UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Where do they make up the news?

It’s that time of year when you don’t quite know what day it is. Is today Thursday or Friday? But it is time to catch up with the press and find out if anything has been happening in the real world. Sometimes reading the “quality Sundays” there is a curious feeling akin to cognitive dissonance, where readers experience a lack of consistency from tale to tale, between their expectations and their reality. These newspapers expect us to contribute to their favourite charity at this time of year, usually on international development or animals and will complain about women being on page 3 or not being on bank notes, and support gay marriage and “alternative lifestyles”. But let’s forget the comment pages. What do they report ?

From page to page the narrative changes. On one page, crowds at Boxing Day sales illustrate that people are really feeling the Gideon buoyancy in the economy, practising the Viv Nicholson theory of spend, spend, spend on consumer goods that may or may not be really needed or wanted, may or may not be cut price. Later on you will find the column about ethical consumerism, recommending the cashmere carpet if one is worried about chemical effluence. If you read further online there is the article about whether sale bargains are really as cut price as they are said to be.

Further on, it is reported that the bulk of that spending led to an increase in already overwhelmingly level of consumer debt. People are not spending money out of a cash machine from a current account but using credit cards and (probably) quick access cash from a pay day lender or worse. To quote the Smith Institute report (Nov 13):

“An inability to manage personal debt can bring distress and unhappiness not only to the individual but also to friends and family. Furthermore, it has a proven negative impact on society and the economy”

You can add your own details to that rather bald conclusion from your own experience, either personal or from dealing with members What kind of prosperity is based purely on rising levels of debt, is the question that isn’t answered. Perhaps it’s the kind of prosperity based on falling wage and benefit levels compounded by the constantly rising of essentials from food, electricity and gas to travel.

All quality papers however will of course cover house prices, the topic of conversation that have dominated middle class dinner parties for a generation. As the Guardian noted:

“In 2013 the housing boom was back. At least, it was in London, where average property prices rose 12% in the first 10 months of the year, compared with 5.5% in the rest of the country. The lift-off was stoked by foreign investors looking for racy assets and the government's Help to Buy mortgage subsidy scheme, described by one City commentator as a moronic idea.”
http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/dec/25/business-year-in-review-alice-in-wongaland  .

Houses are no longer homes and a place to live but a major investment decision. Those who have money buy ,buy, buy, If not for themselves to become “Buy to Let” investors. Rising house prices are now beyond the average wage level particularly in London and the South East, creating another division in society between those who can afford a mortgage and those who cannot.

Thatcher’s dream of a property owning democracy depended on a source of properties to buy, hence the policy of selling off the family silver known as a council housing stock. Property price rises fuel levels of wealth at the top of our society, while homelessness is in a boom at the bottom. But for the quality Sunday reader, seeing how much we can now make on the old pile no doubt produces a rosy glow.

The Sundays are not the Sundays however without some appeal to the conscience.This year the heart- tugger is the tales from the food bank. All those poor families getting free pasta and ready mixed sauce, or pot noodles if they can’t afford the cooking! Maybe Nigel Slater could come up with a few recipes to help, if they could add olive oil, chilli flakes and a few fresh herbs when they make the food parcels up...

There are some newspapers that exhibit coherence and consistency. Unfortunately they are published by Rupert Murdoch, and certainly not worth paying for, displaying the values of knowing the price of a buck but never a human life .

Then there’s the liberal press. Neo liberalism with a conscience. Currently policies might be all right with a little adjustment. It’s not the system, its the way the system is working, the David Miliband theory, before he devoted more time to his bank balance, sorry he returned to International Rescue, on Tracy Island.

Stick with Active, you know it makes sense.

Better still, either buy the Morning Star or subscribe online. You will make sense of the rest of the press.