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Editorials | The Guardian



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



Published: Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:17:57 GMT2017-10-18T15:17:57Z

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



The Guardian view on the Brexit talks: it’s the economy, stupid | Editorial

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 18:13:04 GMT2017-10-17T18:13:04Z

The economic skies are darkening over Britain. Theresa May has little alternative but to make concessions that will protect UK jobs and businesses

When she became prime minister in 2016, Theresa May gave the impression of knowing exactly what kind of Brexit she wanted. In speeches and interviews, she made clear that Brexit was about breaking with the EU in line with the referendum, taking control of national borders, leaving European institutions including the court of justice, becoming a global free trader and, almost as an afterthought, remaining good neighbours with Europe. To the domestic audience she insisted that the essential message of the referendum was about migration control, and she implied that, though there might be economic blips along the way, she had the leadership skills to persuade the country that the gain was worth the pain.

That strategy now looks very threadbare. Parts are in tatters. Others have been turned on their heads. The underlying problem for Mrs May and her government is that the fantasy of 2016 is running ever harder and more often into the reality of 2017. The reality is that the impact of Brexit on jobs, living standards and the economy is proving much more severe and much more fundamental that she had hoped in the early months of her premiership. The reality is that “global Britain” is a delusion cooked up by the Tory party’s obsessive anti-Europeans. The reality is that the UK’s post-Brexit relationship to the EU, its single market and its customs union is far more consequential than anything else on her agenda. The reality is that Mrs May threw away her authority in June, and that public opinion is losing confidence in the Brexit vision she promoted a year ago.

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The Guardian view on murdering the messenger: a desperate situation | Editorial

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 18:12:51 GMT2017-10-17T18:12:51Z

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s warnings that Malta was becoming a mafia state need to be taken seriously

Daphne Caruana Galizia’s last blog was characteristically trenchant, pithy and, unfortunately, more prescient for her than she could imagine. She had warned: “There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.” Less than half an hour later, a huge bomb ripped through the white Peugeot 108 rental car she had been driving, killing her instantly on a quiet country lane near her home in Malta. It is not special pleading to point out that journalists and journalism are facing extraordinary challenges: Mrs Caruana Galizia is the 10th journalist worldwide to die this year – and the second in Europe – in pursuit of finding the truth. The assassination of an investigative journalist, one who had unearthed serious allegations of money laundering and corruption in Malta, a European Union state, speaks volumes about the threat to freedom of speech in that country and the atmosphere of impunity and violence that has taken hold in the Mediterranean archipelago. As her son Matthew put it, “she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it”. Her bravery cost her her life. It should not be lost in vain.

Mrs Caruana Galizia was a fearless reporter, taking on the rich and the powerful. A “one-woman WikiLeaks”, she led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta. Her death must be properly investigated – local police already appear to be unsympathetic. Mrs Caruana Galizia’s most recent revelations pointed the finger at Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and hundreds of thousands of euros in payments from the government of Azerbaijan. Despite a judicial inquiry into the allegations, Mr Muscat won a snap poll this summer.

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The Guardian view on social care: the cost of cowardice | Editorial

Tue, 17 Oct 2017 05:00:05 GMT2017-10-17T05:00:05Z

For a generation, politicians have ducked the challenge of restructuring health and social care. But if they don’t act now it may be too late

The cost of social care is bankrupting local councils and threatening the NHS. The latest study points out that any reform based, like the so-called dementia tax, on property values must take account of how different they are in the south of England compared with the north or with Wales. Last week, the normally ultra-cool NHS boss Simon Stevens told MPs on the health committee that its budget was “extremely challenging” and unless it was increased, the NHS might not be able to meet patient demand. With both health and social care budgets under such extreme pressure, it is no surprise that the two arms of care, instead of being locked in a protective embrace of those who should be able to rely on them, are engaged in the most bad-tempered wrestling that informed observers can remember.

Surveying the wreckage of seven years of austerity, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is under instructions to find a headline-grabbing initiative in next month’s budget to redress the generation gap. The dementia tax may have been flawed, but some kind of windfall tax on the huge increase in house values enjoyed by many older voters is one answer, and seems still to be in the mix. At the Tory party conference, it has now emerged that the social care minister, Jackie Doyle-Price, repeated the argument that it was unfair if old people who lived in valuable houses had social care bills paid by the state.

