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Inside politics

A picture-perfect break in Marbella

Another of the PM’s paintings. Jeremy Selwyn/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Boris Johnson won’t be worried about the pictures of him painting while on holiday in Marbella, says Simon Kelner in the I newspaper. “This, he might think, will be a portrait of a confident, cultured leader channelling his inner Churchill” (who finished more than 500 paintings in his lifetime). And with respect to the Mirror, which published the snaps: “Who really cares?” We have a PM who is “unembarrassable” and, for now, “unassailable”. He dominates politics like no one since Thatcher – Tony Blair always had Gordon Brown as a brake on his authority. So let Johnson “luxuriate, palette in hand, in impressionistic reverie in the Mediterranean sun”. The world will catch up with him eventually.

Jack Ma is back in Xi’s favour

Chesnot/Getty Images

Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma “is working his way into the Chinese Communist Party’s good books again”, says Tortoise. He all but disappeared from public life at the end of last year after criticising the Chinese government in a speech, and President Xi Jinping cancelled the $37bn public listing of his company, Alibaba. But this September Alibaba said it would invest $15.5bn in Xi’s wealth-sharing initiative to support “common prosperity” in China. Ma has now been spotted out at business lunches in Hong Kong, his first trip to the city in a year.

Time to topple the grey wall

Boris Johnson “needs to finally smash Britain’s growth-sapping grey wall”, says Aris Roussinos in UnHerd. Spooked by its by-election loss to the Lib Dems in Chesham and Amersham, the government has surrendered to the baby-boomers’ “wealth-hoarding demands” and scrapped its ambition to build more homes in the southeast. But this hampers growth, widens social inequality and drives young people “towards increasingly deranged forms of activism”. The PM should look back to Harold Macmillan, who in the 1950s declared that building 300,000 homes a year was “a war job” to be tackled “in the spirit of 1940”. He succeeded, then won a Tory majority in the 1955 election.

A farewell to Thatcherism

Classical liberals might be upset with our tax-raising Conservative government, but it’s Boris who’s in the Tory tradition, says Tim Stanley in The Spectator. Conservatism is about mitigating the excesses of social change – Benjamin Disraeli’s Tories stuck up for the losers of 19th-century industrialisation when the Liberal party backed unbridled free markets. In the 1970s, Margaret Thatcher applied this instinct in the opposite direction by trying to stop bureaucracy from wiping out the traditional “tapestry of voluntary relations” – informal networks like friends and family. That led to a “free-market anarchy”, with Brexit the eventual backlash. By undoing the “Thatcherite project”, Conservatives have discovered that they may have more in common with socialists – “who at least value community over the individual” – than they do with ultra-liberals.