Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Is the UK fit to hold the Olympics?

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The Independent Online

The Olympic flame is on its way. Visitors and loaded, devoted Royalists, sports fans and politicos are so excited. I come to spoil the party. It feels impolitic, uncivil ... callous too. Buried evidence of destitution and hopelessness crawls out from official assurances (and excuses) and spin. Phone calls to Mind, the mental-health charity are up by 100 per cent. Research by the Church Urban Fund finds that in parts of Manchester and Liverpool, average life expectancy is 70 and 65 per cent of children live in poverty, while in parts of Surrey and Berkshire, life expectancy is 85 and 1 per cent of children live in poor households. As shocking as the statistics is the indifference of all of us who can, in hard times, still have very good times.

Of course, many of us are feeling squeezed and moan, unlike the truly deprived. The paralysis of poverty takes over mind, body and soul. Few give a damn about these wasted citizens. Or their children.

Instead, Alistair Darling defends Fred Goodwin. And dictators dine with the Queen. Last week I had lunch with a wealthy, sensitive Tory in an upmarket restaurant The same day I went to a small flat where people lived in fouler conditions than I ever saw in Uganda.

Politicians of all shades brought us to this and the Coalition pushes things further still. In the Queen's speech, they promised to make it easier s to sack workers. Their benefits rearrangements are cutting down the most disadvantaged. We are Victorians again but without the conscience. Dickens and Benjamin Disraeli wrote novels to stir up guilt and action.

Even more outrageous is how the dispossessed are blamed and hated. Many of those we demean and exclude then do turn feral and beastly. The other day, in a tough district, teens spat and racially abused me. I hated them then, but no child is born that way. We must remember that and compel elected representatives to know we reject economic apartheid.

Danny Dorling writes in his book, Injustice: "Social inequality within rich countries persists because of a continued belief in the tenets of injustice, and it can be a shock for people to realise that there might be something wrong with much of the ideological fabric of the society we live in."

Slave owners, Danny Dorling argues, believed there was no alternative to slavery; so it is with the modern capitalist model.

There is nothing normal or good about living in such a dreadfully cleaved nation. The Victorians understood that better than we modern Elizabethans.

Disgraced RBS banker Fred Goodwin is in the list of the 60 most influential Britons of this horrible age, confirming that the establishment is determined to carry on sucking up to the rich.

One must now ask if Team GB is fast losing its claim to be from a civilised or an advanced nation.