Your essential weekend reader — 12 must-read articles you may have missed

It’s Saturday morning, so here are twelve thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking juices…

The lottery of life: Where to be born in 2013The Economist‘s annual list of the top quality-of-life countries: ‘Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too.’ Britain comes 27th. (The Telegraph has a picture-only version here.)

The burdens that Israel should not have to bearBrendan O’Neill calls on the rest of us to leave the Middle East alone and quit projecting: ‘The anti-Israel lobby heaps upon Israel historic judgements that it does not deserve and should not have to answer. And the pro-Israel lobby expects Israel to do something that it, or any other nation on its own, is incapable of doing: defending for all of mankind the values and thought of the Enlightenment.’

Are legal curbs the answer for Britain’s errant newspapers?Nick Cohen (anti-regulation) and Jacqui Hames (pro-regulation) slug it out ahead of publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report.

Easy to blame politicians and media for apathy, but public need to take a look at themselves tooAlastair Campbell tells it like it is: ‘It is not easy either for politicians or the media to criticise the public, as they are the lifeblood for both. But as someone who is neither politician nor journalist, but is in both politics and the media, I feel no such hesitation.’

How Adam Smith could help the ChurchTim Harford channels the Scottish economist and calls for the privatisation of the Church of England: ‘more competitive religious marketplaces lead to more dynamic churches.’

Gove the Gagster – love him or loathe him, Michael Gove can be both sharp and funny, as PoliticsHome’s transcript of his Spectator Awards speech shows: ‘Will we ever see a comprehensive school boy in charge of the Guardian in my lifetime? Or perhaps a comprehensively educated woman as director-general of the BBC?’

Has Cameron realised that Tory government is not our default setting any more?Rafael Behr looks at the Tories’ poll problems — Ukip, ethnic minority voters and constituency boundaries. His conclusion: The Tories have a self-image as Britain’s natural party of power … The last hurrah for that soft cultural monopoly was April 1992.’

Debunking 5 post-election political mythsMarc Ambinder at The Week takes a closer look at the 2012 US presidential data, including: ‘Myth 4: The auto bailout saved Obama in the Midwest by keeping up his percentage among white voters.’

Research reveals popularity of live blogging – Ever wondered why The Guardian live-blogs everything that moves? Because readers like it, as Roy Greenslade notes: ‘readers feel that live blogs are less opinionated and “more factual” than traditional articles written with care after an event.’

Liberal Hero of the Week #22: Chris Skidmore MP – my nominee this week for his bold stance on wealthy pensioners’ freebies: ‘While preaching ‘we’re all in it together’ austerity, the Tory leader finds himself in the awkward position of defending the fact that 988,000 millionaire pensioners receive a tax-free winter fuel allowance.’

Give prisoners the vote. But not because Europe says soSimon Jenkins on top form: ‘If they may not vote, should they read newspapers, watch television, talk to an MP or debate politics in prison? We allow them some rights that have evolved over time, such as exercise, occupation, seeing their families and knowing the date of their release.’

The old fashioned work that created the ‘expert’ in the first place is at risk from the dangerous attitude of the Twitter worldConor Gearty weighs up the positive/negative effects of social media on serious research: ‘It is the attitude that the world of Twitter/blog generates that is its real danger. If the moment counts for so much can anything other than that moment every count at all?’

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from May 2007 to Jan 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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