“The trouble is. . . .” Economists, economics, and the UK Left.

  • Denial and inequality
  • Please, not more of the same
  • Privileging power, maintaining dominance
  • Learning the lessons
  • Challenging TINA (There Is No Alternative)
  • The trouble is . . . . .

Looking back over the news in the previous week (from the beaches of Lesbos, “the panicked trading floors of Shanghai, to jihadi massacres in Pakistan and Burkina Faso”, then “seamlessly” to Davos for five minutes), economics editor of Channel 4 News, Paul Mason, comments:

As the world goes to hell in a handcart, the elite of policymakers and financiers
remain convinced everything’s going to be all right. (Paul Mason, Guardian G2, 26 01 2016).

And if you have seen The Big Short, Adam McKay’s (2016) film about the men who made millions by betting on the 2008 banking / housing crash in the US, you will have glimpsed inside that bubble of elite, turbo-masculine certainty and power.

Based on a book by former banker Michael Lewis, it illustrates not just the ingenuity of a few mavericks, but the stupidity, complacency and amorality of the financial and political elite (Mason, ibid.). (Emphasis added.)

Denial and inequality.
Cambridge economist, Professor Ha-Joon Chang (one of the Labour party’s new economics advisers), offers his verdict:

In truth the west failed to learn from the 2008 crash. Any economic ‘recovery’ was built on asset bubbles (‘Don’t blame China for these global jitters’, The Guardian: 22 01 2016).

The refusal to restructure their economies, he argues, means that “the rich countries have wasted the last seven years propping up a bankrupt economic model” (ibid.). (Emphasis   added.) So, he recommends:

Before things get any worse, we need to replace it with one in which the financial sector is made less complex and more patient, investment in the real economy is encouraged by fiscal and technological incentives, and measures are                           brought in to reduce inequality so that demand can be maintained without creating more debts (ibid.).

These are three clear strategies, evidence-based policies, for a future UK Labour government. The shadow cabinet should be making the case for these now: explaining them and preparing the country and its institutions for the change. Of course, a PLP                  (Parliamentary Labour Party) stuffed with unreconstructed neoliberal MPs, who adhere to the Tory Austerity agenda (or scam), will find that difficult, as they appear to lack the will or conscience to examine and challenge prevailing economic and political orthodoxies, and the threat they present to a just and fair society, to international relations, and to the global environment. Perhaps they just don’t care.

Meanwhile, The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, analyses ‘The promise and peril of Industrial Revolution 4.0” (The Guardian, 25 01 2016), and warns that, contrary to the oft-promoted idea of trickle-down wealth and prosperity:

All the evidence so far is that the benefits of the coming change will be concentrated among a relatively small elite, thus exacerbating the trend towards greater levels of inequality (Elliott, ibid.).

Elliott notes that this was a point stressed by the Swiss bank UBS in a report launched a Davos, and that a similar argument is made by Klaus Schwab, who runs the World Economic Forum, in his book (2016), The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The structural changes in employment and unemployment that are a consequence of the technological change that is driving the fourth industrial revolution, mean that it is easier to make money (and lots of it, quickly) with far fewer workers than it was a quarter of a century ago.

Please, not more of the same.
Elliott describes the 2nd myth (of three) about Industrial Revolution 4.0: ‘that the process will be trouble free provided everything is left to the market’ (ibid.). (See also Larry Elliott & Dan Atkinson (2008) The Gods that Failed: How Blind Faith in the Markets has Cost us our Future.) Elliott quotes Philip Jennings, general secretary of the global UNI union:

We need some governance to ensure a democratic evolution and that requires public policy discussion. There is the opportunity to shape technology to improve people’s lives – through connectivity, education, health. We shouldn’t be fearful and fatalistic about it (cited Elliott, 25 01 2016). (Emphasis added.)

What is technology for? Is it just about money making? Is it just a means for excessive personal or company profits for elites? Is it just about expanding consumerism? Or is there an alternative model, which sees technological change and innovation as about social, environmental and geopolitical problem solving? Improving lives, supporting health, enhancing wellbeing, protecting nature, underpinning harmonious relations, nationally and internationally, i.e. reducing hierarchy and inequality, those differences that can be exploited and turned too easily into discord, conflict and wars. The UK Labour party and the trade unions should be espousing this alternative model, and working with business, industry and communities to realise its social, economic and environmental potential.

Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever since 2009, is conscious of the bigger picture:

Actually, that is one of the key issues in the world right now – the lack of global governance in a world that has become far more interdependent (Polman, interviewed by Graham Ruddick, ‘We can show there is a different
business model out there and satisfy shareholders’. The Guardian, 26 01 2016). (Emphasis added.)

Polman draws attention to the distinctiveness and complexity of the current global and inter/national challenge:

Increasingly the issues that we are facing – climate change, unemployment, social cohesion, food security – these are issues of global proportions. We are often trapped in short termism . . . or other things (ibid).

Klaus Schwab (cited Elliott, 25 01 2016) also takes a holistic view:

The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril. My concern, however, is that decision-makers are too often caught in traditional, linear (non-disruptive) thinking or too absorbed by immediate concerns to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.

Elliott translates this to mean that “the current political framework is no longer fit for purpose and its shortcomings are likely to lead to a backlash that could turn very nasty” (Elliott, 25 01 2016). (Emphasis added.) Paul Mason cites evidence that the very nasty is already too close for comfort:

A Belgian minister, in an EU negotiation, is alleged – by his Greek counterpart – to have demanded the Greeks “push back or sink” the boats coming from Turkey, in breach of international law. . . . These demands are demonstrating to the rest of Europe the incapacity of its leading powers and institutions to face facts: the next million refugees could only be stopped by a policy of pushback that would break all humanitarian law (Mason, 02 02 2016. The Guardian). (Emphasis added.)

Privileging power, maintaining dominance.
In the UK in 2016, the level of political incompetence and lack of good governance is already stark and disturbing. Three topical examples illustrate the extent of the democratic deficit. First, the government’s lack of an energy policy (as opposed to allowing the markets to create shareholder profits at the expense of both energy efficiency or fair and adequate supply to the population) is about to be exposed as a lethal combination of lethargy, neglect, ideological nepotism and economic incompetence:

Under current (government) policy, it is almost impossible for UK electricity demand to be met by 2025 (Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, cited Fiona Harvey, ‘UK faces 2025 energy crisis, say engineers’. The Guardian: 26 01 2016).

This advancing crisis is truly scary, and is the result of both government inaction / not doing things, such as not replacing exhausted and/or harmful sources of energy to make up the coming energy deficit, plus doing (the wrong) things, such as scrapping energy efficiency schemes (e.g. home insulation) and cutting subsidies for onshore wind and solar power. As a consequence:

With little or no focus on reducing electricity demand, the retirement of the majority of the country’s aging nuclear fleet, recent proposals to phase out coal-fired power by 2025, and the cut in renewable energy subsidies, the UK is on                           course to produce even less electricity than it does at the moment (Jenifer Baxter, cited Fiona Harvey, ibid.).

Government in/action has reduced supply, made it more expensive, undermined UK businesses and jobs in the renewables sector, suppressed technological innovation, and created social and economic uncertainty. But shareholder profits are holding up nicely. As George Monbiot shows, taking oil as his example (03 02 2016), this is no accident:

As these new crisis bailouts for fossil fuels show, the least deserving get the most government protection (‘We’re drowning in cheap oil – so why throw public money at the industry?’ The Guardian).

Tory government policy and actions expressly discriminate between and against ‘friends’ and ‘enemies’:

An energy transition threatens the kind of people who attend the Conservative party’s fundraising balls. . . . As they did for the bankers, our political leaders ensure that everyone must pay the costs imposed by the fossil fuel companies – except the fossil fuel companies (Monbiot, ibid.)

The power to object to fracking is suppressed, while the power to dissent against renewable energy projects is facilitated, both via changes in legal procedures designed for the purpose (see Monbiot, ibid.)

The third domestic example of Tory lack of governance is the tax case of Google, which has, after years of avoidance, agreed to pay what many see as a derisory 3% tax on its considerable UK business.

Google’s sweetheart deal has provided an unusually clear glimpse into the working methods of the corporate-political establishment that sits at the heart of our national life (Jonathan Freedland, ‘Google crosses borders. The tax collectors should too’. The Guardian, 30 01 2016).

