The cost of living is higher and the squeeze on earnings is back with a vengeance, but pay in the public sector and most parts of the private sector is still being held at below-inflation levels, as it has been for the best part of a decade. The Tories reacted to near-defeat in the general election in June by shifting their position slightly — increases of just 1 percent became 2 percent for some groups.
This looks a lot like a self-help book. Each chapter ends with three “takeaways” — short summaries that help the reader learn from what they’ve just read and apply these lessons in their life. In many ways, this is to be expected. After all, the author is chartered psychologist and “relational psychoanalyst” Oliver James.
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 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.
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.
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.