Your essential Easter weekend reader — my personal pick of the week’s must-reads

by Stephen Tall on March 31, 2013

Papers - Some rights reserved by NS MewsflashIt’s Sunday afternoon, so here are a baker’s dozen of thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking juices, culled from all those I’ve linked to this past fortnight. You can follow me on Delicious here.

Even Britain has now abandoned austerity – Anatole Kaletsky highlights the abandonment of Plan A: “While Osborne repeated his mantra that “you can’t cure a crisis caused by debt with more debt,” he will now do exactly this by creating a British equivalent of government-guaranteed Fannie Mae mortgages to offer what the U.S. would describe as “sub-prime loans.””

Why do people talk nonsense in public – Mark Forsyth pleads with politicians to quit the cliches: “The result of all this, and it is an important result, is that politics ceases to mean anything. It has become the flight safety instructions telling you that your life-jackets are located next to your tax credits.”

Should Britain let go of London? – Stephanie Flanders ponders the Catch-22 that the capital both subsidises the rest of the UK and also holds it back. Her (eminently liberal) conclusion: “I couldn’t help thinking that it’s not London that the rest of the country has a problem with – it’s the UK’s over-centralised system of government.”

The Prime Minister is prone to sounding the alarm on immigration when his political fortunes are waning – Tim Bale highlights how David Cameron jerks his knee on immigration whenever his poll ratings dip, asking: “will the short-term gain be worth the long-term damage that Cameron’s speech (and Nick Clegg’s depressing effort just a few days before it) will do – not just to rational public policy-making and honest engagement with the public’s heartfelt (if occasionally misplaced) concerns, but also to the Tories’ own electoral and governmental ambitions?”

Busting that “Europeans love renting” myth – Kate Allen reveals the shift (and how we compare with our neighbours): “Britain has higher levels of renting than many European countries – and renting has been booming in recent years.”

Budget 2013: Five ways to fix our national joke – Tim Harford highlights five key poliicies the Lib Dems should take a long, hard look at, and a final one George Osborne should reflect on long and hard: “He should abolish the twice-yearly circus of Budget and Autumn Statement, and start thinking as seriously about his long-term strategy for tax as he thinks about his long-term strategy for re-election.”

How To Pronounce It – U and non-U – Mark Mason looks sideways at a long-forgotten book that tried to teach us how to speak propah: “‘Gone’, we’re told, should rhyme with ‘born’, NOT with ‘on’. ‘Lather’ must be pronounced to rhyme with ‘gather’, and NOT with ‘father’.”

Immigration: if only politicians would lead, not follow – James Kirkup yearns for leaders who’ll make the argument they believe in, not the one they think voters want to hear: “Mr Cameron seems happy to join Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in the political pack that now runs yapping after Nigel Farage, apparently content to let Ukip set the course for Britain’s debate over immigration.”

The pleasures and perils of the open-plan office – William Kremer on one of the C.20th’s most malign inventions: “A 2009 review article published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management found that 90% of studies looking at open-plan offices linked them to health problems such as stress and high blood pressure.”

Abandon hope all ye who enter this immigration debate – Sam Bowman spells it out: “immigrants bring new skills to the country, allow for more specialization, tend to be more entrepreneurial than average, pay more in to the welfare state than they take out, and make things cheaper by doing the jobs that Britons won’t.”

Liberal Hero of the Week #33: Bishop of Dudley, David Walker – find out what I think was heroic about the Bishop in my CentreForum series.

In political fiction the EU is either non-existent or portrayed as corrupt and dystopian – Steven Fielding looks at the EU’s fictional depiction, concluding: “The imagined EU that emerges from such fictions is bureaucratic, corrupt and/or tyrannical and does not suggest that many Britons are ready to embrace federalism any time soon. This will of course not be news to our political leaders, but it does indicate the depth of mistrust the EU arouses, when Britons can be bothered to think about it.”

The Newspaper of Tomorrow: 11 Predictions from Yesteryear – Matt Novak looks back at how the newspaper has been re-imagined over the past century: “The role of the newspaper in any given community has always been in flux. And the form that the newspaper of the future would take has often been uncertain.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.