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The Guardian view on the Austrian elections: an old threat in a new guise | Editorial

Mon, 16 Oct 2017 18:18:30 GMT2017-10-16T18:18:30Z

Austria’s coalition between centre-right and far-right parties caused a shock in 2000. A new version of the coalition in 2017 is just as serious but less of a surprise

Back in 2000, when the late Jörg Haider’s far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which had won 27% of the vote in the general election the previous autumn, joined the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) in government in Vienna, governments in Europe and beyond reacted with shock and outrage. The EU imposed diplomatic sanctions. The European parliament said Austria should be suspended if the new government breached European principles. Israel withdrew its ambassador. The New York Times urged the Clinton administration to do likewise. In the event, the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition survived its pariah status uneasily for five years, then fell apart in 2005.

Today, 17 years on from that first coalition, a second coalition between the two parties of the right now seems likely. In Sunday’s Austrian general election the People’s party and the Freedom party emerged as the big winners, with 32% and 26% of the vote respectively after a campaign in which they vied with one another to attack migration through the Balkans and the perceived threat to Austria from what the ÖVP leader Sebastian Kurz called “political Islam”. Between them, the two parties increased their share of the vote by 13%. Mr Kurz greeted the result as a mandate for change. A new alliance between the two is therefore the most likely outcome, though it is not the only one. The social democratic SPÖ, which held its own on Sunday with 27%, voted today to begin talks with the Freedom party so see if it could thwart Mr Kurz. A renewed centre party coalition between the ÖVP and the SPÖ, of the kind that has ruled since 2006, is not out of the question either.

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The Guardian view on unlocking Brexit: easier than it looks | Editorial

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 17:29:37 GMT2017-10-15T17:29:37Z

There is a ready compromise available, as long as cabinet hardliners refrain from deliberate sabotage

Every negotiation involves choreography. But when the dancers don’t know the steps in advance, things can go very wrong. Then the blame must be shared. It takes two to mess up a tango.

The UK and EU are not so much stumbling over each other in the Brexit talks as fidgeting on opposite sides of the floor. There is an impasse, according to Michel Barnier, who negotiates on behalf of the European commission with a mandate set by the 27 European heads of government. They will meet this week for a summit, where it will formally be declared that insufficient progress has been made to allow Brexit talks to proceed from the terms of divorce to the question of a future trading partnership.

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The Guardian view on the ‘yellowface’ casting row: classical music has a diversity problem | Editorial

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 17:29:24 GMT2017-10-15T17:29:24Z

The pulling of Peter Eötvös’s opera The Golden Dragon from the Hackney Empire must provoke some tough thinking

The Hackney Empire in London announced last week that it had cancelled a performance of an opera that had come under fire from members of Britain’s east Asian community. The Golden Dragon, by the Hungarian composer Peter Eötvös, is set in a Chinese restaurant, and has Chinese characters. But the cast was all white. In its statement, Hackney Empire cited its commitment to reflecting the UK’s diverse population on its stage.

In truth, common sense ought to have kicked in at Music Theatre Wales, which created the production, long before The Golden Dragon reached the stage. The opera’s music and libretto are by white men; the staging was designed and directed by white men. Though the well-intentioned production seeks to shine a light on the immigrant experience, it seems perverse to attempt to do so without any involvement at all from the communities described. The music itself contains passages that can be understood as cultural cliches that skate dangerously towards caricature.

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The Observer view on EU negotiations | Observer editorial

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 23:05:15 GMT2017-10-14T23:05:15Z

Mrs May must curb the infighting in her ranks and start leading

The grim declaration last week by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, that the Brexit negotiations are at an impasse has sparked renewed talk in government and parliamentary circles about the feasibility of Britain crashing out of the EU in March 2019 without any deal on its future relationship. This frightful prospect should be stifled once and for all. It encourages the dangerous illusion that the UK can somehow unilaterally sever its EU ties without paying an intolerably high price, and not only financially. And it is wholly irresponsible in plain political terms. Neither in the 2016 referendum nor in last June’s election did voters give Theresa May a mandate to sacrifice Britain’s economic security on the altar of Conservative party unity.

