at a Wall Street conference. This is a mistake. He should give the fee to charity.

What message does this send to young people? That a career in politics is a way of getting rich? Tony Blair has destroyed his reputation by chasing money. Hillary Clinton’s standing among leftwing voters was sunk by her highly-paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. Mr Obama should not allow populist critics to paint him as a pawn of moneyed interests. He doesn’t need the money: he and Michelle have a two-book deal worth $65m. Mr Obama won many of the white suburban or post-industrial counties that Mrs Clinton lost in 2016. His success rested on the symbolism of hope. Don’t tarnish it now.

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The Guardian view on Labour’s Brexit: out of the EU, but close to it | Editorial

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 18:42:38 GMT2017-04-25T18:42:38Z

Though Labour now has a plan to leave the EU, it has avoided spelling out in detail how Britain can depart without a deal in place. This may be embarrassing, but it is politically necessary

Labour’s policy on leaving the European Union is probably best summed up by the Rolling Stones line “you can’t always get what you want”. On Tuesday morning the party’s Brexit spokesman, and one of its brightest talents, Keir Starmer, tried to explain what Labour’s policy on leaving the EU was and what it was not. Until recently Labour had tried to be many things, understandably so because the party had to bridge the gulf between its remain-voting and leave-voting seats. Since parliament, with the support of most Labour MPs, voted to trigger Article 50, the party’s position has become clearer. Rightly, Sir Keir insisted that EU nationals won’t be bargaining chips in forthcoming talks. He also outlined a significant shift on immigration. Even a few weeks ago, Labour’s position was perceived to be soft on freedom of movement. Labour’s policy is now to prioritise jobs, workers’ rights, and living standards in Britain over the right for people to work and travel around the continent. It is undeniable – and a tragedy – that Britain’s vote to leave the EU was founded on fears over immigration.

Sir Keir’s position, at first glance, looks very much like the one offered by his Conservative opponents. Both Labour and the Tories now accept restrictions on freedom of movement despite the implications for access to the single market. Both will have a vote in parliament on the deal, although Labour envisages time to go back to Brussels if MPs reject it. Both parties want the best deal possible for Britain. Sir Keir differs from the Tories in that he would start negotiations with all options on the table and drop them one by one until a deal is reached. Theresa May would start from a blank sheet of paper and work out a deal that both sides could agree on. So far, so similar. The difference is that Sir Keir has declined to explain what would happen if the EU told Britain that the deal on offer in March 2019 was a “take it or leave it” one. When pressed he said the country could fall back on transitional arrangements and contingency measures – an answer that felt like a political deus ex machina conjured up to escape a seemingly unsolvable problem. If Mrs May could not get a deal from EU that she found agreeable, then Britain would crash out of the EU. This would be a disaster for the country, and a warning about the strength of the hardline Euroscepticism in the Tory party that seeks to remould the country as regulation-lite tax haven on the edge of Europe.

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The Guardian view on Venezuela: a country in pain | Editorial

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 18:33:25 GMT2017-04-25T18:33:25Z

People are dying from shortages and state violence as Nicolás Maduro clings to power

Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro has failed his country. Picked by Hugo Chávez as successor just before his death in 2013, President Maduro has been an incompetent leader in hard times. He has failed to address the economic crisis triggered when the fall in the price of oil exposed the weaknesses of Chavismo, his predecessor’s ambitious experiment in poverty alleviation and social ownership. Now, in what was once South America’s richest country, more than four households in five are in poverty, twice the level of when he came to power. Babies and children die for lack of access to commonplace medicines. Murder and kidnapping for ransom are rife. Inflation is running above 800%; the economy is contracting sharply. Democracy itself is being eroded as the president defends his faltering grip on power. Weeks of protests have been met by state violence, semi-official vigilantes and, increasingly, counterattack from some opposition groupings. There is a wretched stalemate; and there is a real fear that violence could soon escalate out of control.

Like many of its neighbours, Venezuela’s democrats have to overcome a troubled history of rule by elites with little concern for lifting people out of poverty or shared economic growth. For more than a decade, Chávez seemed to offer a better prospectus: decent housing, proper wages and a fairer future. But after his premature death, the fall in oil prices laid bare the old divisions. His detractors point to a mixture of corruption and his failure to set up a Norwegian-style wealth fund to invest some of an oil income that approached $1tn as causes of the crisis. His defenders accuse the old ruling elite and its supporters of sabotaging the revolution.