It seems that the most powerful corporations, such as Google, have such a close relationship with this government that they can set their own tax rates, while the Tories busy themselves reducing life support for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, such as single parents, children, people in ill health and/or with disabilities, as well as the unemployed, under-employed and the working poor. And anyone unable to afford to either rent or buy shelter: a home.

It’s into this cesspit that public opinion has peered this week, stirring up yet another wave of the emotion increasingly shaping politics in Europe and across the Atlantic: raw loathing for political-corporate-media establishment that seems to be all in it together, scratching each other’s backs while everyone else struggles to get by (Freedland, ibid.). (Emphasis added.)

These examples of free market manipulation, willful neglect, fuelled by ideology and greed (and there are many others, from ‘policies’ on housing to refugees and asylum seekers) are closer to corruption than good governance. So how close are we in the UK to the situation described by Mark Baum, the designer of the “short”, in the film, The Big Short:

We’re living in an era of fraud in America. Not just in banking. But in government, education, food, religion, journalism, prisons, baseball . . . [For the UK read football.] Somehow, American values became: Fuck it, let’s grab what we can for now and the hell with tomorrow (cited Mason, 26 01 2016). (Emphasis added.)

Learning the lessons.
Baum’s words neatly summarise the neoliberal mindset, and its economic and political methodology: the ruthless individualism and competitiveness, the unbridled greed, nerveless exploitation and rampant inequality. Commodification, cruelty, injustice. In the introduction to Post Capitalism. A Guide to our Future (2015), Mason sums up neoliberalism as:

The doctrine of uncontrolled markets: it says that the best route to prosperity is individuals pursuing their own self-interest, and the market is the only way to express that self-interest. It says the state should be small (except for its riot squad and secret police); that financial speculation is good; that inequality is good; that the natural state of humankind is to be a bunch of ruthless individuals, competing with each other (p xi).

The Big Short shows such men in action and the gendered economic and political environment that has fed and rewarded their greed, opportunism and lack of empathy. Adam McKay, The Big Short’s director, noticed that:

“The biggest thing I see (in audiences) is this hunger to know. A lot of people lost houses and jobs and most people still, in our country at least, didn’t really know why.” McKay says much of the reason for this ignorance must be laid at the feet of  the US media: “They didn’t even try to explain”. (Cited Paul MacInnes, ‘Crash! Bang! Wallop!’ The Guardian Guide, 23-29 01 2016). (Emphasis added.)

This brings us to Robert Peston in the UK, who came to prominence when reporting the banking/housing/financial crisis in 2008/2009, for the BBC on a near daily basis. During      those many months, he described and explained, what were unprecedented and shocking events, which would have catastrophic, life-changing consequences for so many people, communities and economies. He was outspoken and relentless in pursuit of the unfolding story.

He has recently taken up a new position as political editor on ITV’s News at Ten, now hosted by Tom Bradby (also a new appointment). In the light of the publication of two reports on why the Labour party lost the 2015 general election, Bradby asks Peston if he thinks the Labour party has learnt the lessons of that defeat (ITV News, 25 01 2016). Before turning to Peston’s response that evening, it is important, for the purposes of this commentary, to contextualize Bradby’s question and its underlying assumptions.

Since the election of Ed Miliband as Labour party leader in 2010, the Tory-dominated media   (press and broadcasting), as well as the Progress group of Labour MPs and commentators, including Guardian journalists, have promulgated a relentless narrative about the Labour party moving to the Left and therefore becoming unelectable (as well as a ‘national security   risk’).

‘Leftwing’ and ‘socialist’ in these circles means: backward-looking (to the 1980s or earlier), childish, off-the-wall, not credible, etc.. By contrast, UKIP, Tories and sundry other neoliberals, including supporting economists, are generally treated as repositories of reason, rationality, and sober manly political competence (a rhetoric that gained purchase, despite the historical evidence – political, economic, social, and now filmic – to the contrary. For example, commenting on the track record of free market economics, Ha-Joon Chang (2011) notes:

Over the last three decades, economists played an important role in creating the conditions of the 2008 crisis. . . . More broadly, they advanced theories that justified the policies that have led to slower growth, higher inequality, heightened job insecurity and more frequent financial crises that have dogged the world in the last three decades (Ha-Joon Chang, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: 247).

In other words, economics has been worse than irrelevant. Economics, as it has been practised in the last three decades, has been positively harmful for most people (ibid: 248). (Emphasis added.)

