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Sinn Féin and government formation after the next election March 26, 2015

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

Pat Leahy writes at the weekend on foot of the recent Goldman Sachs report that fretted over the economic ‘recovery’ being jeopardised by the arrival of SF in power. And it’s particularly useful when contextualised with the poll today. He suggests that:

Sinn Féin cannot be in government unless either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael wills it.

And that:

I think it is inconceivable that either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael would join a Sinn Féin-led coalition as a minority partner after the next election.

Which leads the conclusion that the ‘ unless the current government is re-elected – unlikely at this point, but by no means impossible – the only available government will be a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition’.

I think he’s right. Perhaps some sort of coalition of all the talents can be assembled out of Fine Gael and RENUA and the Ross Brigade, and the Labour Party and… that’s a lot of ands in there isn’t it?
But real political activity, real governments, can’t depend upon such disparate and divergent groups, or not for long. Look at the 2007 FF led coalition of loads. It staggered and staggered again as the crisis came roaring towards it, ultimately falling asunder well before its allotted time.
Leahy, though, also points to a most interesting dynamic, one where…

The (mostly American) investors who freewheel through the Dublin stockbroking houses, the NTMA and the Department of Finance all ask about different aspects of the same thing: the rise of the left, the prospects for Sinn Féin forming a government, and what would such a government mean for their business and investments, current and future.
The concerns and curiosity of the international investors is increasingly mirrored domestically.

Many on the left will see this as a nonsense, but let’s not forget that in this wonderful world of markets perceptions are if not quite everything they are quite a lot. And not just perceptions. It is – of course – correct that revolution isn’t offered by such a government, or anything like it. But discomfort, mild or extreme, isn’t the same as annihilation and discomfort can be… well, unpleasant for those experiencing it.

The haves, and the want-to-haves, of Irish society are rapidly waking up to the possibility of the most left-wing government that Ireland has ever seen, committed to highly redistributionist economic policies. They are contemplating significant hikes in income tax for the better-off, as well as wealth taxes, capital taxes and so on.
They are realising this isn’t the Labour Party, rhetorically committed to more extensive redistribution of wealth, but mediated through a power base heavily representative of the professional classes whose romantic 1960s leftism has been mugged by the realities of life in Ireland since. This is something very different.

And remember, it doesn’t even have to be that left-wing to upset the cosy apple cart of Irish society, not when one considers how clearly the system has been gamed to the advantage of the orthodoxy and the ‘haves and the want to haves’ since its foundation. Throw in the fact that even mildly social democratic approaches of a type that would have appeared centrist not that long ago are now apparently out of the question in the view of the orthodoxy. So while SF et al offer nothing as such in the sense of a genuinely revolutionary transformation – though in fairness nor do they pretend they do, for some any change, any change at all, is anathema.

By the way, isn’t that a neat analysis of the LP and its base? Perhaps one might quibble with an emphasis here or there. But… not far from the truth.

But as Leahy also notes:

Barring a political earthquake, there is no chance of Sinn Féin leading a majority government after the next election.
The party is currently polling in the early 20s. Even if it attains this, or higher, in an election (and we know that SF has tended to underperform polls when it comes to the actual casting of the votes), the party will need left-wing independents and smaller parties to win somewhere in the region of 30 or 40 seats to have the necessary numbers to form a government.

The numbers just aren’t there. He is sceptical about the ability of the rest of the left to work with SF – that is the rest of the left that might be willing to. And as he notes FF and FG would resile at the idea of serving as junior partners with SF and why would they hand SF a life line if they are the larger party?

Lots of people want some sort of an alliance on the left. Others, for political reasons, like to be seen to call for it on a regular basis. But very few of the people who would actually make it happen think that it will. The reasons for this are several, but it seems fair to say that a government of the left is very unlikely to happen after the next election.

After the next election. Right. So, an FG/FF or FG minority government with FF supply and confidence. As Leahy says:

Goldman Sachs can rest easily for now. Phew!

As noted earlier today such an outcome would represent a fundamental rupture with the status quo ante.

And what’s that there on the opposition benches, why SF with 30 odd TDs… And just what is likely to be the outcome of the election after that?

The world of work – a verbal attack, a punch thrown, and consequences, thankfully consequences… March 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.

Louise Mensch gets in on the act today as regards the non-renewal of Clarkson’s contract by misquoting what was said in regard to the attack.

