Robert Hampton

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27th March 2011

Morning After
Posted by at 12.33pm | No responses | In the News

Jon Stewart, on the Daily Show, has an occasional segment called “YOU’RE NOT HELPING”, where he highlights people who support a good cause but advocate it in the most counter-productive way possible. I think yesterday’s UK Uncut protest falls into that category. While many hundreds of thousands were marching against the coalition cuts, UK Uncut were busy protesting in Oxford Street, targeting businesses who they allege have avoided tax. They then moved on to stage a sit-in in Fortnum & Mason.

I think highlighting companies who avoid paying tax is a good idea. These firms may be doing nothing wrong in a legal sense, but morally and ethically it is dubious to say the least. However, occupying Fortnum & Mason is an odd choice – they are owned by Wittington Investments, who are in turn majority owned by the Garfield Weston Foundation, one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. UK Uncut say that one of Wittington’s other subsidiaries, Associated British Foods (owners of Primark) is accused of tax avoidance. If that is true (I honestly don’t know), that is a completely separate arm to Fortnum & Mason. Why not occupy Primark instead? Did they think occupying Fortnum & Mason, a renowned and prestigious store, would gain more publicity? Is it just because Fortnum & Mason is “posh”?

Unfortunately, a reasonable, peaceful protest attended by hundreds of thousands of people was overshadowed by this stuff and the later riots in Trafalgar Square. I hope the message of the TUC protest doesn’t get lost in the kerfuffle.

That doesn’t excuse some of the media coverage, including the despicable Mail on Sunday reporting the riot as if it was directly linked with the TUC march.

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