Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Big Issue Joins Cameron's Big Society

Although I really didn't know it at the time; but resigning as an outreach worker form The Big Issue all of six years ago now, was one of the best moves I have ever contemplated and acted upon. Some, including its soul owner John Bird MBE will inarguably, and from a deliberate defencive position, find disagreement with this post, of that I am in no uncertainty, whatsoever!"

The Big Issue, and as I am sure everyone will know, is supposedly a street newspaper that's written by professional journalists and sold for the last 20 years on the pavements and streets of our major cities and towns up and down the country by homeless individuals, although this has now changed to include the legions of unemployed. It was founded by John Bird and his businessman friend Gordon Roddick in September 1991, and has travelled to eight countries where it has reciprocally been pitched and sold to the homeless who in turn sell it on to the general public, and there is no argument, the paper helps some of the most vulnerable people in our so-called society and civilization.

However, bringing it quickly into prospective here, we have to recognise the simple fact that The Big Issue is privately owned and controlled by one individual A John Bird, although having said that Scotland, Northern England, Wales and England's South West Region have their own additions which to my understanding Bird, hasn't any control over, but that doesn't make them any better. The paper has always been at the centre of much controversy among publishers of street newspapers who say that The big Issue is much too business like in operations, overly "commercial" and bearing flashy if not audacious designs, one fine example will be the so-called Royal Special.

The vendors, even when they administer themselves, they really have a hard job to preform selling their stock which they have to pre-purchase beforehand, no sale or return here comrades. The perils and dangers of this job are many and before you start you must find the money to buy your copy's, and then there is always the problem of finding a good pitch not to mention the dangers that many face everyday, many vendors have been attack even in some cases killed simply for being homeless, I will never forget some of the abusive remarks hurled forcefully at some like: get a proper job'.

As I said at the beginning of this post I was an outreach worker for a time working in London's West End, not only that but I have campaigned for the best part of twenty years against the horrendous horrors of being homeless, of which there are many, far to many to mention in this post. I would not tell anyone to stop buying The Big Issue, not even this weeks copy that happens to be guest edited by non-other, than David Cameron, our wonderful Prime Minister and the designer and architect of the big society, which The Big Issue has seemingly and from appearances alone singed up to excessively, or at least John Bird has done. This comes as no grate surprise to me knowing, and have had the misfortune of working with John over the years, not so much as a strange man as a class traitor and double-crosser, would you believe he started out as a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), must have been in the Gerry Healy faction.

It is sometimes argued that the kind of destitution and abject poverty that existed in the 1930s and earlier is no longer to be found in developed capitalist countries like the UK. Nowadays, the argument goes, workers take holidays abroad, have homes with several TVs and computers, and can spend large parts of their leisure time on shopping expeditions. It is fair to respond to these observations by making two main kinds of point. Firstly, that workers are in fact by no means as well off as such a sketch implies. In England alone, for instance, there are a hundred thousand homeless families, few of whom take holidays abroad.  

Many migrant workers, here for fruit-picking, earn £70 for a six-day week when various deductions are taken into account. They cannot even afford to buy the strawberries they pick, and many are homeless. 

Secondly, how well off workers are in terms of wages is not the whole picture. The insecurity caused by redundancies and the fear of redundancies, the short-term contracts now so widely used, the boring dead-end 'McJobs', the ever-present fear of production being moved to other countries with lower wage rates - all these undermine workers' sense of well-being. Nearly one person in six in Britain is described as depressed, while over a million are mentally ill and receiving incapacity benefit which the government wants to cut . Such is the stress and hassle of living under capitalism. At the same time hospitals close and trained medical staff are made unemployed, while overall levels of sickness show no sign of decreasing. The amount of debt is also an indication of how badly off workers really are. Eight million people have over £10,000 of unsecured debt (that is, excluding a mortgage); a third of these say that their debt situation has had an adverse effect on their health or relationships. This year perhaps as many as 100,000 people will declare themselves bankrupt as a means of escaping from their financial problems. 
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owen said...

I live not 50 yrds from Big Issue office and you clearly see less and less Homeless there, one client fills the boot of a car and then drives off then there are the numbers too many vendors in my opinion so much so now that it is not beneficial to the vendor but very beneficial to the Big Issue. Solidarity owen

Norbert said...

Thank you Owen, good points comrade!"

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