Why are we even talking again about a “no deal” outcome? Having repeatedly spouted her “no deal is better than a bad deal” mantra, May eventually dropped it because it was so self-evidently untrue. Since Brexit became their party’s official policy, the Tories have followed a painful learning curve about what it actually entails. A deluded rump of hard Tory Brexiters remains in stubborn denial. They inhabit a lost world where Britain still rules the waves, Johnny Foreigner bends the knee, the Daily Mail and Rudyard Kipling articulate the nation’s superior values and hard times, especially when experienced by the lower orders, are character-forming.

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The Observer view on the Harvey Weinstein fallout | Observer editorial

Sat, 14 Oct 2017 23:04:14 GMT2017-10-14T23:04:14Z

From Hollywood to workplaces in every town and city, sexual predators pose a problem for countless young women

It would be all too easy to see Harvey Weinstein’s spectacular and overdue fall from grace as a uniquely Hollywood tale. The accounts of alleged sexual harassment and assault at the hands of the producer are growing in number every day. They paint an alarming picture of the global film industry: power concentrated in the hands of a small group of men, some of whom were all too willing to abuse their capacity to make or break the careers and reputations of vulnerable young women competing for a tiny number of roles.

Weinstein’s behaviour has been described as an “open secret” in Hollywood. By all accounts, he created an intensely toxic culture for women working in his industry. It affected not just those who tried to speak out about what they experienced, and subsequently saw their careers curtailed, but also provoked rumours about those who achieved success in the films he produced. “Congratulations,” joked the comedian Seth MacFarlane at the 2013 Oscar nominations announcement for the best supporting actress category, “you five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”

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The Guardian view on decertifying the Iran deal: full of sound and fury | Editorial

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 18:32:20 GMT2017-10-13T18:32:20Z

Trump rampages in rhetoric. But for all his posturing, the Iran deal still stands – just

Donald Trump has taken a wild swing at his predecessor’s key foreign policy legacy, the milestone 2015 Iran nuclear accord. By refusing to “certify” Iran’s compliance, Mr Trump has set events on an unpredictable course. He had until 15 October to “certify” the deal’s implementation. He had done so twice already since coming to office. But this time, though nothing substantial has changed, he’s noisily refused. Does this matter? He cannot, alone, pull the US out of this deal but he has raised the spectre that this might happen “at any time”. He wants measures taken to counter Iran’s “destabilising actions”, and to “deny all paths to a nuclear weapon”, though without much clarity as to what this might entail. None of this contradicts the agreement formally, but it will all weaken it. Congress now has 60 days in which to decide whether to vote to reimpose sanctions whose lifting was a essential part of the quid pro quo contained in the agreement. Even if that happens, European allies who are party to the nuclear deal, along with Russia and China, have all clearly indicated they will act to preserve it.

The 2015 deal offered the best possible assurances that Iran’s nuclear military activities would be contained for roughly 10 years. It imposed strict international inspections, and provided strong incentives through sanctions relief. By defusing the nuclear crisis, it helped consolidate the more pragmatic or moderate factions within Iran’s power structures. It has deprived Israel’s leader of a pretext to threaten Iran with military strikes. It has helped to prevent the arms race in the Middle East from taking on entirely new proportions.

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The Guardian view on school segregation: the origins of inequality | Editorial

Fri, 13 Oct 2017 18:29:11 GMT2017-10-13T18:29:11Z

As the Weinstein nightmare unfolds, UK judges were right to outlaw separating boys and girls at school but wrong to deny it hurts girls more

On the face of it, Friday’s UK court of appeal ruling that segregation by sex in co-ed schools is a breach of the Equality Act is important for two reasons: it expands the understanding of discrimination and it strikes back against the creeping normalisation of segregation on faith grounds in non-religious circumstances. Those are big victories, and they are important. But on the biggest argument, that any such discrimination always hurts girls more than boys, the court ruled two-to-one against. The dissenting judgment of Lady Justice Gloster is both a powerful advertisement for the immense importance of diversity in the courts, and essential reading for anyone interested in the complex relationship between faith and state.

