CommentPlus: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. There's a good idea in Cameron's "big society" screaming to get out (Guardian)

Jonathan Freedland argues that Labour must seize this flawed initiative from the Tories, reclaim its Labour origins and then set about improving it.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

2. The next Labour leader could be prime minister within a year (Daily Telegraph)

Whoever wins the leadership battle will present a real challenge to the coalition, Simon Heffer points out. A leader with box-office appeal could exploit the stumbling block of the government's planned constitutional reforms.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

3. Do us a favour. Let us wear what we like (Times)

Women put up with restrictions such as the burqa because they find it liberating, says Daniel Finkelstein. Illiberalism disguised as liberalism is more frightening than the burqa.

Read the CommentPlus summary.

4. Dictators around the world must feel vindicated by Parliament Square eviction (Independent)

It is healthy that the powerful be confronted with the victims of their failed policies as they were in Democracy Village, argues Johann Hari. Now citizens cannot pressure their government for justice in the same way.

5. Western policy in Afghanistan is at a crossroads (Financial Times)

It is time to decide which course to take in Afghanistan: change things for good, or get out. Greg Mills runs through the options.

6. Taliban put to the test (Guardian)

In Kabul, reconciliation is on the agenda, says Richard Barrett, co-ordinator of the United Nations al-Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team for Afghanistan. A political deal is doable -- and so it could be time to talk.

7. Death by appointment degrades the disabled (Times)

Ilora Finlay mounts an argument against legalising assisted suicide. In a country celebrated for its care, it would be heartless to make the sick think they should opt for death.

8. Is there room for art in the big society? (Independent)

There isn't much philanthropy in Britain, says Christina Patterson. Without consistent state funding at a realistic level, the arts -- the most unequivocal success story of the past 13 years -- will be destroyed.

9. Ignore this howl of protest -- the police are ripe for cuts (Guardian)

Spending has doubled, and yet the number of officers on the beat has fallen. Simon Jenkins suggests that something is seriously awry.

10. A sunlit Keynesian paradise awaits our grandchildren (Financial Times)

Tim Harford looks back at Keynes's essay "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren", which looked at what would happen when the Great Depression was over. We must remember to come back to this long-run forecast when the current crisis ends.

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UnHerd's rejection of the new isn't as groundbreaking as it seems to think

Tim Montgomerie's new venture has some promise, but it's trying to solve an old problem.

Information overload is oft-cited as one of the main drawbacks of the modern age. There is simply too much to take in, especially when it comes to news. Hourly radio bulletins, rolling news channels and the constant stream of updates available from the internet – there is just more than any one person can consume. 

Luckily Tim Montgomerie, the founder of ConservativeHome and former Times comment editor, is here to help. Montgomerie is launching UnHerd, a new media venture that promises to pull back and focus on "the important things rather than the latest things". 

According to Montgomerie the site has a "package of investment", at least some of which comes from Paul Marshall. He is co-founder of one of Europe's largest hedge funds, Marshall Wace, formerly a longstanding Lib Dem, and also one of the main backers and chair of Ark Schools, an academy chain. The money behind the project is on display in UnHerd's swish (if slightly overwhelming) site, Google ads promoting the homepage, and article commissions worth up to $5,000. The selection of articles at launch includes an entertaining piece by Lionel Shriver on being a "news-aholic", though currently most of the bylines belong to Montgomerie himself. 

Guidelines for contributors, also meant to reflect the site's "values", contain some sensible advice. This includes breaking down ideas into bullet points, thinking about who is likely to read and promote articles, and footnoting facts. 

The guidelines also suggest focusing on what people will "still want to read in six, 12 or 24 months" and that will "be of interest to someone in Cincinnati or Perth as well as Vancouver or St Petersburg and Cape Town and Edinburgh" – though it's not quite clear how one of Montgomerie's early contributions, a defence of George Osborne's editorship of the Evening Standard, quite fits that global criteria. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the full page comment piece Montgomerie got in Osborne's paper to bemoan the deficiencies of modern media on the day UnHerd launched. 

UnHerd's mascot  – a cow – has also created some confusion, compounded by another line in the writing tips describing it as "a cow, who like our target readers, tends to avoid herds and behave in unmissable ways as a result". At least Montgomerie only picked the second-most famous poster animal for herding behaviour. It could have been a sheep. In any case, the line has since disappeared from the post – suggesting the zoological inadequacy of the metaphor may have been recognised. 

There is one way in which UnHerd perfectly embodies its stated aim of avoiding the new – the idea that we need to address the frenetic nature of modern news has been around for years.

"Slow news" – a more considered approach to what's going on in the world that takes in the bigger picture – has been talked about since at least the beginning of this decade.

In fact, it's been around so long that it has become positively mainstream. That pusher of rolling coverage the BBC has been talking about using slow news to counteract fake news, and Montgomerie's old employers, the Times decided last year to move to publishing digital editions at set points during the day, rather than constantly updating as stories break. Even the Guardian – which has most enthusiastically embraced the crack-cocaine of rolling web coverage, the live blog – also publishes regular long reads taking a deep dive into a weighty subject. 

UnHerd may well find an audience particularly attuned to its approach and values. It intends to introduce paid services – an especially good idea given the perverse incentives to chase traffic that come with relying on digital advertising. The ethos it is pitching may well help persuade people to pay, and I don't doubt Montgomerie will be able to find good writers who will deal with big ideas in interesting ways. 

But the idea UnHerd is offering a groundbreaking solution to information overload is faintly ludicrous. There are plenty of ways for people to disengage from the news cycle – and plenty of sources of information and good writing that allow people to do it while staying informed. It's just that given so many opportunities to stay up to date with what has just happened, few people decide they would rather not know.