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The Guardian view on Labour’s manifesto process: get ready for the blame game | Editorial

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:57:46 GMT2017-04-24T18:57:46Z

In the Bennite era, the left wanted the leader to follow conference policy in the election manifesto. Jeremy Corbyn now seems to have adopted the opposite approach

The term “clause IV” – the clause of Labour’s 1918 constitution setting out the party’s aims and values – still resonates, more than 20 years after Tony Blair persuaded Labour to change it. “Clause V” has always been less iconic. So few under the age of 60 are likely to have much clue what the party’s “clause V meeting” once portended.

Yet, until the 1980s, clause V was probably a greater concern to Labour leaders than the more celebrated fourth clause. That’s because it is the job of a meeting held under this clause to agree the party’s election manifesto. In recent elections, the clause V meeting has taken place without much excitement. Yet in the 1970s and early 1980s, they were immense internal battles. In the Tony Benn era, the meeting was a climactic moment for efforts by the Labour left, which tended to control the party executive, to shape a more radical manifesto than most MPs, and the party leader in particular, wanted. It was axiomatic for Mr Benn and his followers that MPs and the party leader should be expected to follow the manifesto drawn up by the executive on behalf of the party.

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The Guardian view on Egypt’s dictatorship: a war of Sisi’s own making | Editorial

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:56:44 GMT2017-04-24T18:56:44Z

Egyptian forces appear to have shot detainees in cold blood. There are too many signs that a military dictatorship in a key Arab nation is losing control in the sands of the Sinai

The news that Egypt’s army shot dead up to eight unarmed detainees, including a minor, in the Sinai peninsula and tried to cover up the extrajudicial killings by claiming they had happened in combat should alarm all those interested in the cause of democracy in the Arab world. Back in December the Egyptian army posted on its Facebook page that the military had raided a militant outpost, killing eight and arresting four others. But a three-minute video that emerged this weekend raises serious questions over the army’s version of events. It shows no firefight but does record the cold-blooded murder of prisoners. In one instance a soldier casually shoots a man in the head. In another, soldiers escort a blindfolded man into a field, place him on his knees and shoot him repeatedly. Predictably, Cairo’s military dictatorship calls this propaganda by its opponents. Just as predictable is that there’s to be no investigation into alleged war crimes.

The video was leaked on the day the US defence secretary, Jim Mattis, sat down with Egypt’s ruler, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who seized power in a bloody coup in 2013. Possibly the most authoritarian leader in the Middle East, a title for which there is some competition, Mr Sisi bears responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Egyptians, jailing thousands of others and running his country’s economy into the ground.

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The Guardian view on France’s election: a win for Macron and hope | Editorial

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 19:49:03 GMT2017-04-23T19:49:03Z

In the first round in the race for the Élysée, the postwar parties have been humbled. France has voted for change

The storming of the Bastille in 1789 sets the bar high. As a result, few phrases should be used with more circumspection than “French revolution”. But the result of the first round of France’s 2017 presidential election is an epochal political upheaval for France all the same. For the first time in the nearly 60-year history of the Fifth Republic the second-round contest on 7 May will be between two outsider candidates, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Neither of the candidates of the established parties of left and right will be in the runoff. Whichever of the second-round candidates emerges as the winner in two weeks’ time, France is set upon a new political course, with major implications for itself and for the rest of Europe.

The defeat of the established parties is a humiliation for modern French party politics of left and right. The Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, representing the party of the outgoing president François Hollande, received a mere 6.2% of the votes, according to early estimates. The conservative candidate François Fillon, carrier of the tarnished Gaullist baton, did better, with 19.7%. Yet this is the first time that an official centre-right candidate has failed to get into the second round since General de Gaulle created modern France in 1958. Given the scandals about his use of public funds, it was remarkable that Mr Fillon did so well. Even so, between them Mr Hamon and Mr Fillon took only a quarter of the votes. Instead three French voters out of four, in a turnout of 78%, voted for change.