Al-Hijrah school is a voluntary aided co-educational Islamic faith school in Birmingham that teaches children aged four to 16. From the age of nine, boys and girls are separated on arrival and spend the whole day apart. Last year, Ofsted put the school in special measures because of concerns about school management, but it also found that the segregation was discriminatory even though both sexes had almost identical access to the full curriculum. The high court supported the school’s right to segregate its pupils. But on Friday the court of appeal overturned the high court and backed Ofsted’s argument that every boy and girl was discriminated against on the grounds that they did not have the chance to mix with the opposite sex. As a result, their social development and the extent to which they were prepared for interaction with the opposite sex when they left school was hampered. They were not properly educated. It was not a question of separate but equal treatment, but of discrimination against every individual. So far, so groundbreaking.

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The Guardian view on the IMF’s message: yes, tax the super-rich | Editorial

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 18:05:06 GMT2017-10-12T18:05:06Z

The Reagan-Thatcher revolution changed society’s beliefs about taxes for the worse. It’s a good thing the IMF agrees with Labour that we need a rethink if we want economic growth shared fairly

The International Monetary Fund has been on quite a journey from the days when it was seen as the provisional wing of the Washington consensus, an ideology that promoted the false idea that growth was turbo-charged by scrapping welfare policies and pursuing privatisations. These days the IMF is less likely to harp on about the joys of liberalised capital flows than it is to warn of the dangers of ever-greater inequality. The Fund’s latest – and welcome – foray into the realms of progressive economics came this week when it used its half-yearly fiscal monitor – normally a dry-as-dust publication – to make the case for higher taxes on the super-rich. Make no mistake, this is a significant moment.

For almost 40 years, since the arrival of Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street and Ronald Reagan in the White House, the economic orthodoxy on taxation has been that higher taxes for the 1% are self-defeating. Soaking the rich, it was said, would punish initiative and lead to lower levels of innovation, less investment, weaker growth and, therefore, reduced revenue for the state. As last week’s Conservative party conference showed, this line of argument is still popular. Minister after minister took to the stage to warn that Jeremy Corbyn’s tax plans would lead to a 1970s-style brain drain.

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The Guardian view on an energy price cap: a stopgap, not a strategy | Editorial

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 18:04:44 GMT2017-10-12T18:04:44Z

Theresa May wanted this to be the policy that parked a tank on Labour’s lawn. Not like this, it won’t

There is much to be said for a limited cap on energy prices. But the details of the government plan that was published on Thursday, promising lower bills for 11 million households, are so vague and its political purpose so brazen that it needs to be treated with great caution. Buyer, beware.

It is now the stuff of political legend that when Ed Miliband first proposed the idea of a cap in 2013, it was dismissed as a neo-Marxist project. Yet last year, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) itself came close to making the same recommendation, following an investigation triggered by the record of apparently unjustified price rises in the newly liberalised industry. Between 2004 to 2014, they rose by between 75% (for electricity) and 125% (for gas), for reasons that were impossible for most people to understand or for suppliers to explain. Then at the last election Theresa May poached the idea in a bid to plant the banner of Mayism firmly on Labour territory: the Conservatives would be the new party of the working class. Weakened by election humiliation, she dropped the idea. Last week it was recalled by a prime minister desperate to talk about something other than Brexit.

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The Guardian view on Catalan independence: time to talk | Editorial

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:50:11 GMT2017-10-11T17:50:11Z

This is a dangerous and volatile moment for both Madrid and Barcelona. Both sides should keep calm and negotiate

The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, is playing hardball with Catalonia’s bid for independence. His first response to the declaration by President Carles Puigdemont that the right to independence was won, but would be suspended in order to create space for “dialogue”, was to challenge Mr Puigdemont to clarify his region’s status. Mr Rajoy has made no secret of his readiness to trigger article 155 of the constitution and suspend the region’s autonomy. Now he has flatly rejected Mr Puigdemont’s call for mediation. He must take care: boxing the Catalan leader into a corner would be a high-risk strategy.

Mr Rajoy did not even apologise (though some of his colleagues have) for the police behaviour on the day of the poll, 1 October, when the rest of Spain and Europe watched aghast as voters were met with truncheons and rubber bullets. He has not budged from his refusal to talk, while the Catalan leader’s hopes rest on some international mediation that the EU has so far resisted for fear of appearing to endorse what Spain’s constitutional court has declared an unlawful vote.

