I believe the British General Election of 2015 is the most important in a generation. For the first time there is a generation who are worse off than their parents, the housing affordability and shortage is a disgrace, and the equality gap continues to grow. So I decided to make this statement through our social media channels.
“At the upcoming general election we are voting for a party that genuinely cares about a more equal society that understands that creativity and the arts should sit at the heart of any civilised society and a party that is more likely to work towards a renaissance in emboldening councils to build council housing. How about you?”
The Labour Party contacted me and asked if I would be a signatory to a letter that responded to a letter from 100 business leaders supporting the Conservative Government.
We all care about Britain’s economy and we all have a stake in the future.
We are all working people. Some of us run businesses, large and small. Some of us used to work on zero hours contracts, some of us still do.
We come from all walks of life, this is what Britain looks like.
We believe that the fundamental choice at this election is: who does this country work for? Does it work only for those at the very top or does it work for working people – those trying to make ends meet, working in British businesses across the country to create wealth and support their families?
A symbol of the failure of this Government’s economic plan is the proliferation of zero hour contracts which has helped fuel the low wage, low skill economy that is letting down working people and letting down Britain.
Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. We need a better plan for prosperity. We need a better plan and a better future. We need a Labour Government to put working people first.
The letter instigated a media furore and I was asked to take part in a very positive interview with Clive Myrie on the BBC News Channel at 8.30pm on Monday 1st April. I managed to get across the fact that whilst the previous Labour administration had not managed to slow the damaging gap between rich and poor at least the current Labour Party was talking about these issues and making commitments to a fairer society (which to me ultimately means a happier society) and that whilst the Zero Hours contract is fairly small fry in economic terms it was a start and it did emotively raise the issue of inequality. I spoke about how my families morals that had instilled in me the belief that we were supposed to try and leave this world a better place than we found it and yet the current government were presiding over an economy that was leaving a generation worse off than its parents for the first time ever and that opportunities for those born to poorer parents were worse than previous generations.
Then my world was turned upside down and I was reminded how by saying something you care about you open yourself up to attack by the media who don’t care about facts and just want a story.
The Independent (a paper who I thought took more care about getting their facts right) published this article (http://ind.pn/1CeFFq4);
Wayne Hemingway, a designer, is among the business leaders who signed the letter, but his company – Hemingway Design –advertised for a 20-hour-a-week internship for “expenses only”, The Independent has discovered.
Meanwhile, labourers working on his project to renovate Dreamland in Margate were employed on zero-hours contracts.
In the letter, signatories describe the rise of the controversial working arrangement as “a symbol of the failure of this Government’s economic plan” and claim they have fuelled a “low wage, low skill economy that is letting down working people”.
The letter, which has also been sent to the Guardian, says only a Labour government will “put working people first”.
Labour claimed the letter was proof that it “commands support from all walks of life – because Britain, and British business, succeeds when working people succeed”.
I contacted the Independent and stated the facts but as I write this still have not had a conclusive reply .
Hello Matt, Andrew, Amol, Denise.
I wanted to get in touch re your article published online today that I was at the butt of.
I want to begin by separating the issue of zero hour contracts and short term internships / work experience for students – which we have offered in the past and continue to do so. Zero hours contracts are very different subject matter from the internships we provide and to combine these issues is quite frankly simpleminded and misleading.
You need to get your facts right and not resort to lazy and spurious journalism which is leading to much stress and a series of malevolent articles in other papers. What is your advice as to how we deal with all the false accusations (“zero-hours boss”) that are resulting from your article… The BBC has since acknowledged their unsuitable coverage and I would like a response from you!?
We have provided expenses only and paid internships as an integral part of a student’s degree. We are enabling not exploiting people who come here on internships and giving young people opportunity! The internship you quote was from two years ago is NOT a zero hour contract!
We do not have anyone on zero hour’s contracts! Three of our full time, long term team started as student interns. Their talent was spotted!
Re Dreamland… This is not our project, we have no shareholding, no management roles and we are employed (NOT employers) purely and simply as designers on the scheme. You really should be doing your homework or at least some homework!
We have received a flood support via email and on social media, all extremely negative about the Independent’s approach to the piece – We await your reply.
The wider press had waded in and series of copycat and misleading articles and broadcasts have been published. First the BBC in an interview on the BBC NEWS Channel followed the exact same line without checking the facts and the presenter did not understand the difference between zero hours and internships. I had been asked to go onto the programme to explain why I backed Labour in the signing of this letter. He didn’t seem to want to listen or let me explain about businesses being more caring, about the international empirical evidence that more equal societies in terms of the difference between haves and have not’s achieving higher life satisfaction levels that including lower crime rates and higher educational achievements. I managed to get some of it in but only by going on the offensive myself.
The Evening Standard contacted us to find out the facts but still printed what The Independent said. Well of course that gave them something to hide behind and another story to try and get at someone. Then along comes the Daily Mail with a big headline Zero Hours Boss .Well that nasty publication couldn’t give a damn about a totally false, wrong and hurtful headline.
For all of us at HemingwayDesign involved in trying to make sense of this it was a day of negativity, a wasted day when so much of the good projects that we are proud to be part had to take a back seat because of unfair and totally incorrect journalism. It will probably cost us in terms of loss of goodwill and contracts.
The only ray of positivity is that we got dozens of supportive emails and social media posts that came into our channels, which we may publish and some point, and only one nasty one (but even that one hurts in these circumstances).
The bottom line though is that the valid and important messages I signed up to help get across were not allowed to come out. The Independent by getting their facts wrong triggered off a barrage of abuse aimed at me.