There was a Make Poverty History stall
… where people could sign a large board …
… calling on Tony Blair …
… to commit to the Millennium Development Goals
Anne Snelgrove MP signed the board
There were postcards to send to Tony Blair …
… and plenty of ribbon for people to make their own white bands
Someone got a bit carried away
Pixies decorated a few of the local landmarks …
… but they took the ribbons off again before the end of the day
Michael Wills MP turned up for a photo opportunity with the mayor
Kids give their message to Tony Blair
Poverty kills a child every 3 seconds
But then the suicide bombers attacked London, and in a frenzy of inflammatory headlines from the gutter press about “clerics of hate”, the scene was set for Charles Clarke to resume his own agenda of eroding human rights and introduce a new round of illiberal “anti-terror” laws.
Meanwhile, international trade rules are still stacked in favour of big companies in the rich parts of the world, against the poorest producers and workers. Protectionist import duties prevent growers from adding value to their crops themselves (for example, by shelling their own peanuts) and keep prices at rock-bottom to fulfil the West’s demand for ever-cheaper goods. “Aid” is tied up with agreements to “open” their markets to western companies and privatise their public services, putting control of their industries even more firmly in the control of those who have too much money and power.
In short, it’s business as usual, and poverty has dropped off the government agenda.
Time for a reality check.
Terrorists have killed 52 people in the UK this year. Poverty kills a child every 3 seconds, and I make that over 10 million dead each year. The terrorists have got a lot of catching up to do before they are even close to being as big a threat as poverty.
Saturday 10th September 2005 was White Band Day 2, and in Swindon town centre, supporters of the Make Poverty History campaign were putting poverty back on the agenda in the minds of local people, and were doing their best to get as many white bands onto people as possible. Lengths were being cut off reels of white ribbon printed with the words “Make Poverty History”, and wrapped around people, trees and street furniture, to ensure everyone knew what the event was about. Local band Hanza provided entertainment with an acoustic set.
Whilst members of the public were being wrapped in white ribbon, they were also encouraged to fill in postcards and to sign a big board supporting a statement calling on Tony Blair to commit to ensuring trade justice, dropping debt and delivering more and better aid at the UN World Summit. One of those who signed was Anne Snelgrove, Swindon South’s new-Labour MP, who can be seen in the big group photo, albeit partly hidden behind a member of the public.
The mayor came to visit the stall, and stayed around for quite a while, talking to people at the stall and joining the group photo. I think he mistook me for the “official photographer” (he wasn’t the only one to make this mistake during the day), and I found myself trying to explain the concept of Indymedia to him, which was a slightly surreal experience.
Michael Wills, new-Labour MP for Swindon North, turned up briefly for a photo opportunity with the mayor, but didn’t stick around for the group photo.
At around 2pm, all 200 or so postcards had been completed and the board was full of signatures, so with the threat of rain looming, the MPH campaigners decided to call it a day, and carefully removed the white ribbons which were decorating the town centre so well, before posing for a photo with the board full of signatures.
The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and are not necessarily those of the Make Poverty History campaign, or any of the organisations or individuals involved in it.