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The media coverage of the rioting in London and elsewhere over the past few days has concentrated on the spectacular, pictures of blazing multinationals and police facing down brick-throwing hooded yobs. But in the 9th of August edition of the BBC’s One Show, Anita Rani visited Hackney and interviewed a shopkeeper whose store had been ransacked. Sitting with tears in his eyes in his van outside his devastated premises, he told Anita that the looters had taken everything, even the shelves off the wall. After eleven years of working eighty to ninety hours weeks, everything was gone in a few hours. “I don’t know what I’ll do next” he said. It was a powerful piece, it could have been me.

His experience will have been repeated numerous times in the wrecked high streets of London and elsewhere. The chains and multinationals may be be able to absorb the costs of the disruption, many small shopkeepers will not. Insurance companies may not pay out on certain policies if the the disturbances are not classed as riots. Government ministers have been curiously reluctant to describe them as such. If shopkeepers are sole traders or partnerships, and not limited companies, their homes will be at risk if bills cannot be paid.

The clean-up campaign promulgated on Twitter and Facebook was admirable, the subsequent turnout by members of the public fantastic. However, if they then go home and do their shopping on Amazon and Tesco, have people really done anything other than boost their own self-esteem? Now as never before the man in the van and other small shopkeepers in the affected high streets needed your support.


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