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More on the latest RedC/SBP poll September 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

An interesting poll in the SBP this weekend from RedC. It’s headline figures as noted on Saturday were as follows:

Fine Gael – 28% (+3%)

Labour – 8% (+1%)

Fianna Fáil party 18% (NC)

Sinn Féin 23% (+1%)

Independents and Others are also on 23% (-5%)

Adrian Kavanagh – who has transcended the curious disappearance of Political Reform:

…estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 32, Fine Gael 56, Sinn Fein 37, Labour Party 3, Independents and Others 30.

FG big enough, one supposes, but… Behold the renaissance of the LP with a …er… ‘new’ leader. And government formation on those figures? 80 is pretty much the bare minimum necessary for a coalition to operate. How’s that going to work with the configuration offered above?

The reconsolidation of FG is troubling, but not entirely unexpected. Pat Leahy in the SBP suggests that this poll shows a ‘boost for the coalition parties’. And that it is ‘encouraging news… as the new political season begins and the countdown to the October budget begins in earnest’. I’m not entirely convinced:

Support for the government parties increases by four points today, with Fine Gael winning the lion’s share of that improvement, rising by three points since our last poll in June to 28 per cent today, while Labour gains by a single point, up to 8 per cent.

Richard Colwell of RedC puts it this way:

The rise in support in this poll [for FG] only claws back that lost during those months at the start of the year, but does show that the party can win back support with a prevailing wind behind them. The key is whether it will be enough to offset anger at austerity in the years before this.

Even if it was just anger at those years, I’d be sceptical that FG could claw back too much support. But the tenor of his analysis is that all is peachy from here on out.

Perhaps partially linked to the economic competence rating, and surely influenced by indications by the government parties that we have seen our last austerity budget, is the finding that voters also appear to be prepared to forgive the austerity that had been such a driver of dissatisfaction just a few months ago.

Erm… water charges, anyone?

In fairness Colwell is clear that Labour’s continuing low polling figures are a significant problem (look again at Kavanagh’s projection of 3!).

Still, looking at FG figures the thought does come to mind as to where else do those on the right go? Hardly FF, whose polls remained mired at just about where they were at election 2011. That in itself is remarkable. So much for their renaissance. It’s been said before that now we know their core vote. Seems they can’t actually break much beyond it. Some will be eyeing this figures carefully and wondering whether a certain M. Martin may have gone beyond his expiry date. That will probably include a certain M. Martin.

Labour? They’re not going to be cheering over 8%. That’s towards the lower end of their operating area, though I suppose a voting pact with FG might be of some help come the day of the election. But not much for them to be happy about either. A change of leader and yet so little to see gained from it. Which as any fule no suggests that it wasn’t the leader at all that was the problem but the party and its approach.

As for SF. Marginal improvement, but so what? They’re above 20% and well ahead of FF and the LP. It’s the very fact of continuity, of consolidation, that is so important to them. There’s perhaps likely to be some slippage at the election, but probably not that much. They’ll be well pleased.

And Independents and Others, sliding some 5%. Outside margin of error, indicative, of what exactly? Hard to say, still well ahead of their 2011 vote. But food for thought. They’d win big, and gain seats on this figure, but can they sustain it as Independents and Others? Or do they require more formal alliances.

That’s a thought isn’t it? Perhaps the public is tiring a bit of Independents, becoming more aware that a volatile post-election environment is likely with no party able to dominate and the combinations available being incompatible. That’s the sort of terrain a clever alliance of sorts might slip profitably onto.

Or, is it that it is far far too early to take away much at all from this poll, coming as it does at the end of a long Summer. Could it be that the return of parliamentary political activity – with the attendant focus by media upon same, will see these figures move around?

So it’s good to have a poll, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable offering conclusions, of sorts, in the wake of a couple more monthly ones. We’re moving into interesting times. The public appears to think austerity has done the business, or at least a majority of them. Perhaps that’s in a certain hope that austerity is now ‘over’ – as some of the media seems to suggest. We should be so lucky.