She tweeted:

“sustained and prolonged verbal abuse” our culture of effeminacy knows no bounds. BBC words, not the producer’s, to be clear.

Actually, not the BBC’s words, but hers.

What the BBC said, or rather Ken MacQuarrie who carried out the investigation:

On 4 March 2015 Oisin Tymon was subject to an unprovoked physical and verbal attack by Jeremy Clarkson. During the physical attack Oisin Tymon was struck, resulting in swelling and bleeding to his lip. The verbal abuse was sustained over a longer period, both at the time of the physical attack and subsequently.

There we go. After all the bleating in comments in various quarters online about it not being a physical attack, or if it was the producer should have kept schtum, or what was all the fuss about, this is it. An unprovoked attack that was both verbal and physical.

I’ve positioned this already within the context of workplaces and the attitudes to workers from some in positions of authority over them. I think it is notable that there were sustained threats to the worker’s job during the attack – and after all, what is the threat that carries most weight short of a physical attack in this age, the idea that our source of income will be removed.

On the same topic it was dispiriting a few weekend’s ago to read Tom McGurk as he sought to present Clarkson as some sort of anti-political correctness figure as well as the essential exemplar of Englishness ( “there’s something profoundly British about Clarkson’s persona and attitudes. He’s a sort of genetic cross between Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army, Nigel Farage of Ukip and Boris Johnson, the Tory mayor of London”). I know a little something of both Britishness and Englishness and it’s a typical and remarkably superficial misreading by McGurk of them. Note too the political positioning of two of his examples.

The confusion between the two – scourge of political correctness and essence of England – is telling. Clarkson is the face of the establishment. Oh, sure, the bejeaned slightly foul-mouthed face, but establishment in every meaningful sense of the word. Male, middle-aged, white, English. All the rhetoric he comes out with is just that – rhetoric. No system will crash due to him, no empire be over turned. The pot shots are at those who are effectively defenceless, those who cannot fight back (literally so it is alleged in the most recent instance). McGurk says the following:

Let me spell it out, as a veteran of many a long and gruelling TV film schedule: there’s no excuse whatsoever for such an action and Clarkson should be ashamed.

But then…

The BBC now has a stark choice: sack the man it simply cannot house-train and face a massive financial and broadcasting loss or deal with its clear duty of care to its staff while somehow keeping Clarkson on board.

And after that we’re into the usual stuff:

This crisis now pitches the very opposite ends of the BBC male psyche against each other. In one corner, controller Danny Cohen, beloved leader of the new BBC of political correctness, and in the other, Jeremy, the last man who still thinks that the sun doesn’t set on the empire.

Actually the BBC’s choice, referenced above by him, is to sack someone who assaulted someone else in the course of their work. That is how a duty of care would be exercised given numerous previous warnings over behaviours. But put that aside for a moment. Note how it becomes an existential tussle over ‘the male psyche’. Not an issue of bad behaviour(s) – though notably McGurk’s column was written before the anti-Irish allegation came out. Interesting if he considers that too a manifestation of conflicted ‘male psyche’?

Btw, one would never think this was the Tom McGurk who has railed against manifestations of the end of that empire. The contradiction just doesn’t seem to strike him.

And as to political correctness, he is oddly unspecific as to what that means, though he sure sees a lot of it about.

Top Gear could be seen as the last bastion for old-fashioned, red-blooded males – particularly in the new world of PC television.


It’s a last oasis of how things used to be, surrounded by the desert of politically correct, dumbed-down television schedules.


No table full of PC television executives would ever have picked them, with their edge, their red-bloodedness, their moods and their attitudes.

Right. Well, some will remember how ‘things used to be’ and will know only too well that for all the faults of contemporary television dumbing down isn’t exactly the first problem one would point to when comparing now and ‘then’.

The argument becomes more curious again when – inevitably – he turns his attention to Ireland:

It’s exactly the same in Ireland. Just look at the success and popularity of people like George Hook, Eamon Dunphy, Vincent Browne and Ivan Yates. All have had to fight the modern broadcasting culture of dumbing down to succeed. The affection in which they are held is often a measure of how far they have been prepared to challenge the popular consensus.

And that:

Compare them to those hugely paid preferred choices of management who so frequently, in broadcasting or popularity terms, can hardly bust their way out of a paper-bag. These are the ‘personalities’ who mistake publicity for genuine popularity.

