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Did we need these riots? / 16 August 2011

Big Society begging bowl

Big Society begging bowl. Image by Vince Laws

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Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, warned about riots in April 2010, a month before the last general election.You can see him talking prior to the election in this clip on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YItK1izQIwo “It’s rather a silly thing to say frankly,” was David Cameron’s response.

If I could riot without looting, violence and arson, I would. Oh hang on a minute, that’s peaceful protest isn’t it? I’ve tried that. I’ve written to MPs, made provocative art, blogged, complained about Atos, chased after benefits, contributed to 38Degrees, encouraged UK Uncut – to what effect? UK Uncut representatives who entered Fortnum & Masons in London to protest peacefully at tax avoidance have been arrested and charged like criminals. Peaceful protest up and down the country has been ignored.

The cuts keep coming and those of us on benefit are being made to feel like criminals. We are labelled scroungers, cheats, and benefit thieves and yet the benefit I claim does not cover my meagre needs. Slowly I am slipping further and further into debt, an added stress in itself. At the moment I can’t afford oil, so I can’t have hot water. In the winter this will mean no central heating either.

As a poet and artist I’ve given up applying for funds, so I make my art as cheaply as possible, and display it where I can, or send it out via the web. As the cuts bite there are also less and less opportunities to share my skills in the wider community, even on a voluntary basis.

I’m not a disenfranchised youngster living in inner city poverty. I’m 50, I live in an idyllic rural setting by choice, but I’m sick and on benefits, (trying hard to get off them) and I’m being squeezed and squeezed until there’s nothing left to squeeze. I’m so broke I’ve considered prostitution.

Meanwhile those at the other end of the scale are rewarded with obscene amounts - £7 billion in bonuses paid out to the UK banking industry in February, the very sector that caused the financial crises. Have the powers that be regulated the banks so this can’t happen again? No. They’ve put VAT up and Corporation Tax down – that says it all.

The economic elite in this country must realise that it is to their benefit to live in a more equal society. If they continue to brush less and less crumbs off the top table, more and more people will have no option but to fend for themselves. Learn from these riots, do something about inequality, immediately, or this will be just the beginning. You were warned. By Nick Clegg.