So lonely, so lonely. Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

We're still some distance from a lasting deal over Greece

It's good news that a deal has been reached between Greece and its creditors. But the details of this deal are not good.

Whatever some people might have been telling you, it's a good thing that a deal was done between Greece and its creditors earlier this week, but that doesn't mean it is a good deal.

Greece clings on, having been taken to the brink by both the country's international creditors and its government, whose decision to hold a referendum on and subsequent rejection of a previous (better) deal triggered two weeks of turmoil that left the country staring into the abyss.

The accelerated austerity policies demanded by the creditors will not only lead to more short-term misery, but in the long-run may end up being self-defeating - just as previous deals have been.

There's no point the Troika issuing a set of unrealistic demands, failing to learn the lessons of recent eurozone history. Such demands risk leaving Greece marooned amidst the circles of Hell, stuck in a nightmare of contraction, recession, bailout, contraction, recession, bailout, every few years, pulled one way by the creditors, the other by market and social reality, leading to the point at which default and departure seem preferable.

These demands, from predominantly right-wing EU leaders (and the World Bank and IMF), are but the latest manifestation of the post-crash failure of Europe’s centre-left. We have right-wing EU prime ministers, right-wing eurozone finance ministers, and hawkish global institutions calling the shots, while social democrat leaders like Francois Hollande find their voices drowned out by the likes of Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble.

That said, if Greece is to avoid perpetual bailout, the sword of Grexit forever hanging over its head, the government of Alexis Tsipras must take the lead and embrace reform, modernising the economy and changing the way it does business, something governments of left and right have failed to do.

As well as difficult reforms, the EU must offer the quid pro quo of positive Europe-wide action to help Greece, most obviously that means taking a realistic look at the prospects of repayment of Greece's debts. But there are other steps, such as tackling tax avoidance. In addition to strong domestic action on tax avoidance by the Greek government, EU action on tax dodging will enable them to broaden their tax base by making it easier to pursue tax dodgers across borders, stopping rich Greeks hoarding cash across Europe and evading their responsibilities.

What has gone before has not worked. And it is not just in Greece that prolonged austerity hasn't been working - across Europe a generation of young people are without jobs, without hope, without a future. France: 24 per cent. Slovakia: 26 per cent. Portugal: 33 per cent. Cyprus: 34 per cent. Italy: 42 per cent. Spain: 49 per cent. Greece: 50 per cent. Youth unemployment figures that should shame the right-wing austerians.

A less favourable deal - with even higher tax rises and deeper spending cuts - a loss of trust between Greece and the EU, and a prolonged period of pain: banks shut; capital controls; businesses going bust; 25 per cent unemployment; 50 per cent youth unemployment; a debt-to-GDP ratio of 180 per cent; an economy losing one per cent of GDP a week... this is the result of the creditors’ belligerence and Tsipras’s brinkmanship, and it’s wreaking a devastating toll.

And as always, it’s the ordinary people who suffer most. People out of work. People not being paid. People queuing for food, people queuing for money. Greece's downward spiral has been devastating to watch, and until a workable solution is implemented, they will continue to suffer.

 

Glenis Willmott MEP is Labour's Leader in the European Parliament.

 

Getty
Show Hide image

The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

0800 7318496