The UK Uncut (#ukuncut) organisation is gathering momentum throughtout the country and is being fuelled through the benefits of social networking, principally through Twitter and Facebook. This is clearly going to be a fascinating development in how democracy can be exercised in the post-New Labour era where, by virtue of the ambiguity and contradictions of a coalition government, the opportunity for general unrest will be rife.
Running alongside the student protests over the University Fees, there is the UK Uncut initiative which started with the revelations about Vodafone. On the back of the rhetoric of David Cameron that “we are all in this together” there are an increasing number of examples being exposed where sophisticated tax avoidance schemes are being used to deprive the Treasury of vital funds that otherwise will have to be satisfied through cuts, public sector redundancies or tax increases – which generally hurt the less well-off. Whilst the tax avoidance schemes are not technically illegal, the challenge to these major organisations is how much of a sense of community obligation do they feel that they have.
There will be the hard-nosed City Slickers who will maintain that any company is there for the benefit of the shareholders, and importantly to maximise their return through increased dividends and share price growth – and they would be right – as a short termist view. In the modern age where the notion of community, democracy, and social integration is coming of age it is no longer acceptable that corporate institutions operate as faceless, money machines. The wiser company’s emphasise their focus on the environment, and caring for employees and for the community – which ultimately ingratiates the customer base to feel benign towards the company, spend more money with them and therefore boost profits. So it may not be entirely altruistic, but the it breeds a mutually assured destiny.
The Uk Uncut protest on 4 December in London was targetting Top Shop and Sir Philip Green who is quoted as saying “If I sneak a few hundred million to my wife in Monaco, it doesn’t make me a tax thief” – no it doesn’t – but it makes you an individual that people will despise and turn against. It will be interesting to see how long it is before Green performs some random act of philanthropy to boost his perceived popularity.
A walk down Oxford Street brought us very quickly to British Home Stores, and Dorothy Perkins ( other stores in the Arcadia group), as well as the original figure of hate – Vodafone – and Boots. The protest at Boots involved a brief walk through the shop much to the bemusement of shop assistants and shoppers alike.
UK Uncut is a breath of fresh air and I hope that it manages to keep current and maintains its integrity in the research it does on potential targets. Whilst it is absolutely valuable to “out” people who are not being community-spirited in their tax affairs, it would be an “own-goal” if they were too indiscriminate in who they targetted. An over-simplistic approach to determining when sound financial management of tax matters becomes questionable tax avoidance ( or possibly tax evasion) requires careful and intelligent examination.
It would be a poor outcome if the campaign backfired resulting in some of these large companies having to lay people off.
So – UK Uncut keep up the excellent work but please “don’t through the baby out with the bath water”
Complete set of Photos from the UK Uncut protest on 4 Dec 2010 HERE