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The Guardian view on generational inequality: a country fit for all ages | Editorial

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 18:56:08 GMT2017-04-23T18:56:08Z

In 2010 David Willetts illuminated the equality divide between young and old. Since then things have only got worse

Seven years ago, a new set of contour lines emerged in our understanding of inequality in Britain. The publication of The Pinch by David Willetts has shaped the way we map, measure and articulate inequality: not just in terms of the gap between the rich and the poor, but in terms of the divide between the young and the old.

Lord Willetts’ arguments have since become well rehearsed. The baby boomer generation have collectively done much better financially than the generations that came before them. They will have drawn more out of the welfare state than they paid in as a generation; have done exceedingly well out of accelerating house-price growth; and can look forward to a comfortable retirement on generous defined-benefit pensions. But this has come at the expense of the younger generation, which finds itself struggling to even get on the housing ladder, and financially propping up both the welfare state and pensions schemes that the older generation are drawing down on.

Related: The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Stole Their Children's Future by David Willetts | Book review

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The Observer view on the French presidential election | Observer editorial

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 23:05:27 GMT2017-04-22T23:05:27Z

Europe and Britain wait to see which way France’s voters will turn

After months of political shocks, high-profile scandals and fraught campaigning, the outcome of France’s presidential election remains clouded in uncertainty, but the potentially momentous consequences of today’s first-round vote, for the French, for Europe and for Britain, are clear.

It is often said at election time that this or that country is at a crossroads. On this occasion, this platitude has the ring of truth. With voters apparently split four ways, and with up to one-third undecided on the eve of the poll, this divided country, crying out for change yet uncertain how to achieve it, is undoubtedly at a turning point.

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The Observer view on the general election campaign | Observer editorial

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 23:04:27 GMT2017-04-22T23:04:27Z

Already the parties are dodging the crucial issues facing the country

Less than a week in and there is already a whiff of absurdity about this general election campaign. Elections are supposed to provide choices: the opportunity for voters to have a say on the big issues. There is no shortage of serious questions facing Britain in 2017: not just what type of relationship we want with the European Union after we leave, but on a wide range of important economic and social challenges.

Yet the first few days of the election campaign suggested that it will be defined by a lack of choice. It looks unlikely to provide an insight on what the different parties have to offer on problems such as regional inequality, the proliferation of low-paid, insecure work or the crisis in housing affordability. Nor will it shed further light on where they stand on the key Brexit negotiating issues. Instead, it looks set to unfold into a depressingly negative slanging match.

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The Guardian view on the French presidency: hope not hate | Letters

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:41:38 GMT2017-04-21T17:41:38Z

The presidential poll takes place after a terrible terrorist attack and will decide politics far beyond the nation’s borders. If we had a vote it would be for Emmanuel Macron to turn back the tide of xenophobia

Thursday night’s terrorist attack on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, just three days ahead of the first round of France’s presidential election, has sown fresh fear and confusion in an already tense country. That the shooting of a police officer occurred on Paris’s most famous street only added to the shock for a country that is still deeply shaken by the 2015 and 2016 terrorist attacks that killed more than 230 people. An already unpredictable presidential campaign just got a bit more so.

In the wake of the attack, national security instantly became the topic of the campaign’s closing day. Yet this presidential vote is not, and should not, be about terrorism, however serious a danger it unquestionably is. France is at a momentous crossroads: the choice voters will make has immense consequences not just for one country’s economy, institutions and social cohesion.

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The Guardian view on prosecuting WikiLeaks: don’t do it | Editorial

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:39:10 GMT2017-04-21T17:39:10Z