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The Guardian view on the return of PMQs: a microcosm of what’s wrong

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 17:38:37 GMT2017-10-11T17:38:37Z

Iain Duncan Smith preferred to push the UK towards the Brexit cliff rather than stand up for his signature welfare reform. His choice tells a story

Try to imagine, just for a moment, that you are Iain Duncan Smith. Imagine too, if you can, that you are sitting in Mr Duncan Smith’s place on the Conservative backbenches during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday. When you were a minister, you were the author and midwife of universal credit, the coalition government’s “big idea” for rolling up six benefits into one monthly credit. The reform is your great legacy. Few changes in modern times are more umbilically associated with a single politician than this.

On Wednesday, as you sit in the first PMQs since the party conferences, universal credit is coming under sustained attack from Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader devotes all his questions to the issue. He tells Theresa May that some claimants are waiting more than six weeks for any payments and are being charged 55p a minute to call the helpline that is supposed to get things sorted. Mrs May tries to brush the Labour leader’s attacks away. Then one of your own Tory colleagues, Heidi Allen, sitting right behind you, adds to the pressure by echoing Mr Corbyn, saying the six-week delay just doesn’t work.

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The Guardian view on Harvey Weinstein: a watershed | Editorial

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 18:56:47 GMT2017-10-10T18:56:47Z

The titan of cinema is destroyed. Now to destroy the exploitation and abuse that he wreaked across his world

The Harvey Weinstein affair cannot be brushed aside as the culture of the casting couch. It is not one more story from the Hollywood fiction factory. It must not be allowed to be another tawdry milestone. It must be the watershed.

Harvey Weinstein has been one of the most prodigiously successful producers of his generation. He has made some exceptional pictures, from Pulp Fiction and The English Patient to The King’s Speech. He has won five best picture Oscars. But on Sunday he was summarily dismissed by the board of the company he had founded with his brother Bob. His sacking followed the New York Times’s reporting of the shocking claims of his predatory behaviour towards young women, of abusive conduct that revealed him less titan than tyrant, a man with a long and dark history of sexual harassment.

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The Guardian view on Britain’s productive forces: they are not working | Editorial

Tue, 10 Oct 2017 18:55:04 GMT2017-10-10T18:55:04Z

The big economic question now is whether capitalism in the UK is capable of generating enough gains from growth

Productivity isn’t everything, observed the Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, but in the long run it is almost everything. For Britons, the worrying news is that the growth in productivity – the amount of stuff we produce every hour – has slowed to a snail’s pace. The Office for Budget Responsibility, after maintaining a sunny disposition in the face of ever darkening clouds of data, now accepts that we are unlikely to return to pre-crash levels of productivity growth. Below the OBR’s seemingly innocuous statement is the “everything” that Mr Krugman alludes to. Before the crash, we would have expected living standards to double every 40 years.

If we were to carry on in the current manner, it would take more than two centuries to do so. Unless something drastic happens we face not just losing a decade, but a future.

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The Guardian view on Brexit transition: Mrs May must stand firm | Editorial

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 18:14:22 GMT2017-10-09T18:14:22Z

The prime minister must stop indulging those Tories who would push her towards the EU exit without a deal

There is no concealing divisions within the cabinet on Brexit but there is consensus that Theresa May’s speech in Florence three weeks ago is the basis from which talks should proceed. That is less impressive than it sounds, since there is no consensus on what Mrs May actually said in Italy.

The main point of confusion, made apparent at the Conservative party conference last week, is the form of an “implementation” phase to begin on 29 March 2019 – the day that Britain’s European Union membership formally expires. The prime minister was fairly precise in Florence. Or at least it seemed so at the time. Mrs May proposed a transition during which the EU and UK would enjoy “access to one another’s markets … on current terms”, following “the existing structure” of rules and regulations. That implies continuing membership of the single market and customs union beyond March 2019, with departure deferred until the point when the final status deal takes effect.

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The Guardian view on the UK’s next census: counting what counts | Editorial

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 18:12:56 GMT2017-10-09T18:12:56Z

The Office for National Statistics is trying to find an accurate way of measuring the number of trans Britons. It’s harder than it looks

Britons have been describing themselves more or less honestly to government at 10-year intervals since 1801, producing each decade a mirror that reflects back the changing world: more populous, healthier, more diverse and (nowadays) getting older. Each time, a few people declare themselves conscientious objectors, and some describe their religion as Jedi; but generally the result is a heartening demonstration that trust still exists between people and state – trust that rests on a general confidence that census data is collected by serious-minded people who want to gather facts expressly in order to use them to develop policy and improve administrative efficiency. Yet what the state wants to know about its citizens, and how it asks the questions to elicit their information, is rightly a matter for jealous scrutiny and complex calculation.