Notable are the figures in favour of increased public spending over tax cuts in the same poll. That probably won’t cut much ice with Fine Gael. But perhaps it should. Not least because citizens are as noted above now facing water charges and so on, and a budget too.

Leahy argues that:

What today’s poll suggests is that the root of the government’s political difficulties lies not in the unpopularity of its austerity policies – and how can one reasonably expect austerity to be anything other than unpopular? – but in the collapse of competence that occurred after the bailout exit at the end of last year.
Look at the numbers again: 58 per cent say austerity was necessary – even hefty minorities of Sinn Féin (42 per cent) and independent voters (45 per cent) agree. In the light of this, it doesn’t make much sense to assert that the voters were punishing the government for implementing something most of them agree with.

There may be something in that, but I wonder if that ‘agreement’ with austerity is rather like the agreement of one acquiescing to someone holding a gun to your head and walking forward on their command. There’s no agency involved here, no visceral or other attachment to austerity. Or to put it another way, to expect political reward for carrying through such policies (and let’s note that the government itself eschewed agency and let itself be pushed forward by the troika, not very unwillingly it has to be said) is to miss the point. Some might agree in theory that the policies were necessary, but that doesn’t mean they agree with the way they were implemented (something that the preference for increased funding of services over tax cuts is also suggestive of).

Area man says Fine Gael ‘have gone very right wing’… He should know. September 16, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has said he is preparing to be Taoiseach and has accused the Government of “playing around with people’s health and lives”.
Mr Martin said Fine Gael had “gone very right wing” and ruled out going into coalition with that party.

On mortgages… September 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

…got to hand it to the Money Doctor, John Lowe, in the SBP the weekend before last, when asked about whether to get a mortgage or continue renting he really laid it on the line in a way which was refreshingly straightforward. The question boiled down to the following:

…we seem to be back in a cycle of desperation whereby the house must be purchased at all costs whether we can afford it or not. Is the madness starting all over again and what can you advise a young 30-something couple?

To which he gave a fairly succinct response ‘stay calm’. Okay, there was more, quite a bit more… no panglossian proscriptions from him:

Interest rates are low and it is expected the inevitable rise will start within two years. Already lenders “stress-test” repayment ability by adding a further 2 per cent to the current rate to see if that ability is still there. This may not be enough.

That interest rate point is absolutely crucial. The bottom line is that the current levels are historically low (and unprecedentedly so), even if not passed on in full or part by mortgage lenders. But a 2% increase would almost certainly not be sufficient as a ‘stress-test’ given the potential for volatility.

And he continued:

Each lender now has complicated separate mortgage calculators to determine how much you can or cannot afford. But a young couple with their whole lives ahead of them should not be indebted up to the hilt or approved to their maximum allowable as:
• The accommodation may ultimately be not suitable.
• Their circumstances can change overnight (employment, family, health).
• They should be allowed to have some sort of life outside of repaying a penal monthly mortgage commitment.

We saw how each and all of those potential factors trapped people across the last decade and a half. And we’ve also seen how little state intervention there has been forthcoming to ameliorate the plight of people in those straits. Indeed it’s remarkable to consider in light of the super-heated rhetoric on the subject that so many people remain in significant difficulties in relation to mortgages. And little consideration of how additional factors may impinge – consider how water charges are set to upset financial situations in the very near future.

Lowe is absolutely spot on in the following:

I do advise caution when contemplating the biggest purchase of your life. Commissions, bonuses, overtime – all should be discounted when trying to calculate mortgage eligibility. If you hope to have a family, consider the financial implications of one of you being the non-earning but hard-working homemaker. If the mortgage is based on both working for the full term, then one partner has to replace the homemaker’s income or reduce the mortgage accordingly. Have you considered the cost of raising a family? Look at your hobbies and interests, will they have to be curtailed as a result of the mortgage? There are couples/families with debts incurred over the last seven plus years that will stay with them all their working lives.

