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Editorials | The Guardian

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

Published: Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:39:42 GMT2017-01-23T21:39:42Z

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

The Guardian view on industrial strategy: hot air but no liftoff | Editorial

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:29:37 GMT2017-01-23T19:29:37Z

The green paper suggests small sensible steps forward, but all will be lost in the great leap backwards of Brexit

British politicians have been talking about a modern industrial strategy for long enough that the idea counts as neither original nor radical. But if the government makes real progress towards enacting such a strategy – setting into reverse patterns of short-termism, weak productivity, trade deficits and regional imbalances – it will be a significant achievement. The launch of a green paper is intended by Downing Street to signal that activist industrial policy is a pillar of the new thinking. It is one of the ways in which this team hopes to distinguish its conservatism from the more libertarian Toryism that views any government intervention with suspicion.

The approach involves greater willingness to use public money for investment in infrastructure, research and development alongside a commitment to regional development through devolution of powers to city authorities. It eschews direct subsidy for companies for fear of backing losers, preferring to bolster some sectors where Britain already does well – the creative industries and life sciences – and align with others that everyone believes will be big in the future: low-emission vehicles, and robotics. The plan is for “high-paid, high-skilled jobs for the future”. But there is nothing in this green paper for the low-paid, low-skilled jobs that will persist – however insecure they become – all through this glorious future. Nor does it mention the most important influence on our future: the green paper’s list of reasons foreigners have invested in Britain does not include membership of the single market. This question was raised by the commitment the government made to Nissan to ensure jobs remained in the UK, but was unanswered today.

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The Guardian view on the Trident failure: an alarming cover-up | Editorial

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:29:26 GMT2017-01-23T19:29:26Z

Theresa May should have come clean to MPs about the failed test launch as soon as she became aware of it

Today we finally learned that Theresa May was briefed last summer about the failed test launch of an unarmed nuclear missile, conducted just before she became prime minister. But she chose to withhold that information from MPs about to vote on the renewal of Trident, Britain’s nuclear defence system. Instead, parliament has only been made aware of a potentially serious malfunction in our nuclear capability as a result of leaks to the press. Even then, Mrs May repeatedly sought to obfuscate and evade questions about exactly what she knew when probed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

Given the number of MPs who voted in favour of Trident renewal, it is unlikely Mrs May coming clean would have changed the result of the parliamentary vote. But that is hardly the point. The failed test raises critical questions about the safety and effectiveness of Britain’s nuclear weapons system, given what was being tested was not cutting-edge technology, but a missile first deployed over 25 years ago, launched using a submarine in service since 1999.

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The Guardian View on the anti-Trump marches: Nasty Women of the world unite | Editorial

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 19:24:18 GMT2017-01-22T19:24:18Z

The estimated 2 million protesters who took to the streets across more than 60 countries this weekend are right to battle the threats to historic advances in equality

It is not by chance that women have led the opposition to Donald Trump’s ascendancy. An estimated 2 million demonstrated across the United States and around the world this weekend, in events across 60-plus countries, including Malawi, Peru, India and Lebanon. Attendance in Washington DC was estimated to be three times that of Friday’s inauguration. In London, up to 100,000 marched. Even Antarctica saw a protest.

Marchers were driven by more than visceral disgust at a commander-in-chief who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and denigrated them in the crudest terms. Mr Trump has said that women should be punished for abortion and, though he later rowed back on that, has said he will appoint supreme court judges who oppose Roe v Wade, sending the issue back to states. His impact will not end at US borders. He is expected to reintroduce the “global gag” rule, which denies family planning funding to foreign groups using even their own money to advise women about abortion. Crude US protectionism could push low-paid female workers overseas into outright destitution. So while women welcomed male participants, they organised in the understanding that their lives and bodies will be affected disproportionately.

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The Guardian view on The Gambia: celebrate the other inauguration | Editorial

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 19:20:08 GMT2017-01-22T19:20:08Z

The country has seen its first democratic transition thanks to sustained external pressure. That is an encouraging sign for the region as a whole

The swearing-in of a new president has brought widespread rejoicing in The Gambia. That departed dictator Yahya Jammeh lasted a mere 22 years after seizing power might be considered a relief, since he had vowed to rule “for a billion years” if God willed it. Brutal to opponents and dissenters and viciously homophobic, he also seemed increasingly erratic, once claiming to cure Aids with a herbal paste.

