Why Owen Jones thinks the system is fixed – and we should break it

see sid


If you see Sid, tell him Owen Jones wants a word.

The fresh-faced, fiery-penned, polemicist has written a trenchant analysis of how the con-trick of ‘popular capitalism’ has become the only political game in town. His new book The Establishment aims to provide a forensic examination of how the bankers and business owners that drove the economy over a cliff in 2008 managed to walk away unscathed. They remain the biggest beneficiaries of Government spending.

I’m old enough to remember the British Gas ad campaign in 1985 which was trumpeted as the high-water mark of the Thatcher government’s privatisation programme. In reality, the share-owning democracy proved a damp squib – private investors now make up less than a 10th of stock market ownership. But the seed had been sown – “we are all in this together and if the ship sinks there’ll be no lifeboat for you lot”.

The neutering of the  trade unions underlined the notion that workers owed their souls to the company store, and the destruction of building societies fanned the flames of debt as a lifestyle choice.

I can vividly recall the wild talk of my twentysomething contemporaries about how the house they had just paid a fortune for would make them rich. My partner and I narrowly avoided catastrophe when one of us (it wasn’t me) had the good sense to insist we turn down a mortgage facility put together in a matter of minutes by a financial adviser on the other end of a phone. We were all neo-liberals – though few of us back then had heard of the term.

Many years later, I happened to be in New York when Lehman Brother collapsed. Grown men were running up and down Fifth Avenue yelling into their cell phones: “The  Dow is f*cked! The Dow is f*cked!”

But no senior figures  found themselves tossed onto a tumbril bound for the guillotine. Owen Jones wants us to understand why.

What I liked most about his previous book Chavs: the demonisation of the working class was his gumshoe reporting. He had clearly hit the road with his notebook in hand. Early reviews of “The Establishment suggest the same thorough approach has paid off again and I am looking forward to reading the new book. I might even go along when his rolling tour hits Brighton.

But I winced (and I bet the author did) when I read the blurb on the cover by Russell Brand hailing Owen Jones as “our generation’s Orwell”.  I’ll have to break it to him that my daughters (18 and 23) had never heard of him. They favour political action over polemics and they know that the current economic order offers them precious few opportunities.

Sid might want to give them a wide berth also.