That last is central to this. Again, where is the amelioration of outcomes like that where so many succumbed to the pressure of media narratives, or just simply the desire to have their own place to live. And as Lowe concludes:

Enda Kenny said it wasn’t their fault, but you try telling the lenders that now. Those debts still have to be addressed by both debtors and creditors. Let’s not make the same mistake twice. Think twice, take expert and independent advice.

Sensible advice. I wish it could be plastered up around this state. Because elsewhere it’s full steam ahead, and as noted by Garibaldy in the SISSOFTW already those siren voices who did so much to exacerbate things in the past are back presenting apologias for the construction industry.

This news here… September 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

…surely only serves to underscore the outcomes extant as a result of the almost total aversion to state generated social housing extant amongst policy makers in this state – no?

Dublin City Council is “seriously looking” at building prefabs on derelict sites to house homeless families.

Assistant chief executive and head of housing Dick Brady has also called for rent control and for a stay on banks repossessing buy-to-let homes.

Mr Brady said the number of families becoming homeless keeps growing and must be stabilised. The only form of emergency accommodation for families is hotels in which there are serious child-safety concerns.

This is useful in this regard, as are the comments beneath it demonstrating attitudes amongst some/many(?) to the very idea of social housing.

November SOCIALIST VOICE from THE CPOI September 14, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Many thanks to EMC for the following:

The September Socialist Voice is now available online.

Apologies for the delay.

List of contents:

Illusions of recovery

In early September the minister for public expenditure, Brendan Howlin, claimed that the Government’s economic strategy was so successful that “we’re not going back to boom and bust.” But he is not the first social democrat, and no doubt will not be the last, to make that grandiose claim.
Slump and boom are inherent in the capitalist system, and recurrent crises cannot be prevented within capitalism but only by defeating capitalism itself.
Capitalism is prone to sequences of slump and boom, coupled with wild financial speculation and property and asset bubbles. It simply cannot exist otherwise.

Guests of the nation

Being a theoretical journal with an unambiguous world view, Socialist Voice places less emphasis on the type of investigative journalism that features prominently in more commercially inclined publications. Nevertheless there is a role for this method of news-gathering and especially when an intriguing rumour is begging for authentication.

Suffer little children

The United States is one of three countries that have failed to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this it finds itself in the august company of Somalia and South Sudan. Somalia, however, has committed itself to ratifying, and South Sudan’s parliament has passed a bill to do so.
To be fair, it has to be said that the United States played an active role in the drafting of the bill, and has actually signed, though not ratified, it. Among the reasons given is the fear of a backlash from the religious right, who see the bill as an assault on their rights.

The Republican Congress eighty years on: A relevant or redundant concept?

Like any organisation, the Republican Congress was a product of its time and place; therefore we need to understand it on its own terms and in the historical conditions of the time.
Ireland eighty years later is a different place from the Ireland of the 1920s and 30s. The world is different, and the balance of forces has shifted.
We need to consider such factors as the deep economic crisis of the system at the time, which had a huge impact on Ireland. Unemployment in the South stood at more than a quarter of a million; there was mass emigration, widespread poverty, and evictions from farms and homes.

A stark class divide

A recent report from the Higher Education Authority reveals a stark class divide in Dublin when it comes to access to higher education. The report confirms what all socialists already knew: that teenagers from the leafy middle-class suburbs are far more likely to go on to third-level education than those from less privileged areas of the city.

Lance Armstrong should keep his jerseys

In July, RTE featured a documentary on Paul Kimmage, the sports journalist. He was portrayed as the journalist who exposed Lance Armstrong as a cheat, and was one of the main journalists who campaigned about the use of drugs in professional cycling.
There is no doubt that Kimmage is a unique journalist, and in fact he is one of the small number of people—never mind journalists—who actually completed a Tour de France when he was a professional cyclist. He could have completed a second Tour but withdrew. This still seems to be a source of regret to him.