Anyone who doubts the importance in this process of trust need only look at the experience in authoritarian or despotic countries. Numbers are about power. There has been no universal census in Germany since the Nazis used population records to identify Jews. China uses its census to identify characteristics and behaviours that in a democracy would be regarded as strictly private. Stalin shot the census officials whose findings revealed a population that terror and famine had shrunk by 10 million.

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The Guardian view on the SNP conference: deals and ideals | Editorial

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 18:15:21 GMT2017-10-08T18:15:21Z

It is a mistake to write off the Scottish National party on the basis of the 2017 election. But Nicola Sturgeon faces tough practical challenges on Brexit and the public finances

The 2017 general election was a major setback for the Scottish National party, which began its party conference in Glasgow on Sunday. The SNP lost a quarter of the voters who had supported it in 2015 and 21 of the 56 parliamentary seats it had captured so spectacularly in that election. Big SNP names were felled, none larger than the former first minister Alex Salmond. Both the Conservatives and, more surprisingly, Labour surged at the nationalists’ expense. So the SNP comes to its conference with problems to address and anxieties to quench. Yet it would be a mistake to write the SNP off, as some in the London-led parties and media now do. It is still by some margin the dominant political party in Scotland. It is in government at Holyrood until 2021. Even in June, it got more than 200,000 votes more than the Conservatives, and it still won 35 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

The most recent YouGov poll confirms that the SNP maintains a strong advantage and that its rate of losses among the voters has declined. True, on the basis of the poll, the SNP would lose its current coalition majority (the SNP currently governs with the support of the Greens) in the next Holyrood election, and Nicola Sturgeon’s authority to call a second independence referendum would have disappeared further. But unless there is an early UK general election, it will be three and a half years before Scottish politicians have to face the voters again. That gives Ms Sturgeon time to rebuild nationalist momentum if she can, and to do so from an already strong position. The poll is hardly the vote of confidence that the ever-upbeat, ever-on-message SNP claimed at the weekend, but it’s also not a bad position for a party that has now been in government for a decade.

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The Guardian view on Tate Modern’s swings: more to art than Instagram | Editorial

Sun, 08 Oct 2017 17:56:41 GMT2017-10-08T17:56:41Z

The latest Turbine Hall installation offers visitors a turn on the swings. But its selfie-friendly popular appeal shouldn’t blind us to quieter, more thoughtful experiences

With its latest Turbine Hall installation, unveiled last week, Tate Modern has fulfilled its destiny by becoming, literally, a playground. The Danish artists’ collective Superflex has filled the cavernous space with a carpet meant to remind viewers of British banknotes, a wrecking-ball-like pendulum that oscillates over visitors’ heads and, most notably, sets of three-seater swings. This is soft play for grown-ups. It will be very popular. How could it not be? To submit to the joy of the swings is to become a child again – to experience the rush of the air, the feeling of weightlessness, the sensation of flying. It is impossible to be serious, or cross, on a swing. It is possible to swing contemplatively, on one’s own. It is possible to swing intimately, in a pair. It is possible to swing wildly, with companions daring each other ever higher. It is not possible to swing pompously.

The artists have nodded explicitly towards Olafur Eliasson’s Turbine Hall work of 2003, The Weather Project, in which the space became engulfed in fog and the sickly light of a sodium sun, causing “an almost psychotropic transformation of human social behaviour” among its visitors, as the Guardian noted at the time. That installation, three years after Tate Modern’s opening, was probably the moment when the full potential of that great space was realised, at least in the sense that it brought the museum a new kind of popularity. Visitors came to watch themselves and others in the vast mirror that was suspended from the museum’s ceiling. They behaved almost as if they were at a music festival. Carsten Höller’s Test Site of 2006, in which the hall was filled with helter-skelter-like slides, is another example, though arguably Höller’s elegant snaking forms had more to say as sculpture than Superflex’s One Two Three Swing!.

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