He was startled to learn that the country’s voters did not share his high regard for himself and – to widespread surprise – conceded he had lost December’s election, before changing his mind. For much of last week, a descent into violence seemed imminent. Adama Barrow, his victorious rival, took his oath in the embassy in Senegal rather than return to the country which had chosen him as its leader. Mr Jammeh declared a state of emergency. Gambians fled and so did tourists, hitting an industry that makes up a fifth of the country’s economy.

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The Observer view on bullying, aggressive, nationalist Donald Trump | Observer editorial

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:05:15 GMT2017-01-22T00:05:15Z

The president’s aggressive, nationalistic speech recalled the rallies of 1930s Europe, hinting at the trouble he seems desperate to create

In the event, it was even worse than expected. Swaggering into power on the steps of Washington’s Capitol building, Donald Trump turned his back on grace, good manners, common sense, national healing and consensual politics – and opted for division. Spurning a unique opportunity to bind the nation’s wounds – his inauguration as 45th US president – Trump chose instead to reiterate the resentful, grievance-packed messages of his election campaign. This dreadful, chilling performance, excruciating in its banality and bile, has presented the three-quarters of US adults who did not vote for him with an urgent dilemma: how to head off “American carnage”, to use Trump’s unhappy words. To paraphrase the 35th president, John Kennedy, in his inaugural address in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do to save your country from Donald Trump.”

The task will be a supremely challenging one, for Trump is as bullishly self-confident as he is ignorant. He will not be easily deflected or denied. And the crass, know-nothing nationalism that lay at the heart of Friday’s speech is a powerful force. Like America’s new leader, it appeals to the darker side of human nature, bolstering the insidious claims of jealousy, envy, greed and hubris. It thrives on fear, chauvinism, discrimination and not always subliminal notions of ethnic, racial and moral superiority. It is a product of our times. But it is not too much to say Trump’s ranting scream of “America first, America first!” carries an echo of the “Sieg Heil” (hail victory) of another, not-forgotten era of brutish nationalist triumphalism.

Trump’s first executive actions gave a further indication of the scale of the battle America now faces

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The Observer view on Theresa May’s Brexit speech | Observer editorial

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 00:05:14 GMT2017-01-22T00:05:14Z

The PM’s long-awaited ‘clarity’ on Britain’s exit from Europe was nothing more than triumphalist folly. Now is the last chance for some true opposition

Theresa May’s speech last week setting out Britain’s broad objectives in forthcoming Brexit negotiations with the EU has been hailed, here and in Europe, as affording a long-awaited degree of clarity. This reaction is puzzling. May’s position remains clouded by delusional beliefs, wishful thinking, ignorance and outright lies, the latter being the speciality of her irresponsible foreign, secretary Boris Johnson, who reportedly helped shape the text. May’s speech had all the clarity of a muddy puddle. Yet it is on this slippery, shifting ground that the future prosperity of a liberated “global Britain” will supposedly be founded.

None of the many grave and complex questions, of both principle and practice, raised by last June’s referendum result is appreciably closer to being answered in the toxic afterglow of May’s address. This was not a rerun of VE Day, to use one of the Second World War allusions so beloved of Johnson, David Davis, the Brexit minister, and their xenophobic media puppet-masters. This was a modern-day Dunkirk. Conservative leaders, running scared of rightwing ideologues, Europhobes, Little Englanders and closet Ukip-ers within their ranks, have plunged the UK head first into an avoidable strategic, economic and human morass from which the country will emerge poorer, more fractured and less influential. Now they try desperately to convince the world that defeat is victory.

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The Guardian view on Donald Trump’s inauguration: a declaration of political war | Editorial

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 19:04:44 GMT2017-01-20T19:04:44Z

The presidential handover observed all the usual civilities, but the tone of Trump’s speech marked a frightening change in America

In its outward details, the orderly transfer of American presidential power accomplished in the inauguration-day scene on Capitol Hill today felt time-honoured. The ceremonial essentials of the occasion – the stars and stripes banners, the dignitaries and the prescribed rituals of the swearings-in – were familiar and traditional. Political rivals took their places on the podium as they do every four years, shook hands and applauded one another, offering gracious compliments and providing a show of national dignity.

