View from N17: 'I do respect the Queen, but what has she really done for the people?'
As Middle England was waving its Union Flags on the Mall, what was Tottenham making of the Diamond Jubilee? Owen Jones found out
Owen Jones is a columnist for The Independent. He was born in Sheffield and grew up in Stockport. After graduating, he worked as a trade union and parliamentary researcher. His first book, 'Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class', was published in June 2011. He is currently working on his second book, on the British Establishment, for Penguin.
Wednesday 06 June 2012
While large parts of Britain have enthusiastically taken to this weekend's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, there was little bunting on show in the north London community of Tottenham.
"It's a bit of a farce, really," says Areeb Ullah, a 20-year-old student born to Bangladeshi parents. "I respect her for the fact she's been there for 60 years – that's quite a big thing. But the question is, what has she really done for the people?" Mr Ullah's reservations about the monarchy are far from uncommon in his age group: according to an ICM poll in April, just 36 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds think Britain would be worse off without a monarchy, compared to 66 per cent of those aged over 65. Those divisions were on show in Tottenham, the crucible of last year's riots, an area Mr Ullah proudly described as "one of the most multicultural postcodes in Europe".
For Jessica Young, a 19-year-old completing her A-levels and hoping to study business studies at Kingston University, exams made it difficult to get enthusiastic about the jubilee. "I'm not against the monarchy, it brings revenues and tourists to the country," she argues.
Like many other young people in Tottenham, she was proud of her different identities; the jubilee had not prompted a surge of British feeling. "I'd say I was more Jamaican than British. Britain's a very multicultural society, but there's not one thing about being British."
But with Tottenham still haunted by last August's riots, which began here after the police shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan, Ms Young expressed a common resentment about the cost of the weekend's events.
"People thought rioting and looting was the only way to be really heard," she says. "All the youth services have been cut here. All the money being spent on the jubilee could have been spent elsewhere."
For some young people, the celebrations were an opportunity to bring communities together. Toni Esther Webb, a 16-year-old health and social care student, has painted her fingernails with mini Union Flags to celebrate the occasion. Her enthusiasm for the Queen is limited – "I think she's all right," she says – but she has enjoyed marking the Queen's 60 years nonetheless. "It's cool. I like the street parties that are going on. I've been to a few." But there were none for her to attend locally: "Partly it'd start a riot. It'd cause mayhem."
For Tanisha Achuka, 22, the jubilee was "a good thing for the community to come together". At her Pentecostal church, they marked the occasion by breaking into the national anthem. But the Queen remains something of an enigma. "I don't know much about her: it's only over the last week I've learned things about her."
It was the sheer amount of time that Britain's second-longest-serving monarch has reigned that attracted widespread respect. "She's been on the throne nearly three times longer than I've been alive," says Vincius Zocante, a 21-year-old bartender who left Brazil for London more than three years ago. "The Queen should stay: it's England, isn't it?"
But with Tottenham suffering from the highest levels of unemployment in London, and with cuts increasingly being felt in people's everyday lives, the jubilee was a source of anger for some. "What has she ever done for young people?" asks 16-year-old college student Chris Jacobs. "She doesn't do anything for the country."
His anger is fuelled by the plight of his community. "The Government is taking too many things away. There's no jobs around here, and money is tight."
Dion Antoine, a 21-year-old looking for work, agrees. "I think it's bollocks. What a load of bollocks. They should spend money on the young. This is pointless."
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