Perhaps it is me, but I can’t help feeling that he neglected to put a name in that line-up? Starts with a ’T’ ends with…

The LPT redux March 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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The government must be thanking its lucky stars that it decided to use Revenue to implement the payment of Local Property Taxes and perhaps wondering why it didn’t pull a similar stunt in relation to water charges – but of course that would have been to pull away the cosmetic facade that this was not a fund raising exercise rather than an effort, at least in part, to change ‘behaviours’.

Anyhow, the SBP notes that:

Earlier this month, the Revenue announced that 130,000 LPT compliance letters had been sent in respect of unpaid property tax bills for 2013, 2014 and 2015.
New figures from the Revenue indicate that the clampdown has yielded €12.2 million since March 2, with the tax authority receiving tens of thousands of calls to its LPT helpline this month.

Then there was this:

Meanwhile, close to 350,000 property owners will see their 2015 local property tax deducted from their bank account tomorrow, via a single debit authority, having chosen this option when they filed their LPT return last year. The Revenue spokeswoman said that approximately 344,000 chose this option.

That got me wondering, just how many people pay LPT in the state? This from 2013 is indicative:

The exact figure for the total number of liable properties is not known. A figure of around 1.96 million was mentioned by Minister Hogan and Revenue .

Irish water charges: “the bills, the bills”…. and what’s this, a Minister who cannot distinguish between libraries and book shops? March 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, Uncategorized.

Many many bills will be wrong admits the company:

Irish Water has confirmed that it plans to send out water bills to more than 1.7 million households in the full knowledge that hundreds of thousands of those bills will be incorrect.

The company said it has to operate on the basis of incomplete information and that households will receive the bills over an eight week period starting in the first week of April.

Still, that’s okay because extend and pretend continues as the MO of the government…

BTW, what is Alan Kelly talking about here?

He said the State “provides our transport services, yet people pay for their train tickets. The State builds libraries, yet people pay to take books out. The State builds houses, yet people pay subsidised rents.”

Uh-oh. There’s a man – Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, no less – who doesn’t understand the basic rationale behind the concept of the ‘lending’ (key word that) library. He should though. He should.

BTW, just realised Paul Murphy picked up on this when Kelly said it. Isn’t it telling though, if a better example of the gulf of incomprehension, the lack of any rigorous intellectual or ideological rationale for water charges – or charges in general – can be found I can’t think of one. More on that…

Social partnership March 24, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

I missed this last week, but Stephen Kinsella in the SBP the weekend before last decries social partnership, and there are many on the left who wouldn’t disagree. Still, his analysis seems a little partial. For example:

Despite, or perhaps because of, the public denials we can take it as read that the collective wage bargaining arrangement known as social partnership is back as part of a new national social and economic dialogue process.

And he continues:

What is not welcome is the re-creation of an insider culture that fostered too much cooperation with the pro-business view of the world that profits should be private while losses are for the public. Social partnership boiled down to a deal: a quelling of industrial disputes in exchange for real wage increases. Let’s hope we don’t see the deal struck in the same way.

Again, can’t disagree with his point on a pro-business view of the world. But… he omits one salient detail in the analysis. Let’s see some more of what he has to say before returning to that:

A bit of history. National wage agreements were reintroduced in Ireland in January 1988 and, while there is debate or controversy on the issue, were widely credited as being a significant factor underlining the economic prosperity of the 1990s.
By 2007, there had been seven successive agreements spanning a 21-year period. From 1988 to 2007, when the wheels fell off the bus, in nominal terms private sector wages went up 206 per cent, while public sector wages went up 214 per cent excluding benchmarking and 234 per cent including benchmarking.

He continues by noting that ‘many sectors benefitted from the process but competitiveness internationally suffered’ and that by 2009 the process of partnership was ended when the government suspended the last 2008 agreement mid-way through its implementation.
And he argues that:

Fundamentally, social partnership lost its legitimacy for me when, in a last gasp as the crisis in the state was becoming more visible, unaffordable pay and conditions awards were made to a public sector which could not be justified. The process should have stopped us losing the run of ourselves if it was to mean anything. But it didn’t.

But hold on. That’s not all that partnership was. Not by a long way. While he has the passing mention to pro-business he doesn’t articulate what was so pro-business about partnership, in other words, why did business participate in it? Well, stability, sure. And a quieter labour situation with fewer disputes, absolutely. But…

Here’s Michael Taft’s terse definition of social partnership:

…the fundamental premise of social partnership – that wage moderation can be compensated for by tax cuts.