This is a serious charge, one not to be ignored or denied if we care about people and their communities more than profit; if we care (and for human / species survival we need to care) about environmental sustainability and global justice. (See also Ha-Joon Chang [2007] Bad Samaritans: Rich Nations, Poor Policies and the Threat to the Developing World.)

Since the ‘shock’ election of longstanding MP, Jeremy Corbyn, as Labour’s new leader in 2015, taking almost 60% of the votes in a very high turnout leadership election, party membership has soared nationally, and activism (e.g. via local Momentum groups) is widespread, concerted and cross-generational. This stunning ‘revival’ runs counter to the consensus on the Right, that Labour needs to ‘learn its lessons’ and move closer to Tory and UKIP values and policies, if it is to win future elections (local, national or EU). The discourse is very parent/child: they (on the Right) are sensible ‘adults/parents’, Corbyn’s supporters are misbehaving children.

Since Corbyn’s election as leader, personal attacks on him and those who elected him have   been unbridled, relentless and toxic, demonstrating disturbance and incomprehension of those on the Right (including Guardian journalists and members of the PLP), who were clearly so out of touch with what was actually happening across the country in people’s lives as a result of wrecking-ball government policies, that the last thing they expected was for Corbyn to be elected at all, never mind by such a resounding majority.

The other three candidates, Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper, were routed, not just defeated, as their leadership campaigns increasingly revealed their neoliberal values. To vote for any one of them was to vote for more of the same. Voters understood that and delivered their verdict: that’s not what we want, not what is needed, and should not be the limits of Labour’s vision. Clearly, there are rising numbers of Labour members, voters and supporters who are looking for something different not similar. Many of us are probably driven by the “raw loathing” identified by Freedland (30 01 2016). And are we the only ones who feel a sense of recognition when he refers to the “cesspit of the corporate-political-media establishment”?

Chiming with economists critical of the free market economics of the last 40 years, Corbyn supporters had decided: ”We need a new model” (Mason, 2015: 29). This surge of political will suggests that Corbyn supporters have experienced and learned from the consequences  of the reversal Mason describes:

The big financial empires of the past 500 years were making profits from unequal trade, slavery and usury, which were then used to finance decent lifestyles at home. The USA, under neoliberalism, boosted profits by impoverishing its own citizens (Mason, 2015: 19). (Emphasis added.)

This is one of the reasons neoliberalism is not just about the economy, but constitutes a concerted attack on democracy itself.

In 2013, surveying the slow progress of austerity in southern Europe [i.e. Greece, Portugal, Spain], economists at JP Morgan spelled it out: for neoliberalism to survive, democracy must fade. . . . In other words, peoples who insisted on decent welfare systems in return for a peaceful transition out of dictatorship in the 1970s must now give up these things so that banks like JP Morgan survive (ibid.: xx). (Emphasis added.)

After Corbyn’s election as leader, words such as ‘leftwing’ and ‘socialist’ ceased to function as descriptors and became ‘objective’ terms of abuse, part of an intensified demonizing (and scaremongering) of Labour politics generally. Corbyn and his supporters are routinely identified as extremists (close to terrorists), while neoliberal politicians within the Labour party are described as ‘moderates’. The behaviour of these ‘moderates’ (moderate used to signify sensible, dignified, restrained and acceptably mainstream) has been akin to rats in a sack, as they scrap with each other about the best way to remove, defeat or undermine their party leader, rather than turning their firepower on those identified by banker Mark Baum, in The Big Short, as predators and criminals, or by Jonathan Freedland as the “corporate-political-media establishment” (30 01 2016).

When asked by Tom Bradby (25 01 2016) whether he thought the UK Labour party has “learnt the lessons” from the two reports on why Labour lost the 2015 general election (apparently for being too leftwing and not trusted on the economy), Peston appeared to hesitate before replying, as if he couldn’t quite get the words out. Well, he pointed out, the shadow chancellor has set up a panel of economists to advise the party. “And they are all brilliant”, he went on. Then he uttered the words that would trigger the writing of this commentary: “But the trouble is they are all left wing!” (Emphasis added.) In this single sentence, he gently echoed every other Tory, UKIP and Progress spokesperson, as he delivered what was meant as a damning dismissal (of “brilliant” economists and the Labour politicians who had decided to bring them on board as advisers on the economy).