Yet all this was in fact a sham. Donald Trump’s inaugural address was a declaration of war on everything represented by these choreographed civilities. President Trump – it’s time to begin to get used to those jarringly ill-fitting words – did not conjure a deathless phrase for the day. His words will not lodge in the brain in any of the various uplifting ways that the likes of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy or Reagan once achieved. But the new president’s message could not have been clearer. He came to shatter the veneer of unity and continuity represented by the peaceful handover. And he may have succeeded. In 1933, Roosevelt challenged the world to overcome fear. In 2017, Mr Trump told the world to be very afraid.

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The Guardian view on education: it’s not all in the genes

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:53:37 GMT2017-01-20T18:53:37Z

Our educational attainment and when we have children is determined a little by chromosomes but much more by social and environmental conditions

Human intelligence quite obviously has some genetic component. Genes do constrain our fate, as does luck, even if development matters more. The way that our capacities develop is profoundly influenced by the environment and by the social situation in which a child grows up. Genetic influence is not genetic determinism and the interplay between genes and development is enormously complicated. A study based on the population of Iceland at first sight makes claims to show that some genes for intelligence are being pushed out of the population. On closer inspection it shows just how tangled these questions are. Researchers have identified a large number of gene variants – the evolutionary mutations associated with traits – which, taken together, correlate with educational attainment (with the caveat that some variants might simply improve self-control and foresight). The work shows these same variants are also associated with having fewer children.

Since evolution can be defined as a change in how common these variants are found in populations over time, this looks superficially as if we are evolving to be less clever. Nature however is swamped by nurture: environmental pressures are working much more strongly in the other direction. There is in IQ testing a phenomenon called the Flynn effect, in which successive generations in every population tested have shown significantly higher IQ scores than their parents. In Iceland, the Flynn effect raises IQ points by about 10 points every generation, while the genetic process identified by the latest research is 30 times as weak. If we extrapolate the Flynn effect backwards in time, so that IQ diminishes in the past at the same rate as it has been increasing in our time, it appears that the Victorians would have trouble reading and writing while Elizabethans would scarcely have been able to produce articulate speech. So much for Shakespeare. On the other hand, the genetic curve, traced back the same way, would suggest that the Elizabethans were all towering geniuses among whom Shakespeare would have been completely unremarkable. Clearly we are not measuring fixed and long-term versions of intelligence in either case.

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The Guardian view on Obama’s legacy: yes he did make a difference | Editorial

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:02:01 GMT2017-01-19T20:02:01Z

The outgoing US president’s performance fell far short of the hopes he and others cherished in 2008. But the prospect of his successor is not the only reason to appreciate his time in office

Donald Trump takes office as president of the United States tomorrow, not on the crest of a wave of national or global hope or goodwill but with the lowest approval ratings of any incoming US leader in modern history. Just 40% of Americans have a favourable impression of the new president. No one has arrived at the White House more clouded by suspicions about his legitimacy or suitability.

This contrasts unhappily with the global excitement that carried Barack Obama to a 68% approval rating on the eve of his first inauguration in 2009. Even more poignant and telling is the contrast with Mr Obama’s 60% approval rating as he leaves. These figures are a useful corrective to the widespread view that Mr Obama has been an ineffective or unpopular president. His current popularity probably reflects the reaction to his successor, but also the too easily overlooked fact that he has been – in spite of many setbacks, mostly not of his making – a successful US leader. That needs saying and it needs remembering.

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The Guardian view on Trump and global warming: the right fight | Editorial

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:10:27 GMT2017-01-18T20:10:27Z

The president-elect should understand that America needs to shoulder global responsibilities, and that in doing so America will benefit by owning the technologies of the future

On climate change, like so many other things, the world is going one way and Donald Trump is going the other. On Twitter the president-elect has claimed manmade global warming was a hoax invented by China to increase its trade surplus with the US. However, for most Americans, like most other people on the globe, daily life is increasingly impacted by extreme weather. In 2016, for the third year running, the world exceeded the previous record temperature. A remarkable 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century, which scientists attribute to human activities.

