Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

The Olympic flame burns, but the economy’s in the tank

The media-fuelled Olympics hysteria provides a major distraction from our rapidly deteriorating economy, argues Paul Collins

July 27, 2012
3 min read

The alternative London 2012 opening ceremony this evening, hours before the Counter Olympics Network demonstration, reflect attempts to inject political reality amid the media-fuelled hysteria surrounding the Games. This morning the Guardian’s front page image, showing Absolutely Fabulous co-stars Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, enthusiastically carrying the Olympic flame through London, manifested untimely euphoria.

Days after dire financial news and David Cameron’s warning that the British recession could last a decade, such incongruous frenzy over a corporate-fest of sport conjured nothing less than the climax to Carry On Up the Khyber. The movie’s final scenes, in which the UK governor and guests continue their dinner party as Indians attack their compound, seem apposite, with the world’s most populous democracy now set to eclipse our economic status.

I share a Jewish progressive background with Jonathan Freedland, who used the Guardian splash, as well as pages two and three, to pontificate on how the Games will test Britain’s place in the world. The two of us part company over whether the so-called greatest show on earth matters a jot, not to the better-off who can buy tickets priced as high as beyond £2000 apiece, but to those whose fate defines a nation, the most vulnerable. Polly Toynbee’s more critical analysis elsewhere in the paper both slates the Tories’ rich-poor divide behind the Olympics and opines that Labour still fails to represent the nation’s anger or dislocation. Cue the Khyber film again. The Khasi of Kalabar: ‘They will die the death of a thousand cuts!’ Princess Jelhi: ‘Oh! But that’s horrible!’ The Khasi of Kalabar: ‘Not at all, my little desert flower. The British are used to cuts!’

The same might go for Newsnight watchers this week, given no confidence that shadow treasury minister Rachel Reeves would spare the axe. Nor can the Beeb champion itself as defending quality public service broadcasts, with over 800 staff assigned to the Games amid a 20 per cent slimmer budget, and BBC1 and BBC3 viewers offered nothing except the Olympics. Even some journalists north of the border have junked their scrutiny with headlines like the Scotsman’s ‘Nation holds breath over who will light cauldron’. Since jingoistic radio presenters branded Games critics ‘moaning minnies’, perhaps the person best known for the phrase, Margaret Thatcher, will return to fulfil the honour for a curtain raiser costing a mere £27 million.

The alternative party tonight, including comedians Isy Suttie and Paul Sinha, has been organised by the TUC, with philosophyfootball.com, besides the Playfair 2012 campaign and Labour Behind the Label, and supporters including War on Want – the last three demanding Olympic sponsor Adidas stops exploiting workers making its sportswear for as little as 34p an hour. Tickets, price £10, from www.philosophyfootball.com or 01273 472721 – the venue is Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA. Tomorrow’s march assembles from 12 noon in Mile End Park, opposite Mile End Tube station, and starts at 1pm, with a 2.30 pm rally at Wennington Green.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power


3