How an academic debating society shaped modern British politics

IT’S A DAY off, and you might want a quiet spot and a comfy chair.

We have selected for you the best readings of the week.

1. The hut on the mountain

An exploration of the puzzles of lateral thinking and their connection to ordinary life as people struggled with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

(Longreads, approximately 24 minutes of reading time)

Sometimes the response mechanism is something ridiculously complex, something that has to be pieced together bit by bit. Several people were in a hot air balloon which drifted across the desert and began to lose altitude from the heat and air pressure. They threw everything they could overboard, including their clothes, but when that wasn’t enough, they pulled short straws to see who would jump overboard to save the others. Other times, however, the solution is simpler, but requires rearranging your perspective. You hear “hole in his suit” and you think of a three-piece suit and your mind goes to a gunshot wound. Once this image is ingrained in your mind, it can take some work to dislodge it. You don’t necessarily think “space suit”.


A detailed account of the operation to find and document the Ukrainians who were killed in Bucha after the Russian withdrawal.

This story contains graphic images.

(BBC, about 15 minutes playing time)

Lobas consulted the map in front of him, and on a plain sheet of paper he wrote down the necessary information in neat handwriting, one line per body. By mid-morning he had filled one side of the A4 and moved on to the back. The day before, there had been 64 bodies, he said. The day before, 37. He didn’t know how many there would be that day, but he expected the number to jump to around 40 because a mass grave was being dug nearby. Lobas is only responsible for part of this region, and many other bodies are found outside his jurisdiction.

3. Ties between conservative donors and sanctioned oligarch

A BBC investigation into links between a major Conservative donor and a company run by a sanctioned Russian oligarch, Suleiman Kerimov

(BBC, about 5 minutes playing time)

Documents seen by the BBC appear to show that Ms Chernukhin, then Lubov Golubeva, was appointed director of offshore company Radlett Estates Limited, in 2005 – following its acquisition of a major property, 1 Radlett Place, north London.

4. How an academic debating society shaped modern British politics

Simon Kuper explores the Oxford Union, an academic debating society that spawned generations of British politicians and shaped their way of doing politics.

(The Guardian, approximately 15 minutes of reading time)

Probably the main reason Oxford has produced so many prime ministers is the Oxford Union debating society. Founded in 1823, based in a courtyard behind the Cornmarket shopping street, the union when I met it was a kind of children’s house of commons. Like its London model, it resembled a gentlemen’s club with reading rooms, a writing room and a bar, and, across the garden, the largest purpose-built debate hall in Europe.

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5. The DIY duo behind the Amazon Labor Union

Josefa Velasquez dives into the Amazon Labor Union and how it started with DIY duo Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer

(The city, approximately 26 minutes of reading time)

They are calling for a minimum wage of $30 an hour and better working conditions, including two 30-minute paid breaks and a one-hour paid lunch break, as well as transparent promotion policies. Along with his friend Derrick Palmer, who works at the JFK8 sorting facility, Smalls and a handful of others now lead the efforts of the Amazon Labor Union, an independent group made up of current and former Amazon employees at the Staten Island plant.

6. The Great American Wasteland

A look at the US state of Louisiana and coastal erosion causing loss of wetlands at an alarming rate.

(Longreads, approximately 23 minutes of reading time)

Cameron Parish is Louisiana’s largest by landmass, once made up of thousands of miles of grass, marsh, and water. Much of this wilderness has already engulfed the gulf. The Louisiana coast is one of the fastest-losing places on earth: what’s lost is roughly the size of the state of Delaware; what remains goes on.


A long 2020 read on American political merchandising and how it’s used to help boost candidates in the eternal American election cycle.

(Esquire, approximately 10 minutes of reading time)

To make the job even harder is to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse and polarized population. “The campaigns have a wide audience: all of America,” says Ida Woldemichael, associate art director at Wide Eye and former designer for Clinton’s 2016 presidential race. “Merch cements the campaign in the story through traditional products, but you also have to react to the moments by quickly creating and selling things.” Woldemichael cites a recent publication from the Biden camp – the “truth about flies” swatter – as an example of an effective and quick response to the daily drama of a presidential campaign. He was referring to the moment a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head during a heated exchange in the vice presidential debates. “There should be something for everyone, every moment, and a simple, concise logo is ideal.”

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