Have you tried buying tickets for the Six Nations matches?
Pat Kenny’s RTE 1 radio programme included interviews with people at an unemployment office in west Dublin. The staff member explained that the overwhelming majority of those attending the office were unemployed for the first time; that there had been a massive increase in those looking for work, to the point that the office could hardly cope with the numbers.
The news at the top of the hour confirmed the bleakness of the picture; crisis talks were continuing at Government Buildings and the Taoiseach was monitoring progress while attending the World Economic Forum at Davos. There was, however, the temptation to phone the programme and ask, “Did you try buying a rugby ticket?”
Tickets for Ireland’s Croke Park matches, (so generously sponsored by the British taxpayer through RBS, the bank in which the working man has paid for 75% of the shares), are impossible to come by. The tickets for the fixtures against England and France are being sold on eBay for hundreds of Euro. Yesterday evening an auction for one pair of tickets was standing at €600 after thirty-one bids.
Who is buying? If the picture is one of universal gloom, then how have 80,000 tickets found buyers? Someone still has money.
Seeking a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen was more successful than seeking a ticket for the rugby. It took forty minutes to make the online purchase and then the tickets were for an extra night – all thirty thousand tickets for the concert on the first night had gone in a few minutes of them going on sale at 9.00 this morning.
Who is still spending?
Maybe there is an overlap between the rugby and the Springsteen fans, maybe the number with available cash is small; but the picture from the unemployment office is not the only picture.
Historically, there has been a tendency to overlook the grim sides of history. One can read Jane Austen with no sense whatsoever of her writing against the background of the Napoleonic wars and major social unrest; one can read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited with little sense of the misery being endured by millions of people in the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps there has been a shift in the other direction, to focusing on the grim stories to the exclusion of those that might be brighter.
Telling only the grim news will not help those seeking work; it will not build confidence, it will not encourage investment, it will not get people to put their hands in their pockets. Perhaps it needs to be said that people are still spending money; that there are still things going on, not in a Sebastian Flyte-like obliviousness to the misery through which people are going; but to try to break the deflationary cycle, to get people who have money to spend it in order that there might be jobs for others.