by Yuan Yi Zhu
Saturday, 6
May 2023

The Coronation is a wonderful contradiction in terms

Today's ceremony is an open affront to the spirit of modernity

On Saturday, King Charles the Third, the hereditary king of this and many other realms, will be crowned. The descendant of Norman warlords, he will be anointed with holy oil away from profane stares, have a crown made of solid gold placed upon his head, and receive the acclamation of his liege subjects.

Amid the ubiquitous and mundane media coverage, it is easy to lose sight of how extraordinary it is that such a thing can still occur. The United Kingdom is the last European monarchy to practice the coronation rite, now only shared in its Christian form with the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. Even before the French Revolution, enlightened opinion in Europe made light of the idea that sovereigns received their temporal power through supernatural ceremonials. To hold a coronation in the 21st century is an open affront to modernity, a public rejection of the spirit of our age. ...  Continue reading

by Yuan Yi Zhu
Thursday, 6
April 2023

Emmanuel Macron sidesteps European division on China visit

A slew of EU member trips to Beijing shows a desire to maintain friendly relations

First a trickle, then a stream. Olaf Scholz’s visit to China late last year, at a time of some awkwardness in Sino-Western relations, raised eyebrows; but no sooner had he left than Charles Michel of the European Commission retraced his footsteps to the Great Hall of the People, followed last week by Pedro Sánchez of Spain. 

Now the Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen tag team is set to repeat the procedure today, with the customary trade delegation in tow. They will be followed by Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs head, next week, making him at least the sixth senior European official to visit China in six months (“as you see, a lot of Europeans going to China”, he remarked this week). ...  Continue reading

by Yuan Yi Zhu
Friday, 6
January 2023

How Rishi Sunak unleashed the anti-maths philistines

Judging by the reaction this week, snobbery over STEM is as strong as ever

What did Rishi Sunak say in the first major policy speech of his premiership this week? I have no idea, because for the last two days the entire Westminster ecosystem has been talking about nothing but his aspirational proposal, buried toward the end of his speech, to make all schoolchildren study maths in some form up to the age of 18.

This triggered a sort of collective PTSD among the entire Westminster lobby, London policy world, and British third sector. If you think I am exaggerating, I can do nothing better than to quote the actor Simon Pegg, who posted this unhinged (and curiously inarticulate, for someone who professes such love for the humanities) rant online: ...  Continue reading

by Yuan Yi Zhu
Tuesday, 20
December 2022

Leaked slides reveal dark side of Canada’s euthanasia policy

Patients are now seeking death because they cannot afford to live

Since Canada’s euthanasia regime broke into the global public consciousness earlier this year, people across the world have been horrified by stories of ordinary Canadians choosing to die at the hands of a doctor instead of carrying on living in poverty, of disabled Canadians told to kill themselves by bureaucrats, and of plans to extend euthanasia access to the mentally ill and to “mature minors”.

But until now, defenders of Canada’s MAiD (medical assistance in dying) regime have pushed back aggressively, accusing their critics of spreading disinformation, or worse. They hide behind the fact that poverty is not in and of itself a legal ground for accessing euthanasia, or else claim that the cases of abuse reported in the media are outliers. And because of the opacity that naturally comes with the medicalised rituals of death, it has been difficult for outsiders to know exactly what goes on between the doctor’s office and the funeral home. ...  Continue reading

by Yuan Yi Zhu
Tuesday, 6
December 2022

Labour’s constitutional plans are dangerous

Gordon Brown's ideas would make the country ungovernable

For most of its history, the Labour Party’s theory of British politics was a simple one. It would run on a Labour manifesto in a general election, try to obtain a majority in the House of Commons, and use that majority to implement a radical Labour agenda.

This might seem like an entirely frivolous description, but at a time when the Party’s revolutionary brethren elsewhere frequently chose the ammunition box over the ballot box, Labour’s trust in the traditional constitution of this country, a quietly radical act, fundamentally changed both the course of British history and the structure of British society. ...  Continue reading

by Yuan Yi Zhu
Friday, 25
November 2022

The courts alone can’t save the Union

Scottish independence is a political matter not a legal quandary

In the end, it came with a whimper, not a bang. But the Supreme Court’s short and almost demure decision in the Lord Advocate’s reference on the legality of a ‘wildcat’ Scottish independence referendum was as unequivocal as a court judgement can ever be. 

The Scottish Parliament, it held unanimously, does not have the power to authorise the holding of a second independence referendum unless the British government were to give its consent. And since the latter has repeatedly refused to grant this, Nicola Sturgeon’s roadmap to a second vote next year seems to have hit an insurmountable bump. ...  Continue reading

by Yuan Yi Zhu
Friday, 21
October 2022

At least Liz Truss realised she was useless

Incompetent politicians who actually quit are to be celebrated

Only the most ardent Westminster watcher will recognise the name of Estelle Morris, who served a little over a year as Education Secretary in the early 2000s. But her 2002 resignation sent shocks through Westminster at the time: she publicly admitted she had quit, despite Tony Blair urging her to stay on, because she wasn’t very good at the job.

In her resignation letter, Morris said she felt she had been a better junior Education minister than Secretary of State: “I’m good at dealing with the issues and in communicating to the teaching profession. I am less good at strategic management of a huge department… I have not felt I have been as effective as I should be, or as effective as you need me to be.” In a later interview, she said that “I’m not having second best in a job as important as this.” When she left her department for the last time, some civil servants openly cried. ...  Continue reading

by Yuan Yi Zhu
Friday, 30
September 2022

Slashing the BBC World Service is a disaster

Cutting down on global services undermines Britain's soft power abroad

Almost any public policy decision, however contentious, can be justified in some manner, even if the justification does not command universal acceptance. The BBC’s decision to axe its World Service broadcasts in dozens of languages and to fire hundreds of staff belongs to the rare category of decision that only make sense if you assume the Corporation is being run by the United Kingdom’s worst enemies.

Consider the list of services set for the axe. On the radio side, they include broadcasts for the insignificant languages of Arabic (360 million speakers), Persian (110 million; and in the middle of widespread unrest in Iran, too), Kyrgyz (4,5 million), Uzbek (44 million), Hindi (322 million; what will this do to the UK’s pivot to the Quad in the Asia-Pacific?), Bengali (300 million), Chinese (1,3 billion), Indonesian (300 million), Tamil (86 million), and Urdu (230 million). ...  Continue reading