And let’s consult the wiki page on partnership…

The corporatist ‘social partnership’ agreements are agreed between the Government, main employer groups Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) and the Construction Industry Federation) and the trade unions (members of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions); since 1997 voluntary/community organisations have taken part in the general policy discussions but not in the key wage bargaining element. The corporatist core has been a trade-off of modest wage increases in exchange for a lighter income tax burden. There are also sectoral reforms negotiated and public service pay reviews under the rubric of ‘benchmarking’ with private sector pay scales.

That light income tax burden is absolutely crucial and central to social partnership. It allowed wages to remain lower, implicitly passed certain costs from employers to the state (FIS etc), and as importantly were directed towards the mass of workers in the private sector. Moreover the ‘modest’ wage increases were those in the private sector. There were other aspects to partnership of benefit to employers. For example, one has to suspect that agreements not to unionise in incoming businesses from abroad in the tech area were on foot of the process, even if not openly so.

As this post from some years ago notes, IBEC and the SFA were foursquare behind social partnership with some minor rhetorical issues. ISME, not so much.

Yet Kinsella ignores an essential pillar of the process by focusing on public sector wages alone. Moreover he says nothing about the detrimental impact of the low tax model adopted by the state which with its concentration on indirect taxation and lower income taxes as well as a narrow base surely has a significant part to play. Granted he says this at the end.

It is crucial that any return to a coordinated approach to pay and taxation ditch the echo chamber all together.

But without defining the nature of the social partnership accurately the analysis remains entirely lop-sided. One can well imagine this is expedient from the point of view of those on the right who want to forget its outline and details – who were happy to take all the benefits, which for them were numerous, while attempting to present themselves as never interested or engaged with the reality of it, but it doesn’t do justice to any serious critique of same, one way or another.

Irish water charges: If they’re going to deduct it anyway, why register? March 24, 2015

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

A fair question, I think, in view of the latest news from Irish Water. For apparently the government:

is understood to be considering introducing legislation to recoup unpaid water charges from people’s income.

Latest figures show 1.23 million people have registered with Irish Water, with just under a million of them Irish Water customers.

And that out of, well, perhaps, sort of, kind of…:

The company believes there are a total of 1.5 million customers.


The Government is now thought to be considering taking unpaid water charges from peoples’ wages or social welfare payments.

A distinction would be made between people who cannot pay and those who will not pay.

Well, that’d be nice, some sort of differentiation between different incomes. Though the question comes to mind why not at first and why not through general taxation? But answers there are none to such questions.

Doublespeak! March 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
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The latest from Archon and political analysis from and on Cork and beyond…

LINGUISTICALLY, our politicos never fail to impress. Local lad, Jim Daly TD, is a case in point. Indeed, if Ireland had a counterpart to the Doublespeak Award, Mr Daly would be an ideal candidate for the honour. The trophy is a tribute that the US-based National Council of Teachers gives to the public speaker that has best-perpetuated political language.

As a former ‘máistir’ at Skibbereen Gaelscoil, the FG politico would be aware of the attention American linguists pay to the manipulation of language whereby politicians can make the bad appear good, the negative positive and the unpleasant pleasant. He’s a dinger at such skills.

Of course the punter should not forget that, even if politicos make things as clear as mud by distorting language for political ends, behind the nonsense there’s a very clear objective. They want to control what people think and, to achieve such an end, they use a form of language that is deceptive, evasive, vague and confusing.

With Doublespeak the medium is the message. In the old days, the message was called propaganda, but now politicos describe the message as ‘the organised dissemination of information’.

And, if we observe the Doublespeak process in relation to Mr Daly, when the fogginess of thought lifts and the insincerity is laid bare, we see that the purpose of party propaganda (or the dissemination of information) is to further at all costs the interests of Fine Gael and, where appropriate, to reflect the wisdom of the Dear Leader.

Cork left standing

Here’s an example: Last week, Daly told De Paper that he did not believe the Government should wipe Cork Airport’s appalling financial burden, the €120m debt that Mickey Martin’s FF government originally imposed on the airport and which now threatens to sink the place.

Tourism interests, Cork County Council, business, chambers of commerce, trade unions, the general public and this newspaper in particular frequently warn that the debt is strangling the airport and that its enormity is preventing Cork from competing on an equal footing with Shannon Airport.