President Obama did much to roll back the pre-enlightenment approach to climate science that had polluted political discourse in America – giving global warming top billing during his second term, and even calling it an immediate threat to national security. His parting shot was to send $500m to prop up the Paris international accord to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Mr Trump vowed to renege on the Paris agreement and said he would cancel further payments.

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The Guardian view on Putin’s Europe: the new fellow travellers | Editorial

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:03:04 GMT2017-01-18T20:03:04Z

Moscow may relish a role as a disrupter of liberal democracy as much as it would like to see the EU unravel, but that does little to hide the contradictions among pro-Russian political groups in Europe

With all the speculation surrounding Russia’s influence over European politics, seeking clarity and finding a sense of balance is a challenge. To say that Mr Putin’s regime engineered the rise of populist forces on the continent is an exaggeration if not a fallacy. France’s far-right Front National was created in 1972, years before Mr Putin got anywhere close to power. Austria’s nationalist Freedom party registered its first electoral success in 2000, at a time when Russia’s foreign policy was still geared towards finding a modus vivendi with the EU – not seeking to undermine it. Nor are all of Europe’s populists pro-Putin: Poland’s ruling nationalist PiS party is a staunch critic of the man. But that’s not to say Mr Putin’s regime hasn’t cultivated radical fringe groups in Europe, nor that some haven’t applauded him in return. Russia’s interactions with Europe have in fact become hard to analyse without taking into account the many political threads the Kremlin has built up within the EU, along with the ideological impact this has on the continent’s elections. With key European votes this year, Russia’s sway must be scrutinised, but in a cool-headed way.

The double trap is to either deny or overstate Moscow’s hand. It’s not as if the Kremlin today ran a network of “comrade” parties in Europe as it did during the cold war. These days, it’s not communist revolution that’s on Moscow’s agenda, nor are its levers quite the same. If Mr Putin’s Russia finds a degree of sympathy in parts of European politics, it’s on a more complex basis altogether and in a much transformed global environment. In recent years, his swerve towards hardline nationalism and ultraconservative slogans have put him in tune with far-right European groups who share similar views. But it is also clear he has a constituency among parts of Europe’s far left, for reasons that have little to do with cultural affinities but point to the rise of anti-western sentiment.

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The Guardian view on Theresa May and Brexit: a reality check tinged with fantasy | Editorial

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:38:45 GMT2017-01-17T19:38:45Z

The prime minister’s much anticipated speech on Brexit combined tough political realism with a wing and a prayer about reaching agreements on trade and single market access

Theresa May’s Brexit speech today was a doubly depressing event. It was a reality check for those who hope the UK can stay in the single market at the same time as leaving the European Union. But it was riddled with its own streak of global fantasy. It was a reminder that Britain’s exit from the EU puts livelihoods, values and alliances at risk. Yet it was also shot through with unsupported optimism about UK economic performance, trade prospects and the readiness of the remaining EU-27 to strike the kind of deal that would suit the UK government.

Whatever else she may be, Mrs May is not a sentimental politician. Her speech had no time for the EU’s historic achievements – nor indeed its failings. Instead it began from the core domestic political reality of the moment as the prime minister perceives it. “A little over six months ago,” as she put it at the outset, “the British people voted for change.” That vote for change cannot be denied. It was what brought Mrs May to 10 Downing Street in July. The entire speech made crystal clear that she is not going to waste her moment by hanging on to the European past or by pretending that leave means anything except leave.

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The Guardian view on Davos: beat extremists by tackling extreme economics | Editorial

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:35:57 GMT2017-01-17T19:35:57Z

Trump and Farage have harnessed public rage at gross inequality. Beating them means closing the wealth gap

A good measure of the topsy-turviness of our political economy could be found at Davostoday. As the billionaires gathered for the World Economic Forum, the toast of the Alps was Xi Jinping. The first Chinese president ever to address the summit, his speech this morning was bound to be a big moment. Just as striking, though, was what Mr Xi said. The general secretary of the Communist party of China launched into an eloquent defence of openness and free markets. It was, as several observers remarked, the kind of speech one might expect to come from an American president. Except the US president-elect, Donald Trump, will not be popping in to Switzerland this week and won his new job partly because of his protectionism. He was at it again this week, threatening BMW with swingeing import tariffs if it followed plans to build a new plant in Mexico, rather than America. It did not sound like an empty threat.

