Opinion

Paul McNamee: We're all picking up the pieces

The government pulled the rug from under thousands of small businesses and traders operating in the railway arches across Britain

Guardians of the Arches

met a man on his knees in the park one morning last week. He had a small dustpan and brush in his hands. He was collecting bits of shattered glass from the path and grass nearby. I threw a ball to make sure my dog ran well out of the way.

“Little bastard,” he said. “I saw him last night. Little bastard. Just chucked it, smashed it. He was sitting wi’ a lassie. Who does that? All the wee dugs round here. Little bastard.”

I stood around for a moment and thought about what I could say.

“Well, that’s very good of you.”

Then I shuffled off.

This has been another week of confusion and ridicule. The government, which for so long claimed to be the party of business, did its best to disabuse people of this fancy.

They pulled the rug from under thousands of small businesses and traders operating in the railway arches across Britain. Despite insisting they’d look at all possibilities that may allow these people to continue working and frequently exist as the lifeblood in under-developed communities, they sold all the arches as a oner to Blackstone Property Partners and Telereal Trillium for £1.46bn. Both these companies are huge-volume property owners. It’s unclear how rents will be impacted for those small businesses.

Then, as John Lewis announced a 99 per cent collapse in profits and mentioned that Brexit uncertainty could have been a contributing factor, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had a pop
at them. Businesses, said Raab, should “take responsibility for their own situation” instead of making the “mistake” of blaming Brexit and politicians.

Well in, Dom!

All the mood music around Brexit is increasingly Stockhausen rather than Mozart. It needs a guide. And it’s really not clear where it is going or if you’ll feel good once it’s complete.

We used to get letters from both sides of the Brexit fence to The Big Issue – our readers cover the waterfront

Any questions are dismissed with trite soundbites. Or just blank dismissals. Both sides are fostering entrenchment.

We used to get letters from both sides of the Brexit fence to The Big Issue – our readers cover the waterfront. On each side there was clear-sighted articulation of why they voted each way.

Those letters have dried up in recent times. Now, there is more concern with rules of grammar and with an increasing desire to help those at the bottom of society.

This doesn’t mean there is less concern about Brexit. I think it means that people are trying to get on with their lives and plot a way through while the whirlpools swirl around them.

It’s a desire for something solid and something we can influence ourselves while those who are speaking for us continue to make a hames of it.

I’m not going to attempt to make a clunky link between Brexit confusion and a man picking up broken glass in a park. Actually, why not.

So long as we have good men and women who’ll get on their hands and knees to clear up the mess intentionally created by somebody without deep consideration of others,
we’ll be fine.

There might be quite a lot of broken glass though.

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