Should Cork Airport cease to exist, the consequences would be horrendous for Munster’s economy. Multi-nationals such as EMC, Apple and global pharmaceutical companies have pointed out that the airport was a major factor in their decision to choose Cork as a location for their industries and, they warn, the airport remains critical to their ongoing success.
But West Cork man Jim Daly and most of his FG cohorts have a different take on the matter. They’re deaf to the warnings. When pressed, Daly argued in a neat piece of Doublespeak that, were the government to cancel the €120m debt, Cork Airport would ‘potentially be left standing still’.

A Eureka moment

Needless to say, nobody had a clue as to what he meant by the comment ‘potentially be left standing still’ but it had a ring to it and seemed to point to a subtle line of reasoning that we, sadly, just didn’t have the wherewithal to grasp.
And then came the good news bit. An increase in passenger traffic and air routes would solve the €120m debt problem – as easy as that! Classic Doublespeak!

What’s more, he would prefer to see the government donate €1m (yes, as little as one million according to De Paper) for marketing new airport routes. This, in turn, would facilitate the growth of business and allow the airport to pay back its debt from the increased revenue. A truly Eureka moment!

Daly also believes better marketing of the West Cork region and the Wild Atlantic Way could attract ‘new tourists’ and that this too could have a significant impact on the ‘airport’s marketing strategy’.

So, with a smidgen of Doublespeak, everything eventually turns out easy-peesie, and there’s no need for the Leeside burghers and the prophets of doom to be getting their nether garments in a knot!

But, and here’s the million-euro question: when stripped of the rhetoric is Daly’s simplistic problem-solving just gobbledegook and unadulterated piffle?

No solution to crisis

Perhaps our esteemed public representative really does believe that if his gang sunk €1m into ‘marketing new routes,’ Cork Airport could spring into life and pay back its unsustainable debt?

On the other hand, the cynic might suspect that hidden behind the guff, Daly is merely repeating platitudes that are designed to conceal the fact that Kenny and Fine Gael have absolutely no intention of ever finding a solution to the crisis at Cork Airport.

Indeed, Fine Gael essentially shifts responsibility for the €120m debt onto the airport management and the Dublin Airport Authority (Cork’s indifferent bosses). It is the task of those bodies to reverse plummeting passenger numbers and, in some miraculous fashion, to make the place profitable!

Nor is Fine Gael prepared to introduce a ‘route development fund’ – presumably of the sort Daly had in mind. In answer to a Dáil question last February, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe glibly replied with the stock answer that it was ‘a matter for the airport and DAA to stabilise and grow traffic’.

Interestingly, whereas Daly has little difficulty parroting the government’s anti-Cork bias not all of the Blueshirt camp is ready to do the same. Noel Harrington, Daly’s competitor for votes in Cork South West, declared the debt should be written off and the airport managed independently.

Reward for Jim?

Fine Gael TD for Cork North West, Áine Collins shares his point of view. She believes the airport is pivotal to the continued growth of the West Cork region (where tourism generates 250,000 jobs and revenue of more than €5 billion annually).
Nonetheless, to be fair to the linguistically-smart Jim Daly, he’s consistent in his support of government policies and always has been. He carried the can for the plan to slash teachers’ allowance payments despite a furious teachers’ union, the ASTI, complaining that he was ‘maliciously’ promoting a tall tale.

And, in the ambulance controversy that bedeviled West Cork, he loyally toed the party line when campaigners accused him of abandoning them in their hour of need. He hit back, alleging ‘vested interests’ within the campaign, and of ‘reckless and opportunistic scaremongering’.

The people deserved the truth, he proclaimed, and that as long as he had the responsibility of elected office he would communicate honestly with the electorate. ‘Electoral considerations do not feature in this very serious issue for me,’ he said at the time.

A principled politico, indeed, whose devoted attachment and allegiance to the Dear Leader has so far gone unrewarded. Even the most gnarled critic would agree that Daly deserves better for his years of total commitment. Like a seat at the cabinet table, for instance?

But, hang on a sec! Could that be another example of Doublespeak, that corrosive language that conceals and prevents thought?

An all island corporation tax rate? March 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.

