Monday, 29 July 2013


This story may have already become too poisoned a well to sup from, after a bunch of bullying thugs chose to gang up on campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez on Twitter. It is galling beyond belief that you should even need to say this. But threatening to rape a woman is pretty much the far frontier of not okay.

But, should it be possible to get back to the main issue, who is it who wants more women on banknotes? What sort of person identifies with banknotes in the first place? For most of us, aren't they things which take way too long to earn, then get pulled out of your fingers far too quickly? Do we actually keep hold of them long enough to start identifying with them?

We're in a time when study after study have shown how the ConDem cuts are having a disproportionately high effect on women. To the point where their class war on the poor could quite legitimately be called a gender war as well. To focus right now on (of all things) banknotes, like they can be seen as our joint property or something, seems bizarre in extremes.

It's a sadly familiar picture. Progressive social movements rightly choose horizontal structures. But despite that formal feature, it's still the privileged elements who come to dominate - with their social and networking skills, their unspoken confidence that they know what's best. The whole group comes to dance to their agenda, often without even noticing.

So how about a more appropriate suggestion for what goes on the British banknote? Let's cut out the arguments by dispensing with people altogether. Instead let's have a series of historical incidents – the great atrocities of the British Empire. The Fiver could kick off with a relatively minor massacre by its standards, such as Jallianwala Bagh where the death toll only hit triple figures. They could then work up to the invention of the concentration camp in the Boer War, which would look princely on the Fifty. Or perhaps we could incorporate the Iraq War, and start off with pound-denomination notes but switch to dollars as they got bigger?

Then, whenever we pulled a note out of our pockets, we could all be reminded where Britain got it's wealth. And wouldn't that just make you proud?

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