Its council – along with at least 59 more in the UK, so I understand – treats the results of the UK government’s enduring efforts to push and keep as many people as possible in deep poverty as “antisocial behaviour” on the part of people who live in poverty.
There are exceptions. I know that.
There is a local woman, for example, who pretends to be homeless and isn’t and she often only comes out to beg if she likes the weather. She doesn’t like people much and is highly manipulative, but I suspect that she’s had a really rotten childhood that most of us can’t even begin to imagine. As far as I can tell, she spends most of her time drinking. However, she too does not need punishment but the kind of assistance she’s probably never gotten.
Where does this come from? Well, I got this e-mail this morning, about this High Court Challenge in which Sarah Ward, a councillor who lives in Poole is taking her local authority to court over a public space protection order which, so she argues, punishes rough sleepers.
It made me think that maybe we should all move around in groups to the places that do this and have “beg-ins” in solidarity, those of us who can afford it, time-wise and expense-wise. (Public transport is expensive.)
People begging in large numbers is mostly a reflection of a country’s government policies. The growing numbers of British women who are forced into sex work because the government for example suddenly makes them 200 pounds per month worth off while these women were already feeding their children on a tight budget to start with make that clear enough.
For years, the government blamed this kind of thing on the EU, on the foreign nurses and doctors who work in the NHS and other foreigners. They were the ones, so many politicians said, who were forcing wages down in the UK and were putting Brits out of work.
But nobody any longer believes that.
The UK government keeps saying that everyone who says that it’s been implementing callous, often illegal and sometimes extremely discriminatory policies on its own citizens and that it’s been pushing many Brits into deep poverty is lying and only says that for political reasons, even if for example it concerns a human rights expert and law professor in the US.
Nobody believes that either.
I wish the latter were true.
Foreigners have been leaving the UK in droves in recent years. (Britain’s poverty and lack of rights protections for the non-wealthy has been putting off foreigners for a long time, in fact.)
But in-work homelessness and the poverty in the UK are still immense. One in every 200 is homeless. And yes, that’s a highly political problem. When Conservative politicians say that there is no major poverty in the UK and that there is no homelessness problem in the UK (the homeless people you may see, that’s just foreigners who need to be deported, perhaps), they do so in the knowledge that there is a large group of voters who believe all the lies they’re fed. Perhaps because those voters find it hard to believe that their own government is not looking out for them at all.
Councils who fine the homeless and poor must be so incredibly desperate for money, right? Maybe we should start some crown-funding campaigns for them too? I am joking, but only to a certain degree because many local authorities are cash-strapped. Britain is a rich country, but that wealth is mostly found in bankers’ bonuses and such.
(Even the energy certificates that are handed out to tenants seem to be a complete farce. Were they created to uphold the myth that people don’t need to spend any money on keeping the temperature in their homes over 16 degrees C, and that hence there is no poverty in the UK, or what? An aside.)
Also disgusting is that the UK government renamed the minimum wage the national living wage, to take the wind out of the sails of the Living Wage Foundation.
But I am blinkered. I am not talking about the UK’s problems for political reasons, of course. I am merely too stupid to see the reality. And the reality is that the UK government really loves Britain’s poor and other non-wealthy and showers them with cuddles, warmth and abundance. Ha.
That said, I also just got an e-mail that asked me to support £15 an hour as wage for McDonalds staff in London, where the real living wage is £10.55 per hour. I am not going to sign that without looking into it and verifying that, for example, it isn’t merely a typo. It could be that McDonalds, apparently the world’s second-largest employer, works with only zero-hour contracts. Nuances matter. The campaign is clearly not only about wages. It is about a lot more.
I wrote a business plan for a mini-mall with fast-food components a few years ago, so I am well aware of the impact of wages on a company’s prospects. There is a difference between keeping people in poverty and enabling people to support themselves and pay their own bills. That’s a major difference. You can make it work by also paying management no more than the real living wage during the first years of a company. Once the company is well into profits, you can start raising everyone’s wages. (You could see it as a form of investing, for management. Invest your time now for greater financial returns later.)
I do like that this McDonalds campaign wants wages applying to people of all ages. Lower wages for young people are a crazy idea. Young people have the same expenses. Their electricity is not cheaper and neither is their food or their rent.
Yes, I realize that this post will likely get me into that police database of people who must be frowned at, along with all those horrible people who have protested against fracking and (legal and illegal) arms sales. I am a subversive element.
Btw, some time ago, someone on Twitter told me that he didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say because I am not an MP, but that he would have listened if I’d been an MP. People from Canada, Malta and Nigeria – and other Commonwealth countries – can become MPs. People from the EU can’t. But that’s beside the point.