Seems to be in the offing according to a report in the SBP this weekend. The politics of this are particularly intriguing. According to the report:

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will drop its plan to put through an ultra low corporation tax rate of 10 per cent in the six counties after Sinn Féin faced down the scheme in recent weeks.
DUP leader Peter Robinson is understood to have told a breakfast meeting of business leaders in Belfast organised by Stormont MLA Gavin Robinson that the assembly will likely pursue a rate of 12.5 per cent.

And why would that be, why would the DUP ‘drop’ its plan?

The 12.5 per cent rate is understood to be favoured by Sinn Féin, which wants a common corporate tax base across the entire island.

And apparently:

A DUP source admitted that the party was now likely to back away from the 10 per cent rate after strident opposition from Sinn Féin. “Our starting point was 10 (per cent), but if it was a choice between staying where we are and going to 12.5 per cent, it wasn’t much of a contest,” one source familiar with the negotiations said.

Hmmmm… perhaps this is what is meant by economic issues taking over from identity issues in Stormont? Or perhaps not! And clearly SF has an eye to matters beyond the North…

Focus will now shift towards negotiating a final agreement on the 12.5 per cent rate, although DUP sources said that further opposition could not be ruled out from Sinn Féin, which will be conscious of the risk of being accused of hypocrisy by its political opponents in the Republic.
Sinn Féin has been a vocal critic of what it says are low rates of tax on corporations and high net worth individuals in the Republic.

Again, it seems to me, this is another example of the problems of having to contest politically in two polities. It’s not just that opponents will pile in to point up discrepancies and contradiction, but that those discrepancies and contradictions function from the off. Granted the forced coalition aspect of the status quo in Northern Ireland adds a further twist to matters. How these circles can be squared is hard to see. Perhaps a sort of intrinsic partitionism, for which read absolute indifference to matters NI, will prevail amongst the electorate in the RoI. Or perhaps not. Or perhaps an attitude of this is how the dispensation works is baked in from the off.

Jobs ‘provision’ and the state March 23, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy.

…curious this. According to RTÉ this morning, on foot of calls by SIPTU ‘expecting’ public sector pay increases after upcoming talks with between Government and unions…

IBEC’s Chief Economist said pay cuts should only be given by employers who could afford it and currently one in three of its members in the services sector was not in a position to do that.

He said the Government’s focus should be on lowering taxes and providing jobs to the 200,000 people who are out of work.

Given the continual repetition of the line that the ‘state can’t generate jobs’ we’ve heard in recent times perhaps this represents progress. But probably not.

The ‘Page One’ documentary and the economic crisis… March 22, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy.
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Caught the fascinating documentary, Page One, on the New York Times, recently. Very bitty in parts and oddly unreflective of gender in that only one woman was interviewed, but overall useful and David Carr who died earlier this year came over as a sympathetic centre of the film, and one who spoke some good sense too.

What struck me once more is how the newspaper industry in the late 2000s had a collective nervous breakdown. We can see some of this in the near-hysterical attacks on public sector workers and the very idea of the state in some of the economic crisis coverage here during that period and on a human level it’s not hard to understand why. Here were decades, century, old institutions going to the wall like dominoes under the twin assault of new/free social media and an economic crisis unparalleled in recent history. Massive cutbacks (a literal decimation of NYT staff, and worse again elsewhere). Small wonder that it seemed like end days. Revealing to learn that only in 2013 was tenure finally abolished at the NYT. 2013!

And yet having worked in allied areas myself I know from first hand experience that the work life in the media and associated ‘creative’ industries (a revolting term) is significantly different to that elsewhere in the private sector and always has been. Part of that is due to a self-generated mythos, it was once put to me that ‘we (meaning they) are the bomber crews working through the night while the foot soldiers slog along 9 to 5’. This was intended as an apologia for not paying overtime but demanding the overtime be worked. A revealing mischaracterisation both of war and work, I thought at the time, as well as lending what were in truth fairly mundane jobs a patina of risible bombast and self-regard that many working in the area would recognise as such from the off. Add in – in some though not all areas – an hostility to unions and away it goes…

But the broader point being that the experience there – and truth is that the newspaper industry remains extant albeit undeniably changed (despite predictions by some in the documentary that there’d be no NYT, for example, in ‘five years’), was mapped completely inaccurately onto other areas of work, that the contingency of jobs, conditions, whatever in the printed media was assumed to be true for everywhere else in the private sector. And this added even further to the toxic atmosphere and the development or exacerbate of a narrative about private sector and public sector rather than seeking better conditions and genuine and transformative change for all.


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