The freedom to embarrass the powerful, even in a bad cause, is vital to journalism and to a free society“I love WikiLeaks,” President Donald Trump last year told an adoring crowd on the campaign trail. At around the same time, one of his supporters, Representative Mike Pompeo, tweeted triumphantly that emails from the Democratic National Committee provided “further proof … the fix was in from President Obama on down”. To give his lies authority, he added: “Leaked by WikiLeaks.” Those cloudy and insubstantial allegations have been widely credited with helping Mr Trump win his election, but times are different now. Mr Pompeo is director of the CIA and has denounced WikiLeaks as “a non-state, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors, like Russia” – something entirely obvious to the rest of the world back when Russia was, in the opinion of many, conspiring to help Mr Trump and Mr Pompeo to attain their present eminence.This would be just another example of the shameless dishonesty of the Trump administration, if there were not credible reports that the US Department of Justice is considering an attempt to prosecute WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. This would threaten one of the core freedoms of the press. Mr Assange is in many ways an unattractive champion of liberty. But he is right to claim that at least sometimes his organisation serves a journalistic function and should be protected in the US by the first amendment. Some of the documents that WikiLeaks has published, and that other media organisations, including the Guardian, have also used, were obtained by means that may have been illegal. But there is a longstanding principle that this does not in itself make their publication illegal. If we, as journalists, had to rely solely on public-spirited and scrupulously honest sources, some very important stories would be missed. Key stories that hold the powerful to account in a democracy would no longer be heard. The defence of a free press is that it doesn’t necessarily make its participants virtuous, but it harnesses some of their vices to the public good. The dumping of unredacted documents, as WikiLeaks did with the Turkish ruling party’s internal emails, is wrong, and so is the apparent refusal to offend powerful patrons. Nonetheless offending or embarrassing the wealthy and the influential – even if they are your friends – is an important function of journalism. It is also constitutionally protected in the US. Continue reading...[...]

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The Guardian view on the IMF: a global institution in an age of protection | Editorial

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:53:27 GMT2017-04-20T17:53:27Z

The International Monetary Fund’s boss, Christine Lagarde, needs an answer for the car worker in Michigan

After the most difficult decade in its history, life should be looking up for the International Monetary Fund as it hosts the world’s finance ministers and central bankers in Washington DC this week. The global economy is at last picking up speed. Financial markets look more stable. The US is running at full employment, China is expanding strongly, and the eurozone is going through one of its better periods. Spring is in the air, according to the Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde.

Privately, the mood in Washington is less ebullient. The IMF has its doubts about whether the pick-up in activity – which has only been possible because central banks have kept interest rates at record lows since the deep slump of 2008-09 – will endure. It points to the vulnerability of debt-laden American companies to rising borrowing costs, to the credit bubble that has kept China’s economy booming, and to the €1tn of non-performing loans weighing down banks in the eurozone.

The IMF exemplifies the sort of elitist global organisation that Trump has railed against on the campaign stump

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The Guardian view on the aid target: it’s the fraction that counts | Editorial

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:52:01 GMT2017-04-20T17:52:01Z

Rumours abound that the Tories will abandon the UK’s aid target. It would come at a heavy cost

One of the real achievements of the coalition government was setting and reaching the target of spending 0.7% of GDP on development aid. UK aid spending has played a significant role in halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and delivering the great improvements in global health and education that have been achieved over the past decade.

Britain’s lead has encouraged others to follow: earlier this year, Germany joined the elite club of countries that had reached the UN-set target. It has enhanced British status and influence across the world. In a report earlier this month, MPs on the cross-party committee on international development concluded, after a lengthy inquiry, that “ODA [official development assistance] spending is in the national interest and is a strong investment contributing to create a more prosperous world, which pays far-reaching dividends including to UK taxpayers at home”.

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The Guardian view on MPs and the general election: Theresa May demanded. They obeyed | Editorial

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 18:29:13 GMT2017-04-19T18:29:13Z

The prime minister easily won the vote in parliament to call an election. MPs let themselves and their parties down by capitulating too readily

Polling day is now seven weeks away. Today MPs made this official by voting 522 to 13 for an early election. But not before events in the Commons offered a clear foretaste of the kind of contest the 2017 general election will be. On the one hand, the chamber was crowded with a hugely confident Conservative party, close to overbearingly so at times, seeking a mandate that Theresa May will be tempted to treat as conferring unfettered authority. Opposite them, a group of mainly anti-Tory parties, each singing their own distinct and sometimes decent tunes, displayed a glum conviction that anything other than a Tory victory is improbable on 8 June.

Yet these are early days. Things may change. The Theresa May of the past 48 hours is not the Theresa May much of the country had been quietly impressed by over the past nine difficult months. In calling this election, she has released a surge of potential hubris in herself and within her party and its press supporters. This is not a pleasant sight, and it is possible she may come to regret taking the public so much for granted when she did her snap poll U-turn – on which she was well skewered by Yvette Cooper at prime minister’s questions – and then compounded it by refusing to take part in TV debates that the public has by now rightly come to expect as a necessary part of the election process.

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