Peston could have chosen to provide some political analysis (part of his job description?), for example by contrasting this Labour process of consulting economists, whose (award-winning) work is published, in the public domain and available to scrutiny, with the preferred Tory approach, which is to submit to the influence of lobbyists and favoured rich friends. Simon Jenkins is not alone in contesting that ‘Business lobbyists have corrupted the very heart of government” and in asking: “Who can police global capitalism?” (‘The big shortfall: how British taxpayers are being cheated’. The Guardian, 28 01 2016).

Instead of political analysis, Peston chose to align himself with the economics that got us into this mess. Which begs the question: what has he learnt as a result of these years of neoliberalism, including the 2008 crash and the follow up? After all that privileged access to the 2008 housing/banking crisis and the catastrophic workings of neoliberalism, his words reveal that he has after all internalised neoliberal orthodoxy, as the only way: TINA. Market dogma rules. Let’s not bother with examining the available evidence. Now, whatever else it is,  for a political commentator, that’s lazy.

Challenging TINA (there is no alternative) as the world goes to hell in a handcart.
By contrast to this supine submission to neoliberal dogma, Ha-Joon Chang quotes Goethe, artist and scientist], who said: ‘Everything factual is already a theory’. “Facts, even numbers, are in the end not objective” (Chang, 2014: 453). (See pp 453-456.) The assumption of free market economics as immutable, inevitable and right (as implied by Peston), is itself a political argument. Denying the political nature of economics is a sleight of hand, designed to disguise its purpose (in the service of those holding the reins of power).

Economics is a political argument. It is not – and can never be – a science; there are no objective truths in economics that can be established independently of political, and frequently moral, judgements. Therefore, when faced with an economic argument, you must ask the age-old question ‘Cui bono?” (Who benefits?) (Ha-Joon Chang [2014] Economics: The User’s Guide: 451). (Emphasis added.)

For example, Katrine Marcal (2015) notes:

Today the standard theories of economics maintain that economic outcomes are gender neutral. And they look incredibly neutral when they are expressed as abstract mathematics (Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? A story about women and economics: 172).

This is surely a good example of something factual already being a theory; in this case, rooted in historical gender power relations and unacknowledged / unexamined sexual politics.

By the 1980s, the finance industry was almost entirely based on abstract mathematics (ibid.: 72)

Cui bono? Who benefitted from this turn? Make your own list. Economists should keep their eyes on the lived reality of people in the society, and pay attention to prevailing power relations and inequalities, not just mathematical equations. Not doing this has actual, not abstract, consequences:

So, instead of seeing justice, equality, care, the environment, trust, physical and mental health as fundamental parts of the equation that creates economic value, they are construed as something that is in opposition to it (Marcal, ibid.: 183).

Which bits of that argument does Peston not understand or disagree with?

The trouble is. . . .
This brief overview of economics and the Left has thrown up many warnings:

  • warnings (and not just from the so-called ‘hard Left’) about existing and hardening hierarchy and inequality and their consequences
  • warnings about the impact of structural changes brought on by technological innovation and the role that the body politic and society must play in implementing and managing those changes for the common good, rather than individual vested interests
  • warnings that, in the context of international / global interdependence, hyper individualism and competitiveness as core vales and practices are dysfunctional and dangerous to survival and harmony (these being connected). (See Richard Sennett’s brilliant exposition (2013) Together: The Rituals, Pleasures & Politics of Cooperation.)
  • warnings about the failure of market ideology and the need to regulate and mediate the impact of markets, to understand where and when they are inappropriate, socially and economically divisive, and damaging to lives, social cohesion and peace. (See Michael Sandel [2012] What Money Can’t Buy. The Moral Limits of Markets. This was American philosopher, Sandel’s theme for his brilliant keynote address at Labour party annual conference in 2013, at the invitation of Ed Miliband, then Labour leader. I thought at the time: what an inspired choice, as I was already familiar with his work.)
  • warnings about the vital importance of good governance (local, inter/national and global) and by implication, the role of ethics within politics
  • warnings about the problem of orthodoxy, traditional linear thinking and short termism.