Political statement
National Executive Committee, Communist Party of Ireland

The National Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Ireland expresses its solidarity with workers now engaged in industrial struggles to defend their livelihood.
Iarnród Éireann workers are struggling to prevent a cut in wages arising out of Government policy, which is to to run down the rail service, and public transport in general, in the interests of privately owned companies, to shift the burden of running public transport onto the workers and travelling public, and to remove the state from any meaningful social responsibility for providing a comprehensive public transport service.

Whoop it up for freedom!

René González, the first of the Cuban Five to be released, was due to speak at meetings in Liverpool and London to mark the sixteenth anniversary of their arrest.

Who really owns us?

It was announced last month that the value of Government bonds at the end of last May was €113.216 billion—120 per cent of the value of the country’s annual economic output. 53 per cent of these bonds are held by foreign individuals and institutions.
Along with Portugal, Ireland is one of the EU’s most indebted countries, and it has recently taken to share-switching to stave off an inability to pay its creditors. Short-term bonds due to be cashed in in 2016 are swapped for ten-year bonds, and so the evil day is postponed.

O’Flaherty Summer School a huge success

Féile na bhFlaitheartach, 2014—the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society’s August summer school—was a fantastic weekend, richly rewarding for all who made it to Árainn.
The school opened with a talk by Theo Dorgan on the horrific industrial slaughter that was the First World War, making the point that if it were not for the literary records of the brutality and horrors of this war in books such as Liam O’Flaherty’s Return of the Brute later generations could be more easily duped by politicians and the the media into believing there was something heroic in it.

Frank Connolly, Tom Gilmartin: The Man Who Brought Down a Taoiseach and Exposed the Corruption and Greed at the Heart of Irish Politics (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 2014); ISBN 978-0-7171-6047-1; €16.99 / £14.99.
Níl siad imithe uainn fós, bíodh a fhios agat—polaiteoirí, baincéirí, lucht forbartha, agus infheisteoirí cama, ná na fórsaí taobh thiar díobh. Ná níl scéal Bhinse Flood/Mahon thart go fóill, mar a mheabhraigh cúis George Redmond sa Chúirt Uachtarach dúinn i mí Iúil.

Bratacha Bána
Gabriel Rosenstock

The pigs are back!

Tomás Mac Síomóin, Is Stacey Pregnant? Notes from the Irish Dystopia (Nuascéalta, 2014; ISBN 978-1-4992-1354-6; $10.75). Available from Amazon, Connolly Books, and general booksellers.

Anybody familiar with Orwell’s Animal Farm will be amused by Tomás Mac Síomóin’s rebirth of the pig as the “Smilin’ Porky” in his newly published novel Is Stacey Pregnant?—although the amusement will not last long as this novel gradually unfolds its horror!

The first expressionist play in Irish

Expressionism is an art form that developed fully in Germany in the years before the First World War (in painting, poetry and drama) and after the war in German cinema. It arose from a sense of existential fear and a world going out of control.
Its themes are very often psychological struggle, insanity, and unfathomable forces controlling people’s lives. Mainstream bourgeois aesthetics of outward objectivity are rejected in favour of the aesthetics of ugliness as the way these artists perceived their reality in the build-up for war and following it, right through the 1920s.