What’s going on here? One answer lies in the inequality statistics published this week by Oxfam, which show that eight men, six of them American, own as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people in the world. To quote Bernie Sanders: “If that’s not insanity I don’t know what is.” Extreme economics breeds extreme politics: the campaigns for Brexit and Mr Trump both harnessed anger at the vast gap between the super-rich and the rest of society. One of the ironies of this anti-elitist politics is that it has been spearheaded by people who would normally count as part of an elite. Mr Trump is a billionaire property developer, Nigel Farage is an alumnus of Dulwich college who worked in the City. These people are effectively squatting a space in forward-looking politics – a space that has gone almost unoccupied by the political mainstream.

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The Guardian view on schools: the cuts are hurting | Editorial

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:39:20 GMT2017-01-16T18:39:20Z

Less money, fewer teachers, little transparency and almost no accountability. A child’s education is too important for this

The last few weeks have been all about the NHS crisis, but new figures published today reveal the stark cash situation facing schools in England. Forty nine out of every 50 schools, according to research by the Association of School and College Leaders and the Secondary Heads Association, will see a real-term per pupil funding fall between now and 2020; some schools lose up to 17% of their per pupil funding. That is the sharpest cut to schools’ budgets since the 1970s. The scale of today’s problem was illustrated last month by the National Audit Office, which showed the average secondary academy is in the red by more than £350,000.

Education lacks the immediate warning lights of health: hospitals being forced to divert ambulances, cancel cancer operations and treat patients on trolleys in corridors. But these funding pressures are no less damaging than those facing the health service. They jeopardise the significant progress made in recent decades: nine out of 10 schools are now rated as good or outstanding. Without a sensible settlement inequalities will widen. Most notably, there is huge geographic imbalance in school quality. Children living in London have a far better chance of attending a good school than in Liverpool, where almost half of schools are inadequate or “require improvement”. In the northern powerhouse of Manchester the figure is one in three. This is a fundamental issue for social mobility.

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The Guardian view on shorter working hours: not just for the rich | Editorial

Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:38:24 GMT2017-01-16T18:38:24Z

Success in a caring profession can’t be measured by productivity

Philip Hammond threatened in his interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag to turn Britain into a low-tax offshore sweatshop, although he expressed a personal preference for a European model of social organisation. Just how distant his preference is from his threats is clear from some recent developments in Europe: the French have passed a law limiting the use of email out of hours; the Dutch and Finns are thinking about a universal basic income, and in Sweden the city of Gothenburg is evaluating an experiment that allowed care workers in an old people’s home to work six-hour shifts instead of eight-hour ones for the same full-time pay and benefits.

The idea has been tried on a small scale elsewhere in Sweden many times over the last 10 years, but almost always at “creative” or desk-based jobs. Dedicated physical work, as is involved in a care home, seems an entirely different category. Successive scandals at Amazon, Sports Direct, and similar places have accustomed us to the idea that a modern economy is distinguished by the most sophisticated possible exploitation of the workers who actually move things (or even humans) around by those who manipulate algorithms and exhort the rest of us to productivity.

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The Guardian view on child soldiers: stop recruiting, start reintegrating | Editorial

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 19:10:48 GMT2017-01-15T19:10:48Z

A former abductee’s trial for war crimes highlights the problem of children enlisted or seized by armed forces or groups. But change is possible

Dominic Ongwen’s trial, which begins in earnest on Monday, is one of the grimmest and most morally complex that the international criminal court has tackled. The body exists to try the worst offences: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is not the horrifying list of charges, including rape and murder, that makes Mr Ongwen’s case unusual, but that he is believed to be the first former child abductee to be tried. Seized as a 10-year-old, and forced into violence, the former commander of the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army has denied all offences and insists that he is the victim.

His lawyers have indicated that duress may form part of his defence; others say he must not avoid justice for acts committed as an adult, but acknowledge that his experience may be relevant in mitigation of a sentence. The judges must not only ascertain the evidence against the 40-year-old, but also consider what he first endured and the mind control techniques and sheer brutality that the LRA has used on the 30,000 to 60,000 children it has abducted over its history. The more pressing issue highlighted by the trial is what to do about the tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of children still associated with armed forces and armed groups worldwide, used as combatants and in other roles, including as porters and spies.