How many red flags do we need before paying attention to the dangers, before declaring an emergency, before heeding the urgent need to change direction? As Ha-Joon Chang argues:

Political and ethical judgements are present even in ostensibly value-free exercises, such as defining the boundaries of the market. Deciding what belongs in the domain of the market is an intensely political exercise (Ha-Joon Chang [2014]: 452). (Emphasis added.) See also Sandel (2012) on the role and significance of non-market values.

As one of the economists asked by The Guardian to comment on whether we are heading for another global crash, economics professor at Sussex University, Mariana Mazzucato, (another of the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell’s, New Economics advisers) judges that:

The biggest problem is that the financial sector is not working for the real economy, but against it. On top of that, companies are increasingly financialised, focusing on areas like share buybacks to boost stock options and executive pay, rather than on investment (The Guardian, 29 01 2016).

This is clearly a key target for change by a future Labour government. Like Ha-Joon Chang, Mazzucato demonstrates the importance of political and economic analysis, and the role of evidence, if we are to identify problems and come up with the tools for transformation, as opposed to coasting and drifting without effecting interventions. Marcal (2015) expands on this challenge:

Neoliberalism is not at all the same thing as laissez-faire, the economic school that thinks that if you just let things be the economy will blossom . . . . Neoliberalism doesn’t want to do away with politics – neoliberalism wants to put politics at the service of the market (Marcal, p 141). (Emphasis added.) See also Ha-Joon Chang [2014] ‘1980-Today: The Rise and Fall of Neo-liberalism’ in Economics: The User’s Guide: 90-106.

And this surely is the line in the sand between Tory, UKIP and other Right-inclined political parties, and the values and purposes of a Labour party and the trade union movement. But the charge against neoliberalism goes further and is even more profound:

The conflict Marx spoke of dissolves, but not in the way he imagined. It’s not the means of production that have changed – instead, the meaning of being human has changed (Marcal: 146). (Emphasis added.)

And as Paul Mason reminds us:

The elite and their supporters are lined up to defend the same core principles: high finance, low wages, secrecy, militarism, intellectual property and energy based on carbon. The bad news is that they control nearly every government in the world. The good news is that in most countries they enjoy very little consent or popularity                                              among ordinary people (Mason, 2015: xx).

Meanwhile, Peston appears to feel no “raw loathing” of where neoliberalism has brought us to or how we got here, or fear of what comes next. And he has company.

The Big Short is an important, brilliantly choreographed film, about a very serious subject and a most dramatic sequence of events. The American director, Adam McKay, has drawn impressive performances from his star-studded male cast: Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell. The publicity for the film stresses that THIS IS A TRUE STORY.  It is, it doesn’t mention explicitly, a story about elite men at work, and their unregulated power. It includes, as is customary, selected quotes from approving reviews. I read these out over the phone to the friend with whom I had been to see the film at my local community cinema the previous evening. She reacted with shock and disbelief as I quoted the following verdicts:

  • “A comedy to make your blood boil” (Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph)
  • “Stupendously funny” (Tim Grierson, Screen International)
  • “Hugely entertaining. We love it” (Charles Gant, HEAT)
  • “The Big Short is fascinating, sexy, compelling and scathingly funny” (The Spectator).(Emphasis added.)

My friend and I had not realised we had been watching a funny, entertaining and ‘sexy’ film. A barrel of laughs. We found it chilling, stomach-turning. It had barely started when I whispered that we should have brought dark chocolate (and brandy). I guess for us it triggered feelings of “raw loathing”. . . . as well as powerlessness and defeat.

The review comments quoted are evidence: of both a disconnect (from the issues raised by the film / the ‘true story’, and a process of identification (with the characters / the men. These reviewers are probably men identifying with other men behaving recklessly / outrageously / aggressively and irresponsibly, as a gang. Men being ‘manly’ (see ‘Trident: Are you manly enough?’ in the ‘Presentations 2016’ category of this blog). Gaming the system is, after all, being extra clever. But at whose expense? If you don’t ask that question, then I guess you could find the men’s antics funny and entertaining. ‘Sexy’? Well, for two political women on the Left, that one is beyond baffling. And distasteful too, in its trivialising of the enduring human suffering that was caused by these men’s behaviour and their system.

I wonder how Peston and his friends understood the film? Did they find it entertaining and funny? Reassuringly ‘sexy’?

val walsh / 07 02 2016





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