Despite his sharp criticisms of Islamism and his attempts to cut back France’s generous pension scheme, Emmanuel Macron “has turned into something of a closet socialist”, says Charlemagne in The Economist. He’s handing out €300 to 18-year-olds to spend on “culture” and capping university meals at €1. Poor, retired farmers are being given an extra €100 a month, a policy nabbed from the Communist Party. “In his well-cut suits and shiny leather shoes”, the former banker doesn’t look like a class warrior. Perhaps that’s the idea: his strongest political competition comes from right-wing figures such as Marine Le Pen. But his mixed-up politics suits a country that’s “happy to live with messy compromise”.
An uneasy truce between right and left
“America has arrived at a strange kind of equilibrium,” says Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. The left “enjoys an entrenched supremacy in culture”, from universities, publishing and Hollywood to corporate PR. But the right has its own “exorbitant privilege” in politics. Less-populated Republican states have the same number of representatives in the Senate as the bigger Democrat ones. The electoral college, which elects presidents, has a similar bias. This, in turn, has led to a Republican judiciary: three of the nine Supreme Court justices were put forward by Donald Trump, who lost the popular vote, and confirmed by a Senate “in which Wyoming’s 600,000 souls weigh as much as California’s 40 million”. Not bad consolation for a lack of right-wing professors.
Each side is now pushing into the other’s territory. Democrats are calling for electoral reform and even an expansion of the Supreme Court to pack in more liberal justices. The right is setting up its own (social) media channels and challenging the dominance of critical race theory in education and public life. But it might be that the current “workable stalemate” is the very thing holding America together.
Who’s going to teach Gavin Williamson a lesson?
Boris Johnson has a sense of humour, so perhaps it was a cruel joke of the PM’s to put “the most gormless man he could find” in charge of education, says Simon Heffer in Perspective magazine. But there’s nothing funny about the mediocre, “moronic” Gavin Williamson. On his watch, humanities, classics and music tuition are foundering in state schools, all while the Latin-spouting Johnson is “allegedly writing a book about Shakespeare”. An education catch-up fund of £15bn was proposed, but then the government “stuck up two fingers” to Williamson’s own expert adviser Sir Kevan Collins and offered a pathetic £1.4bn. Williamson has said education is simply about getting a “meaningful job”, disparaging teachers everywhere who impart the joy of learning for its own sake. Let’s hope he loses his own meaningful job at the next reshuffle.