I’ve tried to think of ways of explaining why the LRB is such a fantastic publication, and why everyone who counts themselves a reasonable, informed human being ought to subscribe to it (much as they should also pay at least some attention to Private Eye), and promise never, ever to read such smugly Radio-4 quasi-debating publications as the Guardian ever again. After a few false starts I realise that it’s best to let the LRB speak for itself:
One positive side of water privatisation is that it has shown a surprising degree of international generosity on the part of the English public. Popular fury at the impositions of Brussels may be mainstream, but it isnâ€™t reflected in the calmness with which English water customers hand billions of pounds over to their monopoly water providers each year, only to see them transmit large chunks of it overseas. Anglian Water, for instance, is owned by a company called Osprey, much of which, in turn, belongs to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Itâ€™s impressive how little troubled the captive customers of Anglian are that whenever they turn on the tap they are, in a small way, helping t0 â€˜sustain the future pensions of 17 million Canadiansâ€™, as the CPPIB puts it.
The altruism of Yorkshire Waterâ€™s customers is similarly humbling. Their willingness to support the balance sheets of HSBC, Citigroup, the Prudential and the private equity arm of the government of Singapore, who now own their water, shouldnâ€™t go unrecognised. And what to say of Wessex Water, recently acquired by YTL Power of Kuala Lumpur â€“ its proud philosophy â€˜World Class Products at Third World Pricesâ€™? Who says the west of England doesnâ€™t have an international outlook?
That’s lovely, isn’t it? Like standing by as one of your wittier, nastier, more well-read friends punches a member of the Countryside Alliance in the head.
The good news is that almost every article is of that standard: dense, verbose, factual, informative, and intelligent; the bad news is that two dozen pages of that sort of thing takes some reading, in the same way as not being physically lazy and unhealthy takes some walking, and in a fug it’s too dark to read. But while, yes, they write about Iraq or Palestine, or about climate change or political corruption, more than other newspapers do, it’s important to remember that someone has to redress that unjust, churnalised balance. Even better when it’s done by someone worth reading.