Kevin Devine

Promised You a Miracle: UK80-82

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Guardian journalist Andy Beckett’s tome about the early 1980s is entertaining, as I suspected it might be. It uses a Simple Minds song as its title and they were one of my favourite bands. But it’s also frustrating.

Although he makes use of government documents released under the 30-year rule, and interviews participants in the events described, it’s ultimately a work of journalism rather than a proper history. While many of the facts are present, like much Guardian journalism, it doesn’t always join the dots — or at least not in the way I hoped it would.

The growth of outsourcing

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The effective privatisation of public sector jobs can be resisted by shop floor militancy.

Like many of the aspects of contemporary capitalism that we have come to hate, the vogue for outsourcing in Britain first gained ground under the Thatcher government.

In 1988, after privatising British Gas and British Telecom, the Tories passed a law subjecting local authority services to "compulsory competitive tendering" or CCT.

Since then the jargon has changed - the current buzzword is "procurement" - but this type of business activity has mushroomed, spawning companies such as Capita and providing markets for existing firms such as Serco.

The Silver Tassie

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Lyttleton Theatre, London, until 3 July

Sean O'Casey is best known for his "Dublin Trilogy" - the trio of plays dealing with the Irish Revolution and Civil War that made his name as a playwright. The Silver Tassie is less known, but this revival is timed to coincide with the centenary of the start of the First World War. And being an O'Casey play, it brilliantly captures the shattering impact of the conflict on the lives of those who took part in it.

The stamp of militancy

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One hundred years ago thousands of workers took part in what became known as the Great Dublin Lockout.

The Irish state postal service recently issued a series of stamps showing scenes from the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913. The stamps are very handsome, but this isn't the point. Rather it is the irony of the government issuing them being responsible for imposing the worst cuts in living memory on Irish workers. This shows how important it is to properly recall the memory of the events of 1913. For the lockout is not just the most important struggle of the Irish working class; it is also one of the most important industrial episodes in British history.

What about the WorkERS?

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What is the state of relations between employers and workers in the UK? This is the question the latest Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS), which has just come out, aims to answer.

Conducted every seven years or so, the results are based on interviews with managers and trade union reps, and employees' responses to a questionnaire. The latest study was carried out in 2011 and as such it presents a snapshot of industrial relations during the greatest recession of modern times, and permits comparisons with previous studies, conducted when the economy was arguably in better shape.

To hell in a Chelsea tractor?

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The news that Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port is to move to a four-day week, albeit with no cut in basic working hours, highlights the predicament facing the UK motor industry. The industry appeared to have recovered from the worst of the recession.

Indeed, luxury and niche producers, like Jaguar/Land Rover - which is now the sector's biggest employer, mainly because of sales of the all-terrain vehicles derided as "Chelsea tractors" - and BMW/Mini are doing extremely well. However, continued recession and the impact of austerity means a drop in demand for cheaper "mid-market" models, especially in Europe.

Bernadette: Notes on a Political Journey

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Director: Lelia Doolan

Bernadette Devlin McAliskey is one of the most important political figures to have emerged from the late 1960s. This documentary shows why. Just imagine footage of your local MP using a megaphone to coordinate the building of barricades, or the same MP helping to break up paving slabs to be used as ammunition against armed police.

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