Wednesday, 18 January 2012

He's at it again

I'm actually embarrassed by the intellectual frailty of my MP, Paul Uppal. As I predicted yesterday, his speech in Parliament was a shameful rehearsal of all the bees in his bonnet. Despite claiming that
Town centres are not just about retail
he quickly refers to the people in the city centre as 'shoppers' - not citizens or locals.

He's been going on about 'chuggers' (= charity muggers) for months - this is just the latest attempt:
I conducted a survey of small shops and businesses in the city centre to find out why people do not shop there. I was surprised by the No.1 reason—chuggers: people who fundraise, perhaps aggressively. Again and again, shoppers said that the aggressive tactics used by some street fundraisers leave them feeling harassed and intimidated.
It's very thin stuff (and I doubt he was really 'surprised', given his previous claims on the subject). Methodologically very suspect: how many people did he ask? What proportion were shopkeepers? What was the question? The very fact that he calls them 'chuggers' implies bias from the start. It seems very unlikely that fundraisers are a) aggressive (I find them annoying) or that they are the primary reason why people don't shop in the city. I'd be less than surprised to find that he asked a leading question. It seems to me that the reason footfall is down is because there's a massive recession on, one which his government has made worse. But apparently recession is a word that is never going to cross his lips, even in a debate about high street decline. Also, Birmingham, with a wide range of shops, is 20 minutes away on the train.

There's one rather glaring error in this survey, if indeed he conducted one on the street: he claims that shoppers in the city centre told him that they don't shop there because of fundraisers. Can anyone else spot the problem there?

What's his solution? Ah… again he's a little disingenuous:
In Manchester, there is an agreement between the city centre management company, CityCo, and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, a self-regulating body that monitors face-to-face fundraising. They have found a balance between fundraising and leaving people in peace to shop. It is important that that fine line is drawn.
It's a disguised call for the privatisation of public space: CityCo is a private corporation given control over what used to be public space by the elected local authority. It's a move to prevent ordinary people using public space for anything other than consumption: try handing out political or religious leaflets in a CityCo area - you'll soon learn the difference between public and pseudo-public space.

Why should people be left 'in peace' to shop? Teenagers aren't left in peace to flirt and play. The arts, sport and leisure have no place in his world. Only shoppers are to be afforded civil rights in Uppal Consumerist Wonderland.

What else does Uppal want? Well SURPRISE SURPRISE: he wants taxpayers to fund commercial developers. Does he mention at any point that he is in fact a commercial property speculator?
 I should also like to offer the Minister some guidance on trust and clarity over tax-incremental financing, which is an issue for the developers of city centres. We have to go back to basics. If we are to see regeneration, we cannot look at the old model whereby development was funded only by bank lending; we need to look at partnerships between local authorities and businesses.
Er… no. Don't be ridiculous. He wants state aid for people like him, and cuts in public services - like Disability Living Allowance - for people like us.

So in summary, a classic Uppal speech: dishonest, intellectually weak and self-interested. I despair, I really do.


Ewarwoowar said...

Chuggers irritate me greatly, and I'm always working on a way to stealthily avoid them. Walking in the slipstream of someone else is my tactic currently.

Yet I can't believe anyone would cite them as the #1 reason you wouldn't go shopping somewhere. As Zack Ryder would say, "are you serious bro?"

In the case of Wolverhampton, it's A) It's not the nicest place in the world and B) Like you said, Brum is a much better shopping experience and it's 20 mins and a few quid on the train away.

Jason D Jawando said...

I think I'll take a leaf out of Mr Uppal's book and reply to a third party, rather than the man himself.

Vole, could you inform Paul Uppal that I have lived in Wolverhampton for 20 years and have never chose to shop elsewhere because of 'chuggers'.