Sunday, 30 January 2011

UK Uncut Needs To Get Serious

Does anyone at UK Uncut know this man?

Keir's continuing his critique of the UK Uncut movement.

Today saw yet more store occupations. It has been a trademark protest from the group, determined that they will make the likes of Sir Philip Green and bosses of Tesco, Vodafone and Boots pay their fair whack of tax.

It's a novel idea. Keir understands that the thinking is that if they continue to shut these stores down, infrequently and for short periods of time, then it will affect the profits of these companies enough to say "Ok, we'll pay our tax". It could also act as a tool to embarrass the businesses and their bosses.

Now, in the 12 months until August 29 2009 Arcadia, parent company of Topshop, made £213.6m in pre-tax profits. Arcadia owns around 2,500 stores in the UK. If we work on the basis that each store creates the same profit (which it doesn't, but bear with Keir), we can deduce that every Arcadia-owned store makes £85,440 profit every year.

There were 253 business days in 2009. So let's say each store therefore made £377.71 profit for Arcadia every day. Today's demo was scheduled on the UK Uncut Facebook event page to run from 1pm until 3pm. Let's assume every store opens from 9am until 6pm; it would make £37.52 in profit per hour. So, if UK Uncut successfully shut down stores for the 2-hour duration of their demos, they will stop around £80 of profit being made.

And frankly, anyone walking by and realising they can't go in because it's been shut will probably pop back later if it's that important.

Keir knows that constant, national occupations of this kind will block more profits. And he knows the maths aren't as simple as all that. But the point should be clear; these demos don't really hurt the big businesses. And even if they did, business owners like Sir Philip Green would probably hire more security instead of paying their taxes.

These store occupations are nice, novel profile-raisers. And Keir understands that certain people like to think they're making change by Tweeting the numbers of police officers who use pepper spray. But middle-class angst at the police won't change much.

UK Uncut needs to move on if it wants to achieve anything. As Keir explained the other day, movements need to win if people are to be kept and drawn in and if the power of the movement is to be respected.

David Gauke, pictured above, is the Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Hertfordshire South West. He is not as high-profile as Sir Philip Green, nowhere near as rich and people don't go to his empire for fast-fashion fixes. He is, however, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. And he has the power to change corporate taxation policy. He is also responsible for the "strategic oversight of the UK tax system including direct, indirect, business and personal taxation" and is the "Leader Minister on European and International tax issues."

David Gauke can change tax policy. Topshop and Boots store managers cannot.

It's time for UK Uncut to get serious if it wants to force change. If it doesn't, then by all means it should keep up the store occupations as some weekend fun to cure boredom and a tool for Laurie Penny's career progression.


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