Izzy Finkel

19 May 2023

Too Important

It wasn’t dodgy polling that convinced Turkey’s opposition they stood a chance at overturning Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-decade rule, or not dodgy polling alone. In the twelve years since Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu became leader of the CHP, the UK has cycled through three main opposition leaders and five prime ministers. Turkish voters have been here before – so many times before – and are attuned to subtle changes in the air. This time the changes weren’t even subtle.

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17 March 2023

Feed the Birds

‘If you invest your tuppence wisely in the bank/Safe and sound,’ the directors of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank sing to Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, ‘Soon that tuppence, safely invested in the bank/Will compound.’ The boy, who would rather spend his money on a bag of crumbs to feed the pigeons, is unswayed by their doggerel.

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15 February 2023

Construction Practices

‘In politics, you leave the way you came in.’ In Turkey the phrase is attributed to Süleyman Demirel, the seven-time prime minister and president in 1999 when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck just east of Istanbul. Voters, resolving to punish officials who’d been complicit in construction practices that killed 17,500 people in their beds, used the next election to install Erdoğan’s AK Party for the first time. Twenty-four years later, some are returning to Demirel’s words after the twin earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and north-west Syria on 6 February.

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18 October 2022

Osborne’s Revenge

In the last few days, opponents of the Truss-Kwarteng mini-budget have seen it roundly demolished, with one of its architects banished and the other seemingly retained as ornament. And yet its critics may come to regret their victory. Jeremy Hunt has scrapped most of the tax-cutting measures mooted last month and is now poking around Whitehall with his scissors, promising that no department is ‘ring-fenced’. With the reversal of the mini-budget comes a return to the logic of austerity, which is precisely – to steal David Cameron’s line – what ‘got us into this mess’.

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26 September 2022

Economic Illiteracy

For a mini-budget it provoked an outsized reaction. As the new chancellor announced his plans for tax cuts, the pound fell and kept falling. With the currency wallowing near a 37-year low against the dollar, spare a thought for Liz Truss: if you profess yourself a free-market ideologue, you ought to register some contrition when the market says your policies stink.

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1 July 2022

The Weather in Istanbul

I have watched tornados whip at the waters of the Golden Horn like a hose (which is what, in Turkish, they are called). Last summer, gloopy marine mucilage or sea snot bloomed across the Sea of Marmara, around which a third of Turkey’s economic activity and as many of its people are based. Like an oil spill, it suffocated marine life and hemmed Istanbulites in at the shoreline where normally they would go to look out.

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20 December 2021


The Turkish lira dropped below ten to the dollar for the first time last month. Since then the currency’s decline has been precipitous, prompting a macabre online parlour game of historical allusions. On Friday it breached 16.83 to the dollar, which recalls the date of the Battle of Vienna, a turning point for Ottoman fortunes in Europe. Only a few hours earlier it had ripped past 15.89, the date of a major revolt in response to Murat III’s devaluing of the coinage. People were joking last week about what would happen if it reached 17.89. It has now plummeted past 18.00. President Erdoğan is making good on his long-standing enmity towards interest rates, defying economic consensus by demanding cuts when the more usual strategy for taming inflation would be to raise them. Having fired the last three central bank governors to pursue that course, he can now put the nation’s money where his mouth is.

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