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The Today programme needs more than a harrumphing John Humphrys | Fiona Sturges

https://www.theguardian.com/media/radioplay episode download
25 September, by Fiona Sturges[ —]
The show’s editor, Sarah Sands, has got a lot of stick for her direction, but her attempt to make it more relevant is exactly what’s required

The BBC Radio 4 listener whose blood pressure isn’t regularly sent off the charts by the Today programme is a rare one indeed. Young people declare it too old, while old people say it’s too young. No one likes John Humphrys apart from the scores of people who can’t get enough of his harrumphing, and would picket Broadcasting House in the unlikely event of him being crowbarred from his desk. Women invariably find it too male, though there are men who still balk at the sound of two female presenters. Pity the poor mug patrolling the programme’s Twitter feed and wading through the torrent of indignation and invective while still on the first coffee of the day.

Lately, however, the ire levelled at the programme has gone up a notch. The extra helping of irritation has largely been directed at Sarah Sands, who was appointed editor in January following eight years in charge of the London Evening Standard. Among the complaints thus far – and it’s been said that many are coming from inside the network – are that it has become lightweight and magazine-ish, that fashion and arts stories are being given undue prominence, that the political argy-bargy has been toned down, and that it is failing to set the news agenda.

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Robots have already taken over our work, but they’re made of flesh and bone | Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger

25 September, by Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger[ —]

Many jobs in the modern economy have been sapped of their humanity. How should we resist the rise of ‘digital Taylorism’?

Most of the headlines about technology in the workplace relate to robots rendering people unemployed. But what if this threat is distracting us from another of the distorting effects of automation? To what extent are we being turned into workers that resemble robots?

Take taxi drivers. The prevailing wisdom is they will be replaced by Uber drivers, who in turn will ultimately be replaced by self-driving cars. Those lauding Transport for London’s refusal to renew Uber’s licence might like to consider how, long before that company “disrupted” the industry, turn-by-turn GPS route management and dispatch control systems were de-skilling taxi drivers: instead of building up navigational knowledge, they increasingly rely on satnavs.

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The Guardian view of the Labour conference: Corbyn’s party | Editorial

24 September, by Editorial[ —]
The Labour leader needs an idea at least as attractive as the vision his detractors have been asked to reject

It is not an understatement to say that Jeremy Corbyn has revolutionised the politics of the British left. Rather than triangulating around the centre, Mr Corbyn demonstrated that the Labour party can succeed by standing for what it says it believes in. Mr Corbyn argued the country was sick of austerity and inequality and prescribed the sugary medicine of “tax and spend” policies to heal it. His unexpectedly good showing at the June election, when he was written off by the pollsters and dismissed by his opponents, has ensured the Labour party now belongs to Mr Corbyn.

The 68-year-old has proved an unlikely political entrepreneur. His policies spotted a gap in the market – young voters who had been electorally orphaned by mainstream policies – and he produced ideas designed to appeal to them, such as scrapping university tuition fees, wrapped up in a message of hope: that of a new kind of politics. Mr Corbyn advanced a participatory model of politics, which argued that party members in groups such as Momentum should be on equal footing with Labour MPs.

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What the stunning success of AfD means for Germany and Europe | Cas Mudde

24 September, by Cas Mudde[ —]
The radical right party profited from the fact immigration was the number one election issue. But can its breakthrough last?

In 1991 Belgium had its (first) black Sunday, when the populist radical right Flemish Block gained 6.8% of the national vote. Since then many other western European countries have gone through a similar experience, from Denmark to Switzerland. And now, even the ever stable Germany has its own schwarzer Sonntag, and it’s blacker than most people had expected.

The populist radical-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party not only enters the Bundestag, the German parliament, but does so almost certainly as the third biggest party, with a stunning 13.3%, an increase of 8.8 percentage points according to the exit poll. Moreover, both the centre-right CDU/CSU and the centre-left SPD scored their worst electoral results in the postwar era, with 32.5% and 20% respectively. This means that AfD got two-thirds of the SPD vote, and 40% of the CDU/CSU vote.

