As many of you may know I have been without any real work since the 6th February this year due to the government understandably shutting down inbound tourism to contain the Coronavirus outbreak. I was also told not to work, in fact it was illegal for me to do my job and yet 8 months on I have received not a penny of support from the government despite appearing on national and international news, the BBC radio network several times and meeting with Oliver Dowden, MP and Cabinet Minister.
There are 3 million others like me, #ExcludedUK. Some faring perhaps a little better than be, a few perhaps even worse but all of us united by the fact that we are normal people who have been discriminated against by the government in a way that would be illegal if it was based on our age, sex, race or religion.
We aren’t rich enough to buy or influence power and we aren’t important enough financially to be taken into consideration despite the facts that we are on average overwhelmingly a net gain for the UK economy. Yet we are entirely ignored, my taxes were very nobly spent to support people richer than myself to work from home or not work at home, to then enjoy state subsidised meals paid for again with my taxes at restaurants owned by multinational companies that don’t pay tax… whilst I receive food parcels from abroad, have out of date food from charities that makes me ill and rely on strangers to send me shoes and clothes as mine wear and tear to shreds.
And so it was decided that we would assemble last week to make our feelings known right outside the mother of Parliaments. We’ve sat inside politely and law-abidingly as others have disobeyed legal and moral laws in mass gatherings and we decided we were going to do things differently, properly as we always do as hard-working tax-payers.
Due to the virus it was decided only around 70 of us would meet in London this being so that we could ensure social distance spacing between ourselves and also not to endanger members of the public or the police. It also bore in mind that some of us are bankrupt, closing our businesses down, selling our houses and even becoming homeless. I couldn’t afford to make a sign to protest, many others from further away from London couldn’t never dream to pay for transport.
I must admit I was a bit apprehensive and very excited about the march. Apprehensive only because of the virus and with chronic asthma and other complaints I have been shielding. Excited because finally I could make my feelings known and meet some of the 3 million people who are suffering similarly, months after much of the rest of the world has gone back to normal.
Despite Boris telling everyone to go to work and indeed that everyone was back at work, I sat on a deserted tube train and got off at a deserted tube station and walked a little way to the National Theatre. I was a Marshall possibly due to my nominally knowing the way to Parliament seeing as I normally visit the outside each year more times than the average politician.
At first it didn’t look like many of us would make it, the weather had been forecast to be grim though as it turned out on the day it was perfect. I got chatting to Anna from Scotland but living in Kent who had a very colourful t-shirt on full of catchy slogans. As we waited for others to arrive, I gave her a tour of London from our bench!
Bt 9.30am we were being briefed and by 10am those that had been travelling for 4 hours or more had arrived and we were off; split into group of 6. The route was simple enough, along the South Bank past the London Eye, then across Westminster Bridge to Parliament, right down the Embankment to New Scotland Yard and then to opposite Downing Street where we took up place next to Monty who famously was the first man to strike a victory over Nazi tyranny which seemed somewhat appropriate.
We politely made ourselves noticed as we got to know each other. People from all backgrounds and all doing creative and jobs that may be outside the norm but ones which enrich everyones lives and were very profitable and viable until the government tried to close us down whilst offering no support as everyone else receives thousands pounds in help a month.
I’ve never met such a large crowd of people where everyone was interesting, witty, inspirational. Until now it has always been said that people like ourselves are the backbone of the economy. We invent things, we make things, we spot opportunities that no-one else does and often work harder and longer just for the chance to either make a difference to the world or at least be independent from working in another menial job that doesn’t really matter. Everyone I met was amazing and I would hire everyone of them myself, so much drive and determination and energy.
And yet despite our suffering we kept our good humour and soon we had re-inforcements from groups acting unions such as Equity and Bectu. What an impact they had, a whole load of workers from Londons famous West End and theatres and cultural venues across the land. Pantomine Dames being incredibly loud and charismatic and attention seeking. For my foreign readers Pantomine Dames might be a very alien concept but they are often loud and big men who dress up in the most colourfully outrageous female outfits for special plays at Christmas time, known as Pantomines… very popular with families and children and a way to get them into the arts and financially very important to theatres in the winter months with fewer tourists.
