Consumer Overkill: Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, a set on Flickr.
On September 10, 2012, the BBC World Service gave me an excuse to photograph the West End of London, in all its garish consumer glory, after I had taken part in a news programme, discussing the potential handover of the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan to Afghan control — a topic I know something about as a result of the research and writing I have undertaken for the last seven years as a world expert on the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Afterwards, as I recorded in a previous photo set, Shops, Flags and the BBC: Regent Street in September, I cycled from the BBC’s newly redeveloped headquarters in Broadcasting House, down Regent Street, which, at the time, was still flying the flags of the world for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, taking in the shops, the shoppers, the building sites and the mad interchange with Oxford Street at Oxford Circus, and ending up, as this set shows, in Piccadilly Circus, from where I followed the tourist hordes down Coventry Street, across the top of Haymarket, and into Leicester Square, where the big cinema chains hold their premieres, where the fast food and the tourist paraphernalia are plentiful, and where the small park at the heart of Leicester Square received an extensive redesign in time for the Olympic Games. Read the rest of this entry »
Please, please, please sign and promote the petition, initiated by Pat Onions and other disabled activists, calling for the British government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” The petition needs to reach 100,000 signatures by November 1 to be eligible for Parliamentary debate.
One month ago, the Paralympic Games came to an end, and there were hopes that, after two weeks in which disabled people had been the focus of the media and the British people, and had performed spectacularly well, the time might be ripe for those fortunate enough not to be physically or mentally disabled to realise that they were being lied to by their government, and that the Tories’ wretched assault on disabled people as cheats and scroungers was both cruel and deeply unfair.
In a cynical attempt to cut expenditure on welfare, the government has embarked upon a particularly horrific assault on the mentally and/or physically disabled through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), administered by the French-based multinational company Atos Healthcare, and designed to find disabled people fit for work, even when, as in a heartbreakingly large number of cases, they are not.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of disabled people will lose between £20 and £131.50 a week when the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that is a crucial part of their support is ”replaced with the more restrictive Personal Independence Payments as part of a £2.2billion cost-cutting plan,” as the Sunday Mirror explained last month. As the Mirror also explained, “The DLA currently goes to around 3.2 million people at a cost of £12.6 billion a year. Analysts estimate up to 500,000 disabled people will have their allowance entirely withdrawn over the next four years as eligibility criteria is tightened.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday August 31, 2012, I attended a protest in Triton Square, just north of Euston Road, outside the offices of Atos Healthcare, the multinational company that is running the government’s vile review process for disabled people, which is designed to find them fit for work when they are not. See the Flickr set here.
Afterwards, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I took the opportunity to take photographs as I travelled through Fitzrovia to Oxford Street, where I met my wife and my son for a visit to HMV in search of DVDs and CDs, and then, afterwards, to take photos of Oxford Street, and then to visit Trafalgar Square, where a screen had been set up for the Paralympic Games. I then crossed the river on the Hungerford Bridge, taking photos from the elevated walkway beside Charing Cross station, and on to the Southbank Centre. The previous Flickr sets are here and here. Read the rest of this entry »
The Paralympics Demonstration Against Atos Healthcare in London, a set on Flickr.
Yesterday, Friday August 31, was the last day of the Atos Games, a week of events organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut against the jaw-dropping hypocrisy involved in Atos Healthcare, the French IT giant, being allowed to sponsor the Paralympic Games, while the company is also in charge of running the government’s Work Capability Assessments, a review process that is designed to find disabled people fit for work.
As a result, huge numbers of disabled people, who are not fit for work by any genuinely objective measure, are being driven into poverty — a wretched and cruel policy for a government that claims to have Christian values — and the results are leading directly to suicides, or other deaths through the stress involved. Undeterred, however, the government recently renewed Atos’ contract, to the tune of £400 million, and ministers are permanently involved in ignoring the inconvenient truth that, on appeal, tens of thousands of decisions made by Atos’ representatives are being overturned. The average is 40 percent, but in Scotland campaigners discovered that, when claimants were helped by representatives of Citizens Advice Bureaux, 70 percent of decisions were overturned on appeal. Read the rest of this entry »
The Olympics: In Search of the Paralympic Torch, a set on Flickr.
With the main Olympic Games now a memory, the focus, for the next 11 days, is on the Paralympic Games, before Britain returns to the gloom of life under the crushing yoke of a myopic Tory-led government. While the Games were a great success, the emotional resonance of the Paralympic Games is much stronger, given the obstacles people have had to overcome to take part in the first place, and it is a tribute to the UK that the Paralympics began here in 1948. As Wikipedia explains:
The first organised athletic event for disabled athletes that coincided with the Olympic Games took place on the day of the opening of the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom. German born Dr. Ludwig Guttmann of Stoke Mandeville Hospital, who had been helped to flee Nazi Germany by the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) in 1939, hosted a sports competition for British World War II veteran patients with spinal cord injuries. The first games were called the 1948 International Wheelchair Games, and were intended to coincide with the 1948 Olympics. Dr. Guttman’s aim was to create an elite sports competition for people with disabilities that would be equivalent to the Olympic Games. Read the rest of this entry »
What has happened to my country? I grew up in a Christian household — my father was Church of England, my mother Methodist — and both believed in Christian charity; in other words, the need for people of faith to look after those less fortunate than themselves. In the case of my Methodist heritage — as a working class religion, rather than the establishment C of E — this care for those in need was absolutely central to how the world was perceived, providing a social and political perspective as much as one based on religion.
Christians — and, of course, believers of other faiths — have their own share of hypocrites, and certainly do not have a monopoly on caring for the poor and the sick, as can be seen by the number of atheists with a well-developed social conscience, but in the Britain of today, driven by the Tory-led coalition government, concern for the poor and the ill appears to have become deeply unfashionable, leading to a callousness in society as a whole that has been encouraged by governments themselves (not just this shower of heartless Etonians), and by large parts of the media.
The defining characteristics of this cruel new world appear to be a preoccupation with selfishness and materialism, and, as part of a decline in empathy and the dissolving of the kind of political solidarity that was central to those opposing Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, for example, a narrow and horribly misplaced focus for dissent — not on the bigger political picture, and on the corporate and banking elites getting way with financial murder, but on people’s neighbours, or those regarded as different, or inferior, or feral, or workshy scroungers. Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.”
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