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Inside politics

The political magic of the monarchy

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The Queen could well be the most successful British politician of the past century, says Stephen Bush in the New Statesman. The modern Crown enjoys “a combination of unrestrained pomp and public popularity that no other European monarchy can match”. And since she married Prince Philip in 1947, Labour’s republicans have declined in number and confidence. Even Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong anti-monarchist, “felt obliged” as Labour leader to say he had watched the Queen’s Christmas speech. In British politics, it’s far safer to be overly deferential to the monarchy than the reverse – the greatest tributes to Philip are not media panegyrics, but “the bitten tongues and buttoned-up lips” of republicans.

The EU’s monstrous mistake 

In 1651 the philosopher Thomas Hobbes described the state as a Leviathan, “a gigantic monster as terrifying as it is essential”, says Victor Lapuente in El País. The pandemic has illustrated how important strong government is – but also how the Leviathan’s hunger for power can lead to ruin. Take vaccine procurement: the EU didn’t have the ability to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, but pressed ahead anyway, keen to “fatten” its jurisdiction. In the end “the anxious Leviathan of Brussels” gobbled up far more power than it could digest.

Williams brought male MPs to heel

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Shirley Williams, the late Labour, then SDP, then Liberal Democrat politician, was a towering figure, says Alice Thomson in The Times – sometimes literally. As a young MP she was sometimes pinched on the bottom in the House of Commons division lobby. One day she put on “vertiginous” heels and stamped on the miscreant. The offender was hobbling the day after. She was bold in other ways, too, once getting herself locked up in Holloway prison on an invented prostitution charge so she could study the conditions for women prisoners.

Hang on, says Rod Liddle in The Spectator. This is a woman who “destroyed the country for three generations, invented woke and helped to liquidate a perfectly decent political party”, the Social Democrats (of which I was a proud member). She dismantled most of Britain’s grammar schools in the 1970s, but moved house to make sure her own daughter didn’t have to go to a comprehensive, setting a “winning template” for “leftie hypocrites” such as Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry and “the ghastly Shami Chakrabarti”, who all did much the same. Williams epitomised “white, late 20th century, bien pensant upper middle-class liberalism: no creed has more damaged this nation”.

The most powerful man in America

Senator Joe Manchin might be the most powerful man in Washington, says Scott Jennings in CNN. The 73-year-old Democrat, who represents the staunchly Republican state of West Virginia, is pro-gun, anti-green and frequently votes with the right. Now that the Senate has exactly 50 Republican senators and 50 Democrats, Manchin’s wavering vote matters more than ever. And “thank goodness” for that. The more senators stick to party lines, the more partisan we become. American needs leaders who “solve problems without trampling on half the country’s views”.