UK Uncut to Pieces

Britian has a Tea Party movement of its own, except it's left-wing, it favours (very) big government, and it's rapidly losing support

Surely a bit out of date, no?
Christian May
On 5 April 2011 10:07

“Occasionally people ask us what we’ve achieved and what we hope to achieve at UK Uncut.” Only occasionally? Surely this would be the most frequent question posed to the “creatives” who burst into private property, occupied it and graffitied the walls with the sort of slogans that raise serious questions about the standard of an education dolled out by New Labour.

The above quote appears in a recent UK Uncut press release, in which they congratulate themselves several times for having changed the political landscape of this nation. In fact, they haven’t done anything of the sort. The Coalition announced plans to crack down on tax avoidance in June of last year, and it had always featured prominently in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

UK Uncut’s main achievement must surely be that they have forever associated the broad anti-cuts “movement” with fringe violence and self-indulgent proxy-protests. Lucy Annson recently appeared on Newsnight on behalf of UK Uncut to put across their view on the recent demonstrations, occupations and protests. It was an interview that probably set their cause back a long way, given that Annson repeatedly refused to condemn the violence on the streets of London and instead chose to celebrate in its “creativity.” 

If creativity is your thing, do it in a shed at the bottom of a garden – don’t do it through an act of trespass on private property, and don’t do it just to highlight the fact that some people have more money to spend on tea and cake than you do. Attacking Fortnum and Mason was a flawed concept on many levels. The predominant response to this decision was to point out the impressive charitable efforts of the group that owns the high-end department store. Beyond this, the movement will now be associated with the sort of chippy, inverted-snobbery that tends to eat away at the credibility of any campaign based on class.

One of UK Uncut’s proudest achievements seems to be that they took over a Boots store and “turned it into an NHS hospital.” This might sound very “big society” but in reality all that happened was that protesters dressed up as doctors and nurses and chanted pro-NHS slogans at bemused shoppers. 

It all seems to smack of “playing at protest.” I don’t agree with the TUC’s march to Hyde Park, but I recognise it as a far more legitimate and impressive protest than a collection of loony-left students (many with handsome trust funds) rampaging through property owned by the wealth-creating private sector. 

To this mixture of self promotion, violence and misguided aims we can add the increasingly hysterical rhetoric that accompanies the group. That bastion of ludicrous, tearful prose, Laurie Penny, is perhaps the finest example of what happens when campaigning, spinning and an attempt at journalism all come together like a perfect left-wing storm in a teacup.  

Fresh from comparing the government’s plan to reduce public spending to the bloody battle for human rights in the Maghreb, Ms Penny now revels in tales of secret police “snatch squads” and screaming, bloodied young girls. She has taken to the airwaves, too, telling everyone from Newsnight to 10 O Clock Live that “there is an alternative” (to the cuts) but never attempting to explain what that may be, beyond “taxing the rich.” It all seems to be a bit of a game for Laurie. During the recent Oxford Street riots, she first tweeted “Where’s the kettle? I’m going in” (subsequently deleted) later followed by “I’m being kettled… I’m scared.”

All in all, the UK Uncut movement has won little praise. They have found some friends at the Guardian, along with a handful of Labour MPs, but at some point the silent majority should make it clear to this disruptive minority that we live in a democracy. Not liking the outcome of an election is not a good enough reason to seek the downfall of a government, any more than hanging a few crude banners from shop windows equates to decent political campaigning. 

Christian May is a political consultant with Media Intelligence Partners Ltd, where he specialises in foreign affairs and international consultancy. He writes for The Commentator in a personal capacity

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