TWENTY-SIXTH DESMOND GREAVES ANNUAL SCHOOL 2014 – 12-14 September 2014 September 11, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

Just to remind people…

A weekend of political thought and discussion
Friday to Sunday
12-14 September 2014
The Ireland Institute
27 Pearse Street
Dublin 2

Friday 12 September at 7:30pm
The Ideology of Remembrance – Ireland and the First World War

Brian Hanley
(Historian, author of A Documentary History of the IRA, 1916-2005 and (with Scott Millar) The Lost Revolution)
Michael Quinn
(Historian, has recently completed a doctorate on Irish-Soviet relations and is currently specialising in Ireland and the First World War)

Chair: Tommy Graham
(Historian, Editor and founder of History Ireland magazine)

Saturday 13 September at 11:00am
The Good Friday Agreement today

Anne Cadwallader (Journalist, case worker with The Pat Finucane Centre for Human Rights, author of Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland)
Tom McGurk (Broadcaster, Sunday Business Post columnist)
Declan Kearney (National Chairperson, Sinn Féin)

Chair: Peter Bunting (Assistant General Secretary ICTU, with responsibility for co-ordinating the Trade Union Movement in Northern Ireland)

Saturday 13 September at 2:30pm
Politics and the physical force tradition in Ireland

Tommy McKearney
(Socialist republican, participant in the 1980 H-Block hunger strike, Northern organiser for the Independent Workers Union)
Eoin Ó Murchú
(Journalist, longtime campaigner for Irish sovereignty)
Mícheál MacDonncha
(Sinn Féin Councillor Dublin City Council; former editor of An Phoblacht, author of Sinn Féin, A Century of Struggle)

Chair: Ruán O’Donnell
(Historian, University of Limerick, author of Special Category: The IRA in English Prisons, Vol. 1: 1968-1978 and other books)

Sunday 14 September at 11:00am
Imperialism and the national question in Ireland

John Foster
(Joint author Red Papers on Scotland; Emeritus Professor, Social Sciences, West of Scotland University; Secretary, Scottish Campaign against Euro-Federalism)
Kevin McCorry
(People’s Movement, former organiser NICRA)
Patricia McKenna
(People’s Movement, former MEP for Dublin)

Chair: : Mary Cullen (Historian, author of recently published Telling It Our Way: Essays In Gender History)

Sunday 14 September at 2:30pm
Unionism and the Way Forward

Professor Peter Shirlow
(Deputy Director, Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice, Queen’s University Belfast)
Linda Ervine
(Irish Language Development Officer for East Belfast; sister-in-law of the late David Ervine)
Owen Bennett
(Writer and commentator)

Chair: Helena Sheehan
(Professor Emeritus, Dublin City University; author of Irish Television Drama, A Society and its Stories)

For further information, contact Frank Keoghan, Director, at 087–2308330.

Water charges: Half assed done is badly begun… September 10, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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…[Irish Water] today confirmed it had sent letters to the owners of multiple properties asking them to confirm details of the properties they own. “Irish Water is aware that incorrect names have appeared on correspondence issued to 6,329 of these individuals. This became apparent on 4th September.”

Can’t remember if I mentioned that talking to a couple of activists heavily involved in water and household tax campaigns recently they were quite pessimistic that the introduction of water charges would dent FG and the LP? I was surprised – and I’d certainly not want to say that everyone feels that way – but by contrast talking to those politically active further in to the centre and the right about the same issue the attitude is completely the opposite, that water charges will cause both parties enormous problems over the next twelve months and longer, and that the only way out would be for some sort of softening of the USC to ameliorate the impact of the water charges. I’d tend to agree, I can’t see how this can’t have a negative effect on the government and their support. What do others think?

Privatisation September 10, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left.
1 comment so far

There was an excerpt from James Meek’s book, Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else, in the Guardian a few weeks back, which ably charts the disastrous course of privatisation in the UK from the late 1970s onwards. But while the totality of it is well worth reading, as it would appear is the book itself, there are a number of striking insights.

Not least the point that Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, which I recall reading in my early 20s, was very much a product of its time, and not in any sense an economic analysis but rather one rooted in a sort of psychological approach. The thesis that anything bar ultra-liberal (in the economic sense) markets led to either fascism or communism has, as Meek notes, utterly disproved by the trajectory of history since its publication. If anything one could argue that markets co-exist quite happily with any number of political regimes and that there is no ‘inevitable’ path for societies that eschew market liberalisation.

