Thursday, 7 June 2012

The London Bridge Incident: a bitter postscript to the Diamond Jubilee

The Queen loves the ‘Sport of Kings’ – horse racing.
I like horses when they’re running too, but prefer to see them frolicking free across a field, not being whipped around Epsom or Ascot by some pint-sized puny wearing pink spotted pyjamas.
I like the Queen too. I reckon we could have a fine old natter over a cup of English Breakfast tea and a jammy dodger…or two (I'm a bit partial to them, see).
Eventually, though, I’d have to stiffen the sinews and ask, “Your Majesty, what did you think about the London Bridge incident?”
The ‘London Bridge incident’ involved some 30 unpaid jobseekers who volunteered as stewards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Thames Pageant last weekend. Bussed to London from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth, they arrived in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Some say they bitterly regret their decision to volunteer. Their coach drivers, well…drove off. They had to camp in the London Bridge cold in the middle of the night and change into security clothing in public. No toilets were provided.
They worked a 14-hour shift in pouring rain on the Thames’ crowded riverbanks.
An outfit called Close Protection UK offered little or no proctection to these young people. CPUK’s managing director, the aptly named, Molly Prince, said: “The London Bridge incident should never have happened. For this, we sincerely apologise.”
The diamond Prince said the unpaid young people volunteered to gain 'work experience'. Princess Molly claimed they would’ve been unable to claim unemployment benefit if CPUK had paid them.
Several of the young people, when interviewed, did not want their identities revealed. They claimed they’d been used and exploited but feared being branded as troublemakers.
Close Protection UK, apparently, is in line for contracts for next month’s London 2012 Olympic Games. The youngsters had hoped volunteering for the Diamond Jubilee might land them paid Olympics work. In 21st Century Britain, with the Windsor royal family on the throne, these are the ‘rock and hard place’ choices facing young Britons trying to cope with soaring unemployment levels.
The postscript to the London Bridge incident takes this shape. We’re told the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant cost £10.5 million, paid for by private donations to the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation.
Perhaps some of that £10.5m ought to have been allocated in some way to the young volunteers who found themselves dumped at London Bridge?
“Your Majesty, are you alright? You seem to be miles away in thought.”

Paul Coleman, London, June 2012

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