Whoever wrote the Queen’s Christmas message this year should be hung as a traitor for making her appear to be another uncaring exploiter – like her current government.
Confused? Allow me to explain. The message might seem to be full of praise for the UK’s efforts to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee year – and it was – but it also contained this passage, referring to the Olympics and the Jubilee event on the Thames:
“The success of these great festivals depended to an enormous degree upon the dedication and effort of an army of volunteers. Those public-spirited people came forward in the great tradition of all those who devote themselves to keeping others safe, supported and comforted.”
In the case of the Olympics, her words might well ring true – people did come forward freely to take part in that great sporting event.
However, the regatta is a very different matter. We learned very shortly after the event that many – if not all – of the ‘volunteers’ were in fact nothing of the kind. They were unemployed people who had been coerced onto the government’s Workfare scheme and then misled into taking part, under the belief that they were being paid for it.
They were bussed into London at night, told to sleep under a dirty bridge before taking part in a work shift that lasted 14 hours, with no toilet facilities, and only a wet campsite awaiting them as rest facility afterwards.
They were originally told they would be paid for their efforts, but then the organisers revealed that the weekend was just a “trial” – no extra money would be forthcoming for what – let’s face it – was their suffering. The Duke of Edinburgh was hospitalised for days after this event, and he only had to endure four hours of it!
It’s doubly disappointing to see the BBC reporting Her Majesty’s speech in glowing terms. ‘Queen’s message praises 2012 “army of volunteers”‘ read the report on the corporation’s website.
“The Queen has praised the ‘army of volunteers’ at the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the story stated.
Was this the same BBC that reported ‘Jubilee stewards “humiliated” by the pageant experience’? This report stated “A group of unemployed workers at the Jubilee river pageant were left to shelter under a bridge in the middle of the night. The unpaid volunteers say they felt humiliated by the experience.”
Was this the same BBC that reported Lord Prescott’s fears that such cheap labour could be used at the Olympics? That report stated on June 7: “Volunteers bussed in from Bristol, Plymouth and Bath were reported to have spent part of Sunday night under London Bridge in cold and inhospitable conditions.”
“The appalling treatment of staff working for free over the Diamond Jubilee weekend highlights the damage that unpaid work experience risks causing people who are desperate to get back into proper employment, as well as the exploitative treatment that they can face,” said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber in the report.
So let’s have a bit of consistency in our news reports, please. What happened to those so-called “volunteers” can’t be a travesty in June and a triumph in December.
And let’s have an apology from whoever wrote the Queen’s Christmas message – not just to the nation, but also to the Queen.