We were treated to some rousing speeches from individuals such as Paul Flemming, head of Equity and my new friend and #ExcludedUK joint founder Anneka Hicks as well as Tracy Brabin, Labour Shadow Minister for Culture. We were entertained too with the journalists, tv news crews and the police laughing at some of the witty one-liners. There are other ways to get notice without violence 🙂 It was here that I had a wee chat with individuals such as LibDem MP Jamie Stone and SNP MP Alison Thewliss.
As we were on a vague time-table we then walked a few hundred metres past The Cenotaph. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to think of our relations dying for the good of their families and descendants, I’m not sure they’d think their sacrifice worth it for 3 million of us to be impoverished and that whilst Boris Johnson is famously Turkish and at that time had ancestors in the enemy Ottoman Empire… oh well enough of me and my history, We don’t have to got back 105 years to prove he is in the wrong. In fact we had a van with large digital screen that was driving around Whitehall with proven facts that 100% disprove the government line.
The drums were being bashed, dancers were pirouetting down Whitehall and flags were being waved as we socially distanced our way in a long snake to Parliament Square. I heard more than one Police office say that we were the best organised and most law-abiding march for a long time which probably says a lot about us and our cause.
At Parliament Square more banners were unrelieved and the more colourfully dressed dames posed for photos as we rallied at first around the statue of the man who most epitomises the struggle of right against wrong, the small against overwhelming power, Winston Churchill.
Out of his many famous sayings and truisms, in the face of enemy invasion he said that he had nothing to give but blood, toil, sweat and tears when our country was on its own. Boris Johnson likes to think he is like Churchill despite the fact though a clever and inspiring man is a less coherent orator than my wet shopping bag and when his moment in history emerged, rather than giving blood, toil, sweat and tears found he couldn’t even be bothered to help 3 million of his hardest working citizens because it was too complicated. His Chancellor Rishi Sunak ignoring us entirely, just like Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer.
As the crowds dispersed, a small group of us met with Members of Parliament who went out of their way to come and speak to us, many supporters such as Caroline Lucas and Tim Farro as well as Paul Scully, a government MP and Minister who unlike some in the government had actually run a business and done some real work. He was approachable and sympathetic whilst not promising anything, which is fair enough as he didn’t have to come out at all.
After 30-40 minutes of friendly dialogue we dispersed and as we did, I managed to stand on a giant nail that went right up through the sole of my shoe and into my foot, happily just to the skin.
The weather was still fair and so bearing in mind the dreaded virus, 20 or so of us went to have a drink not far from where we started, on the banks of the Thames and in the deserted South Bank district, normally swarming with tourists and those working in hospitality but today like every day at the moment, all but empty.
6 hours after we met, people began to make their way home to avoid the nominal rush-hour though a handful remained to light up Parliament after nightfall. I had met dozens of lovely people who rather scarily all seemed to know me.
Hopefully we will all meet again next year when the virus is gone and life is somewhat back to normal but we are all ready and actually very enthused to protest again in the near future if it is needed.
Incidentally this weekend my new book became both a number 1 best-seller in paperback and number 5 in Kindle format on Amazon. My speculative piece was published as the main Travel Feature in the Independent and both are based on my tour which Trip Advisor showed as being the best off-beat London attraction. Rishi Sunak and the government says people like myself are frauds and unviable. I’d hate to think how successful I would be if I were viable.
There are over 3 million people like me and everyone has their special talents which are very much needed if you are going to be an entire business by yourself against all the big corporations and tricky laws and ever changing government policies.
I might not be a billionaire like Rishi or have £200 million like Jacob Rees-Mogg but his recent book flopped despite his high profile and position in the establishment whilst mine is a best-seller. As my Mam would say, money can’t buy you class…. but it is needed to support us through the worst crisis in over a century. Not only is it not fair and inhuman but all of you in normal jobs being supported by the government or big business will find life almost pointless after the virus without the jobs we perform as we will have packed up our bags and gone home… or sold it and be living on the streets.
If you want to help us, write to your Member of Parliament or contact the media in your country. If you are one of the 3 million #ExcludedUK then why not join our growing 19,000+ members on Facebook.