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‘Austerity Bites’ by Mary O’Hara

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‘Austerity Bites’ by Mary O’Hara

Post by Ivan on Tue Jun 03, 2014 12:11 am

Mary O'Hara is an award-winning journalist from Northern Ireland. A working girl from a comprehensive school on the Falls Road in Belfast, she went to Cambridge and read social and political science. In 2012-13, she embarked on a 12-month journey around the UK in order to chronicle the true impact of the Tory-led government’s austerity policy on people at the sharp end. She interviewed a broad spectrum of people ranging from homeless teenagers, older job-seekers, pensioners, charity workers, employment advisers and youth workers. Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of ‘Guardian US’, says “Mary O'Hara’s mission is to give voice to those experiencing hardship or injustice who are rarely heard”.
 
‘Austerity Bites’ explores the grim reality of living under the biggest shake-up of the welfare state in 60 years. It seeks to dispel any notion that “we are all in this together” and offers an alternative to the dominant and simplistic narrative that we inhabit a country of 'skivers versus strivers'. Unlike the policy it scrutinises so well, this book is evidence based. The evidence is the real world experience of people on the receiving end of harsh and unworkable policies implemented in the name of ‘austerity’. Having come from humble origins herself, O’Hara is able to have some understanding of  the people she interviews.
 
The comedian, actor and writer Robin Ince describes ‘Austerity Bites’ as “an uncomfortable but necessary read", while Professor Danny Dorling says it “brings together many poignant stories of people affected by the first impact of this government's choice to impose social austerity on Britain”. Another comedian, Josie Long, sees this book as “essential reading for anyone wanting to understand the great human cost of austerity”, adding that we should “read it, get angry and get active”. Simon Duffy, director of the Centre for Welfare Reform, concludes that this work shows us “the UK is not the land of fairness, it's a fearful place, where the heaviest burdens fall on the weakest”.
 
The strongest comments come from yet another comedian, Mark Thomas: “Privilege and dogma have framed the Conservatives’ thinking as they mount the greatest ever assault upon the welfare state and the poor since World War II. The poor simply do not matter; they are casualties of ideology. If the facts don’t fit the credo, the facts are wrong. This book contains things the Conservative-led coalition hates. It has facts. The author actually made the unforgivable faux pas of listening to the unheard voices, the poor, the huddled masses; those who would in a better world seek shelter beneath the wing of a caring state. This book gives voice to those at the bottom of the heap, those who struggle to just exist.”
 
Cameron gave the game away last November. The global financial crash may have provided the excuse for austerity, but even when the economy has recovered, he wants it to be permanent. That might be the last straw. When O’Hara was in Glasgow, one gentleman summed up the views of a number of interviewees: "We have the bankers' pay rises of millions and the super rich's cut in tax rates. This seems to the people on the street as the government looking after its own. People are angry at this and I think if things keep going the way they have been and the anger rises there may very well be people out on the streets."
 
The author concludes: “If there was one overriding message from the journey I made around ‘Austerity UK’, it was this: people are only prepared to take so much. Many were adamant that if things did not change for the better soon – especially for young people – serious episodes of social unrest like the riots of 2011, where hundreds of people primarily from disadvantaged areas took to the streets during days of violence and looting, could happen again. As one person in Birmingham told me, all it will take is one long, hot summer.”
 
                                       
 
‘Austerity bites: a journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK’ is published in hardback by Policy Press, 224 pages, ISBN-10: 144731560X, ISBN-13: 978-1447315605.
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Re: ‘Austerity Bites’ by Mary O’Hara

Post by stuart torr on Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:31 pm

Mary O'Hara seems to have got the ideas of the people at the lower, end of the pay/money scale right does she not.
The comment that all it will take is one long hot summer, is exactly right and we will have rioting on the streets against this tory government.
We have had it before, and we can have it again.
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Re: ‘Austerity Bites’ by Mary O’Hara

Post by oftenwrong on Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:38 pm

If things don't change, they'll stay as they are.
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Re: ‘Austerity Bites’ by Mary O’Hara

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