As I rolled into bed the other night I grabbed my iPad to read my new book but couldn’t resist a scan of the headlines. “Greece warns recovery threatened if debt deal is blocked at next talks” screamed a headline. Well, okay, hardly screamed, whimpered from the corner of the Grauniad page.
I read with interest. Honestly, I did. And I had a sense of what was going on behind the scenes. You see, I have just finished reading “Adults in the Room” by Yanis Varoufakis, the motor cycling Greek finance minster who spearheaded negotiations with the troika before he was forced to resign from the post in the summer of 2015.
An enthusiastic economics lecturer before his country’s need turned him into a reluctant politician, he has since founded the organisation DiEM25 calling for more democracy and transparency in Europe.
I don’t read political diaries as a rule, they harp back, obviously, and have little impact but to stroke egos and attempt to settle scores. But this book is current. It refers to a live situation happening today – the systematic subjugation of a country using economic weaponry. The title is a quote from Christine Lagarde, CEO of the IMF, when the bailout talks were again promising to stall.
Varoufakis was quietly minding his own business and enjoying his job when he got the call. Your country needs you. The Syriza Party were fighting the Samaras government for power and had a chance of winning. He agreed to stand so that he could lead the anti-austerity fight and then won with the highest number of votes of any Syriza MP. An auspicious start.
And everything went well early on. Everyone was on the same page, more or less. One of his first actions was to return the €750,000 bullet-proof cars ordered by the Samaras government and re-hire the 300 cleaners they had fired. The Eurogroup were not impressed, though. But, Varoufakis’ ideas and proposals made perfect sense. Greece couldn’t survive as a country if, as he described, the ‘fiscal waterboarding’ of the Greek people by the troika continued without an agreed strategy for growth.
My summary may sound dry, and surely the subject matter does, but really this is gripping stuff. It reads like a real life ‘House of Cards’. The duplicity, political back-stabbing, down right lies, have to be seen to be believed.
We may consider that we have a biased and unhealthy media in the UK. Relax, they have one in Greece too and they use their power just as they do here. The set-ups and wire-taps just left me speechless. It is clear that there are some very unpleasant people around in power.
But thankfully, some good guys too. Varoufakis is a very clever man. A humanitarian who is trying to use his abilities to improve the lives of ordinary people and in following this story you get it. Economists can work for the common good. This is a book we can all read. And he leaves us with the knowledge that there is hope for a more democratic Europe. It can be achieved. I, for one, hope he keeps shouting it from the rooftops.