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Bitesized Blighty: January 17, 2020

Hector Don

  • Boris Johnson’s commitment to promoting women in his new government will be tested next month as officials fear he is poised to sack a number of female ministers from his cabinet. There are just seven women in the prime minister’s 23-member cabinet and a number of officials have said that as many as four are likely to be culled when he slims down the size of his top team in early February.
  • When it comes to speaking other people’s languages, the UK suffers from the winner’s curse. History — the British empire, followed by the US’s post-second world war hegemony — made English the world’s language and led Britons to conclude there was little point in learning anyone else’s. The trends are well known and dispiriting. Only 32 per cent of UK 16- to 30-year-olds can read and write another language, compared with 89 per cent in the rest of the EU (and the British figure includes immigrants and their children who speak their families’ languages).
  • Last week, Harry and Meghan’s announcement that they were stepping down as senior royals rocked the world. Here, the FT offer a superb account of the cultural aftermath. Sympathies and speculation ran along demographic faultlines. To many young people, this was an issue of race and mental health. Also, the young reckon that loyalty to an organisation has to be earned rather than assumed. To many older people, it was about a shocking lack of consideration towards the Queen. “We cope” was supposedly the response of Prince Philip when royalty came under strain. Meghan uses a different language of personal development and global citizenship.

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