Paul McNamee: You can bank on The Big Issue

Mark Carney, Governer of the Bank of England, is among the architects of post-Brexit Britain who look to The Big Issue for guidance

This week, blame the chronobiologists. Go on, you’ll feel better. We all like somebody to blame. They’ll put your irritation down to lack of sleep. That’s what they do, I’ve learned, the chronobiologists. They study sleep, its impact on us. Or, more tellingly, impact of lack of it. Though last week, it was the long-liers who caught it from the chronobiologists. Those who get up late are at risk of an early death. Both lazy and doomed.

Truth is, you might not be able to do much about it. The reasons are complex. Could be because staying up later, you eat badly, maybe eat at the wrong time, impacting health. There are psychological reasons. And some of it might be beyond your control.  Your body clock could be largely inherited and hardwired. You were made this way.

Of course, if the sleep business doesn’t get you, the booze probably will. Hot on the heels of the deadly lie-in report came the deadly booze report. Even a glance at the devil’s buttermilk and you’re knocking years off your life. Resistance is futile. The end is assured.

Survive it long enough and we’re in a period of uncontrollable uncertainty. The President of the United States of America tweets the planet towards war. The only people left to see it, fought out by long-range robot missiles, will be teetotal millennials, perfectly rested to make sure their selfies look good as the cloud goes up and conspiracy theorists argue that it’s not ACTUALLY happening and is being put together by actors for the Deep State.

I spent some time last week in Dublin, speaking at a magazine publishing event. And there, the majority of questions that came were framed around Brexit, and around uncertainty. The event came on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, though not related to it. The Agreement – that hard-won bulwark against the darkness, an incredible document, birthed by serious, smart, brave people that changed history, for the people across Ireland and for the people across Britain and for the people beyond. And that is now being treated as some sort of tatty printout that at best can be massaged, and at worst is an irritant to be shredded and ignored. I couldn’t blame the chronobiologists when the good Dublin people asked good questions about a post-Brexit future. The pesky border issue grows.


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So, where to look when confusion grips? How about towards those who genuinely hold levers of power, who make decisions that impact us at every level? Those who, we hope, will do what is right when the uncertainty grips.

How about Mark Carney, the Governor of The Bank Of England? The BoE will play a key part in our futures post-March 2019, clearly. 

In a speech last week, Carney discussed how things are changing, how every technological revolution destroys jobs and livelihoods long before the new ones come. From industrialisation of farming to “the hollowing out of middle-class jobs” as automation grips. 

And as jobs and identity diminish, he saw how sides are chosen and people blamed – the people versus the elite, the virtuous versus the damned. In all this, there was a message he echoed: “When your knees buckle, crawl, roll, do not give up.”

Mark Carney had read this in The Big Issue. It was from the Letter to My Younger Self we ran with Turns out the boss of The Bank of England is a regular reader of The Big Issue, and particularly fond of Letter To My Younger Self. The pieces tend to have wistfulness, he said, correctly, identifying the incredible content and heart these interviews deliver every week, by brilliant Big Issue writers.

So there you are. Those leading, those who will be the prime architects of a post-Brexit Britain, look for guidance from The Big Issue, from the content we deliver, and from the spirit of our vendors. From the men and women out there shoring up dignity, as Carney said, as they sell and earn and rebuild their lives.

We will not give up.