In effect the course of privatisation was entirely ideological, with little reference to the economic, though rather more to the political, as evidenced by the initial hesitancy (perhaps even antagonism) on the part of Thatcher to council house sales which she regarded as an unfair disbursement of government funds for those who had such houses and purchased them on extremely favourable terms against those who did not have those houses. That particular exercise which became popular as an exercise in state largesse (though with the not unimportant element of undermining state involvement in housing) found favour further afield than the UK. But it’s difficult not to think that initial instinct on her part was well-founded, that it provided a massive contradiction in respect of ‘market’ philosophy and action.

Tombuktu noted the other contradiction in the reality that European state-owned train companies now own large tranches of Britain’s ‘private’ railways. Whose benefit is served by such absurdity is difficult to determine. Certainly it is not that of those who must use those services.

And Meek makes another two points that I think are particularly compelling:

There’s no doubt that since privatisation the old nationalised industries have sacked colossal numbers of workers and brought in new technology. If efficiency is doing the same job or better with fewer workers, many of the privatised firms are more efficient. But this simply suggests some or all of the nationalised industries should have been commercialised – that is, had their subsidies shrunk and been removed from direct government control, obliging them to borrow money at commercial rates and operate in a world of market prices without making a loss.

We hear something of the sense that semi-states, commercial semi-states, are an egregious affront to the sensibilities of those on the right in the discourse about wage increases in them. It’s as if they cannot quite internalise the simple idea of a state owned, if not state directed, enterprise that can make money. As we’ve seen in these pages, the argument all too often appears to be Arnotts or GUM. And nothing in between, which is a travesty if one is seriously attempting to work through these issues, particularly in the context of left approaches.

Which neatly leads to this:

Apart from the failed attempt to encourage wider share ownership, there was no obvious reason to privatise them by floating them on the stock market and selling them to shareholders. There are many forms of private ownership. The department store chain John Lewis, an unsubsidised commercial firm in a fiercely competitive market, is owned by its employees. The Nationwide Building Society, an unsubsidised commercial firm in a fiercely competitive market, is owned by its members. The Guardian Media Group, an unsubsidised commercial firm in a fiercely competitive market, is owned by a trust set up to support its journalistic values and protect it from hostile takeover. And so on. None of the many alternatives to stock market flotation were put up for discussion by either side: it was either shareholder capitalism or the nationalised status quo.

There are those of us on the left who seek precisely such alternative ownership structures that bring them into ownership by those who work within them, with or without connections to the state itself. Trusts, cooperatives, and a myriad of forms of ownerships offer themselves. Perhaps it should be precisely that myriad of forms, including but not limited to state ownership. But the headlong flight from one form to another allowed for no complexity, no nuance. No alternative.

I’m looking forward to reading the book.

That ‘productive sector’… September 9, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

A depressing piece in the SBP this weekend. In a piece on supposed ‘special interests’ we read from Conall O Móráin of the Today FM Business Show the following:

Some years ago I had the late minister for finance, Brian Lenihan, on The Sunday Business Show with me. During our chat I said to him that the state sector was non-productive (not in a pejorative sense, but in the way that it does not produce goods and services that are traded and therefore does not create wealth for the nation). He disagreed and said the state sector was productive. I challenged him and he repeated it.

He then continues:

Since then I’ve so often wished he was still with us so that I could ask him what he meant. If a very erudite minister for finance thought of the state sector as being within the productive sector then it beggars the question if this is what the Department of Finance heads also think?

It’s difficult to take seriously his contention that ‘non-productive’ was not pejorative given that he reifies the contrasting ‘productivity’ of the private sector.

How does he seriously expect that services traded and otherwise function in the context of an overall society without health, education, infrastructural, legal, security and other structures? The roads that private companies use to deliver goods, the laws that provide regulations and underpin contracts, the order that allows individuals and companies to operate in. All these are products not of the private sector but of a public sector which provides the socio-economic framework.