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The Guardian view on American Christianity: change and decay | Editorial

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 19:10:34 GMT2017-01-15T19:10:34Z

Market-driven Christianity has boomed in the US but now it is beginning to bust

Is Christianity ceasing to matter in the US? The question might seem absurd in the light of statistics that show a country which still publicly respects religion to an extent difficult for a European to imagine. Fewer than a third of all Americans admit that they seldom or never go to church. There is only one member of Congress who claims to have no religion, and every single congressional Republican identifies as a Christian except for two Orthodox Jews. But there are good reasons to suppose that these figures are misleading, and the role of Christianity as part of the social and political convulsions of the country today is changing and diminishing in important ways.

Traditional American Christianity was shaped by British experience in the 17th and 18th centuries: it was Protestant, patriotic, and providential, but not much concerned with doctrine. The rejection of any religious establishment opened the way for competition between individual churches and then produced the extraordinary organisational and theological creativity that distinguished the US from all previous Christian societies. America seemed to some observers to provide the unquestioned future of religion in a globalised world. There was, and is, a church for every possible niche, from Unitarian Universalists to the Westboro Baptists.

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The Observer view on an infusion of fresh blood for Britain’s arts sector | Observer editorial

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:04:01 GMT2017-01-15T00:04:01Z

New appointments at the V&A and the Tate can be of benefit to the field as a whole

Tristram Hunt’s decision to resign from parliament to become director of the Victoria and Albert Museum is bad news for Labour, but good news for Britain’s arts sector. Following the recent resignation of his parliamentary colleague Jamie Reed, it is a worrying symptom of the health of the opposition and could send discouraging signals to some voters about how talented Labour MPs see the party’s future.

Hunt’s appointment presents an exciting opportunity for the arts world. Together with the appointment of Maria Balshaw, who is set to become the Tate’s first female director, it marks a new generation of leadership at Britain’s leading cultural institutions.

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The Observer view on president-elect Donald Trump | Observer editorial

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 00:04:00 GMT2017-01-15T00:04:00Z

America and the world enter the unknown

The inauguration of a US president is normally a moment of great hope. It is a celebration of representative democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. It is an affirmation that the ideals and laws set out in the 1787 US constitution, still a global paradigm for modern-day governance, continue to be honoured and observed. Inauguration confers legitimacy on a head of state in the name of “we, the people”. The incumbent has a duty to respect and uphold the constitution’s central aims, namely “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty”.

The inauguration this Friday of Donald Trump as 45th US president is not a normal moment. Nor for the majority of Americans who did not vote for him, and countless onlookers around the globe, is it a moment of hope. Rather, Trump’s ascent to what is commonly termed the world’s most powerful job is a moment of dread, anxiety and great foreboding. We said, after he won the Republican nomination last summer, that Trump has shown himself unfit to be president. His often-demonstrated ignorance, racial bigotry, misogyny, untruthfulness, hostility to free speech, crude bullying and dangerous, rabble-rousing nationalism utterly disqualify him.

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The Guardian view on internet privacy: technology can’t fix it | Editorial

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:37:50 GMT2017-01-13T18:37:50Z

‘This changes everything’ was a marketing slogan that turned out to be true. So how should we live in the changed world?

For anyone who is really concerned about keeping their thoughts private there is only one piece of reliable technology: write with a pen on paper, and burn what you’ve written when you’re done. For the rest of us, who want to get things done, there is an inevitable trade-off which we still don’t entirely understand. We now carry with us everywhere devices that give us access to all the world’s information, but they can also offer almost all the world vast quantities of information about us. The sense of personal integrity and boundaries that seems self-evident is actually the product of particular social arrangements which are profoundly affected by technology even though it doesn’t determine them. Technological change could move us towards our better selves or our worse ones, but things can’t stay as they are.

To go online is to descend into a world as transparent as an aquarium – and this aquarium is full of sharks. The newly discovered vulnerability in WhatsApp’s procedures is only the latest in an apparently unending succession of moments of unintended transparency.

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