In December last year I was asked to write a comical assessment of Austerity for the Real Review magazine, which can be purchased here.
I decided a comical assessment was not appropriate or right for me to do- instead, I chose to analyse the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur's report on Poverty in the UK.
It is not like my usual writing at all, but many of you have expressed interest in reading the article, and I want to make it available to as many as possible.
Enjoy and hopefully see you at CHIFFCHAFF next week at the Omnibus Theatre.
Writing about austerity is up there with other fun hobbies such as a full body wax and ice skating in bare feet. Though a crucial subject to talk about, it is not a joyful one. At the start of a New Year, you want to write about something optimistic, not about the increase in homelessness, child poverty and the growing unease that ripples across the country as Leavers and Remainers perplex on what will happen come March. Austerity kills pretty much everything it touches: conversation, dirty talk, people, our society as a whole.
In December I was on the tube - a microcosm of every age, race, demographic - a beautiful symbol of the UK’s diversity. At one stop, a man, clearly homeless came on and sat down. His objective - to travel, be warm. Another human, another facet of our society. The reaction to him was not a heartwarming one. It is not one Dickens would be proud of. The smell of his destitution made those appalled - but not for him, at him. There was scorn, disgust, overt body movements and loud statements of ‘SHOCKING” as people moved to other carriages. This man, was made to feel, not like a human, but a trespasser. This is one of the ways that austerity has come into our day to day life and cut at one of our greatest societal strengths: empathy.
If we imagine our ability to empathise as an economy - the UK’s emotional economy is flatlining. We cannot let Austerity kill it yet. We have a growing and dynamic economy in the UK but it is imbalanced. To give you an idea of how so- here are some fun numbers to quote at a party. We are immune to hearing about millions and billions, but to put these in context of scale, to reach one million seconds takes 12 days, to reach one billion seconds takes 32 years. Out of the UK’s 22 million households, 3.6 million of these have wealth of more than £1 million. Only China, USA and Japan have more. We have over 134 billionaires who chose to live here, usually in London. On the other side of this, 14 million people, one fifth of our population, live in poverty, four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line. 1.5 million are destitute. How can these numbers exist side by side, within one country, with a population of over 66 million? To clarify, we do not have “extreme" poverty in the UK. Extreme poverty is earning less than $1.25 a day, and is a global issue, but we DO have absolute poverty. One in five people in the UK is in it - with working poor, homelessness, food banks, child poverty and destitution. Absolute poverty means not having enough for the basic needs of life. Poverty is not a new issue, but it shot to attention again in November, following a report on poverty in the UK by the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, following his visit here. It was opportune time for such a report, as last autumn was the tenth anniversary of the 2008 global financial crash that almost brought the world economy to its knees. Following that crisis, we didn’t waste any ti