Parade's End: why Stoppard's yearning for failed Toryism?

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Opinion Digest: Tory dreams, American hopes and why Britain is falling behind the world in maths

LAST UPDATED AT 10:23 ON Tue 4 Sep 2012

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WHERE TOM STOPPARD GETS IT WRONG
DAVID PRIESTLAND ON PARADE'S END
Critical debate over the BBC's new adaptation of Parade's End has glossed over a more fundamental question: why has Ford Madox Ford's novel been given the Tory treatment, asks David Priestland in The Guardian. A comparison with previous adaptations shows just how conservative Britain's political culture has become since the 1960s, boding ominously for the country's future. Screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard has cast protagonist Christopher Tiejens in a far more sympathetic light than the author originally intended, empathising with his plight and the conservative ideal he represents. This matters, says Priestland. In today's Britain, it is in culture rather than politics that we find most evidence of a yearning for a toryism that we now see will not solve the nation's problems.  We needn't just accept this steady TV diet of Tory Never Never Lands. As Danny Boyle's popular Olympic ceremony revealed, a cultural alternative is possible. The BBC has a responsibility to challenge stodgy, conventional political wisdom rather than simply pandering to it.

US ECONOMY LOOKS BETTER THAN EXPECTED
ROGER ALTMAN ON AMERICA'S 'BRIGHTER DAWN'
When the winds buffeting the US economy finally subside, it may emerge in a surprisingly strong position, writes Roger Altman in the Financial Times. A housing revival, the revolution occurring in energy, and a leaner industrial base could lead to US growth beyond the 2.5 per cent rate that is widely seen as its long-term potential. Amid the political controversy and negative publicity, the US banking system has also recovered faster than anyone could have imagined. Capital and liquidity have been rebuilt to levels unseen in decades and legacy mortgage problems are fading. Crucially, a second Obama term may see Bush-era tax cuts allowed to expire, forcing Congress to the negotiating table and producing a large, balanced deficit-reduction programme that would boost confidence, the stock market and private investment. Sceptical economists may challenge this view, says Altman, but a brighter dawn is coming.

EDUCATION: UK IS THE WORLD DUNCE
LIZ TRUSS ON MATHS AND SCIENCE TEACHING
In order to prosper economically, Britain needs to confront its poor attitude to maths and science teaching, says Liz Truss in The Daily Telegraph. Globally, scientific and technical skills top the league; maths graduates command the highest salaries, closely followed by engineers and computer scientists. But in Britain the message isn't getting through and scientific study is still a minority activity. Contrast the fact that the majority of children drop science subjects at 16 with the example of emerging economies such as India where scientific education remains a mass aspiration. Why are the attitudes so different? Because Indian students study maths and science for twice as long each week at high school as their British or American counterparts. · 

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