The Great News Commentary Challenge

A good friend at university has a challenging outlook on life, challenging because it is often at odds with my own experiences. But this provides us with a great basis to use discussion to explore our historical studies and hopefully, give each other a more rounded view on life. Summer has been academically boring for the pair of us and we recently launched into a commentary competition; picking an article from the newspapers and writing a review. Here is the most recent from myself.

The war in Afghanistan is quiet, Iraq isn’t blowing up; William Hague has quietly slipped off the radar and a government has finally decided to follow up on Private Eye’s investigations into the CDC. It’s another quiet day in Fleet Street.

So to convince the public that they are on the blink of oblivion and UK society as we know it is about to irretrievably collapse the Telegraph presents the opening salvo’s of the Civil Sector Civil War. What’s left of the Unions, which shot themselves in the collective foot and allowed Margaret Thatcher to break them like old dry straws, have come out in verbal war against the governments alleged cuts. Predicting an Armageddon of public services the latest TUC has warned the public to be prepared for “a campaign of resistance the like of which we
have not seen in this country for decades”. As the article progresses the reader is left with the impressions of unity, of a TUC defending the public against a rapacious and ill-advised capitalist government, of a rallying cry to stop the massacre of jobs that the end of the article indicates has started.

Lets ignore the economy for a second as serious economic opinion is divided on the best way to handle the current deficit. While any IFA will advise if there is a debt to be serviced, cut back on anything but the bare essentials and get rid of that debt, global economics are a bit more complicate than a loan. This debt is costing the country a fortune to service, let alone depreciate. According to some the World Bank, G20 and Mervyn King all support this action. According to others these institutions are merely a front for a new world order and cannot be trusted.

Lets also ignore the fact that the Unions haven’t come out and condemned the previous government for the debt. This debt isn’t the problem of the banks, that’s the current world economic slump. The debt the UK faces is the £178bn run up in borrowing during the last government’s term in office. Yes that money might questionably gone to improve public services, but what is the point of that if you are only have to lose all that improvement because you can’t afford to keep it going? It would be refreshing to hear the Unions truly represent their people and condemn such poor fiscal management.

But they will not because, of course, all that additional “investment” in public services as swelled their coffers from all the new members of staff that have joined the various councils, quangos etc. Not only do the Unions have a duty to represent their members (which arguably they have not done by not contesting the previous government’s borrowing) which is right and proper, but their very fiscal survival depends on those members. The more members, the more security but lets not forget union officials have been caught enjoying the expenses account as lavishly as MPs. So there is also a question of a lifestyle to support. Finally the connection between Labour (in any form) and the Unions is tighter than any other relationship in the public sphere so to attack the only party they have any hope of truly influencing would be to cut out the last avenues of political power the Unions might have.

What also clouds the waters is the vast sums of money lost by various councils across the UK in the collapse of various Icelandic financial institutions. How many of the jobs we see going now are covering for these deficits? How many more jobs will be cut to recover this money and then blamed on the current government’s attempts to cut the national deficit?

All this before the outcomes of the Spending Review in October have even been hinted at.

The final consideration is the Telegraph’s angle on this. Are they preparing the ruling and middle classes for war? Are they garnering support for Cameron and his alliance? This is a deliberately confrontational piece without balance and with little commentary or opinion. Considering the readership of the Telegraph it can only be assumed that the paper is seeking to agitate those who have the least reliance on the very staff the Unions represent.

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