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Uber is not as popular as you might think | Letters

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/transportplay episode download
24 September, by Letters[ —]

Luke Samuel questions the validity of the online petition supporting the platform, while other readers worry about the way companies like Uber and Ryanair treat their staff

On Friday Uber was stripped of its licence to operate in London due to repeated infractions of regulations around safety (Uber loses licence to operate in London, 23 September). This follows the long-standing concerns about how Uber operates – its dubious taxation arrangements, its corporate model (loss-making, then raising costs and reducing driver pay) and its non-recognition of any worker benefits (sick pay, contracts, holiday etc). The company will appeal anyway, meaning the service will continue potentially for months or potentially even years, irrespective of outcome.

The firm immediately took to the public petitions site Change.org, reproducing its own press release in the form of a petition to “Save your Uber in London”. Have I misunderstood the meaning of a public petition, or is a company producing a petition to protect its own profits something of a confused perversion of this long-standing mode of political participation?

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Britain's newspapers could learn a lot from Jimmy the milkman | Hugh Muir

https://www.theguardian.com/world/raceplay episode download
24 September, by Hugh Muir[ —]

We have a 20th-century press ill-equipped in spirit and practical capability to connect with the diversity of 21st-century Britain

When I look at the dwindling circulation graphs for Britain’s newspapers the image of a glider plane comes to mind. It’s being piloted expertly – for many remain products of high quality – but decidedly to earth.

I am also reminded of a ride I once took on a milk float driven around Blackburn by John “Jimmy” Mather. That had been his family’s trade for a generation and all was well until Blackburn changed and a large number of families of Asian descent moved to his patch. Many, especially the women, had no English. He couldn’t speak to them, he couldn’t sell to them. He could have thrown up his hands and piloted his own sales graph to decline. Instead, he learned Gujarati. Not fluently, but enough to connect with and befriend his customers. The market changed, so Jimmy changed. There is a great deal our press could learn from Jimmy.

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The Guardian view on Germany’s elections: Merkel’s victory | Editorial

24 September, by Editorial[ —]
It is worrying that a xenophobic nationalist party will have a parliamentary presence but the mainstream parties will dominate the government

With her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party leading today’s vote, Angela Merkel is set to remain Germany’s chancellor, for a fourth consecutive term. This comes as no surprise. Her popularity has remained high. While her party captured a lower percentage of votes than in 2013, she was dominant throughout the campaign while her main opponent, the Social Democrat Martin Schulz, failed to mount a convincing challenge. Just a fifth of voters backed the Social Democrats (SPD), and Mr Schulz announced that he would not renew the grand coalition with Mrs Merkel, who will now open talks with the pro-business FDP liberals (at 10%) and the Greens (at 9%).

Europe’s most powerful leader has delivered yet more proof of her political resilience. Key to Mrs Merkel’s longevity is what some observers have called her strategy of “asymmetric demobilisation”: by co-opting many of her mainstream adversaries’ policies, whether on nuclear energy, minimum wage or gay marriage, she has left them very little space indeed. What space has opened up is on the extremist, nationalist fringe. By reaching 13%, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has come out stronger than many had anticipated during the campaign. For the first time in decades, a xenophobic and rabidly anti-European movement will be represented in the Bundestag.

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Park problematical people on podiums | Letters

24 September, by Letters[ —]
Weddings | Online shopping | Statue parks | Lawrence of Arabia | Bearded tits

The important thing about weddings (Lose the wedding butterflies, 22 September) is not to confuse them with  marriage. The latter is when two people (of whatever gender) show their love and commitment to each other by signing a register – all that is legally required. Weddings are where a horrendous amount of money is squandered on a load of overpriced tat accompanied by meaningless flummery, at the end of which … they sign a register.
Ian Mackillop
Ilminster, Somerset

• Who needs Theresa May to form trade deals with China when we are advised by the Guardian (How to save money on everything supplement, 23 September) to “buy online from China”?
Rachel Meredith

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