To try to reduce all to ‘productive’ and ‘non-productive’ is absurdly reductionist and utterly self-serving.

And this is most evident when he continues:

Without the SME sector the rest of the country couldn’t function. What public sector unions deliberately choose not to recognise is that SME wages are generally considerably less than in the state sector. There is no job security – if a company goes bankrupt the jobs are gone as well. It was the SME sector that suffered the vast bulk of the jobs cuts since 2007. Compare that with our state that went as near to bankrupt as makes no difference but the vast majority of people who worked for the state are still working for the state.

As easy to turn that around. Without the civil service, without health, education, security and other services the country could not function. That this has to be said…

But note that like far too many similar pieces on the SBP in these and former days he is unable to articulate any alternative when, as is inevitable, he turns to consider the situation of workers who lack pensions or whose wages and other conditions are poor to awful in the private sector. Note too, by the by, that the history of workers employment conditions has been one where improvement after improvement was wrested in the teeth of adamant opposition from employers with the continual refrain that they were unaffordable. 40 hour weeks? Statutory holiday entitlements? Lunch breaks? All these and more, fought against tooth and nail by those who argued that they spelt the ruin of business.

But again, there’s no alternative offered.

The real ‘red rag’ issue is in the area of pensions. SME workers often have very little pension cover while SME owners, in the main, see themselves working till death, because they have never had enough to put a pension aside. SME pay and conditions are not inferior to those of the state employees by choice. Quite simply those conditions reflect economic conditions. When things are good they’re good, when things are bad you’re fired.

Actually that last – in itself far too reductionist a view (and one, that for example Germany and other somewhat more social democratic states go to considerable lengths to avoid, and as this piece from an unexpected quarter demonstrates that sort of thinking isn’t entirely restricted to parts of the left) – is remarkably inapposite given that it is precisely the public sector which is tasked with providing the supports that mean that economic conditions don’t leave people high and dry if they are made unemployed.

But as bad is that it is an echo of a certain Minister for Finance’s line that I’ll spend it when I have it… another example of dubious short-termism. That it should be reiterated as some sort of profound truth about the nature of enterprise is all too telling.

Someone really needs a holiday… September 6, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy.

There’s little I’ve read over the last few days that’s as dispiriting in its own way as this from Michael O’Leary.
No, not the boilerplate about ‘booting out’ ‘bad performers’ from the public sector. That’s so tediously predictable and reflexive a line as to be almost not worth mentioning. Almost.

But, no, it’s this little insight into a world that seems so detached from an ordinary reality as to be almost alien:

“I hate going on holidays, although I’m told I have to. I go to Portugal for two weeks a year with the children and a week skiing. I find those a trial, mainly because they take me away from work.
“You can’t have a family unless you make some of these sacrifices, but I hate being on holidays. It drives me mad,” he said.

One wonders how his (or anyone’s) nearest and dearest might feel on reading that functionally being around them for an extended period is a ‘sacrifice’ in the great man’s life – though as was put to me ‘why does he have to have a family. No family deserves that’.

But it also strikes me that this too shall pass. In five or ten or fifteen or twenty years or whenever the sort of life/workstyle that he alludes to will be beyond him, or he’ll have been supplanted by younger leaner more ambitious individuals. And what then?

I’m always troubled by people without a psychological hinterland. It doesn’t much matter what that may be, but I tend to believe it should exist, something above and beyond work, be it friends, family both, neither, something else entirely. But something above and beyond work. And perhaps starting with those closest, be they friends, or family. Or whoever. Or whatever. But something or someone. Surely?

And it has to be said. If this is how he views his world, what about his understanding, let alone empathy, for the situation of those who work for him? I’ve always thought it too reductionist to see some workplaces as a reflection of those who own/run them, and yet it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that sometimes they are that reflection… and of course for those with a media profile that has a broader impact again.


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