Jubilee Gets Dickensian

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The story of job-seekers working as low- or unpaid stewards for the queen's diamond jubilee being made to sleep under the London Bridge reads like something straight out of Charles Dickens. It comes complete with the kinds of descriptions of squalor and massive wealth disparity usually reserved for industrial revolution-era fiction, which is why Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott is calling for an investigation into the security firm that arranged the volunteers and apprentices. The firm, Close Security UK, has a contract to work the Olympics, which Prescott wants reviewed.

The Guardian has the most thorough reporting of the embarrassing incident:

Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.

And while the longterm unemployed huddled in their skivvies on the riverbank, The Guardian reports, they got to watch the "£12 million river spectacle of a 1,000-boat flotilla and members of the Royal family sail by.The security firm had 30 volunteers and 50 more people working at apprentice wages of £2.80 an hour, or about $4.30. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.