Top Man


So there I was, on Harlesden High Street, being greeted by  an old school friend I hadn’t seen in the longest time, it was a pleasant surprise (as such things often are), right up until the point where I realised that she was under weight, with the shambling gait of an old woman. My old school friend (who incidentally was barely into her thirties), was a crack addict I later found out, fast forward about five months later, to a similar meeting with another old school friend (this time in a local library, remember those days?), who turned out to be similarly addicted.

Am I anti-drugs? Well, when it comes to the kind of addiction that leaves you incapable of responding to anything other than the need to get drugs, how to afford to get drugs, favours done to get drugs and when you’re liable to get drugs, well yeah, I am. Besides which the two women I met both had children to whom they were the only immediate, if not the only available, role models. So when I hear David Cameron commenting upon the prosperity of a young man, who would otherwise have gone down the same dead-end road these young women have, I think to myself ‘top man’. After all isn’t that the right reaction to have when a government minister (primus inter pares), chooses to implement policies which help the little people?

Little people, like the folk managing their businesses within the Inshops Centre in Wealdstone, Harrow. In a neighbourhood rich with nuclear and extended families and in which there is a significantly large elderly population, what could be nicer than walking fifteen minutes down the road to a local market in which the faces are familiar, the goods are affordable, and the small business entrepreneurs are members of the local community and not just fly-by-nights looking to make a quick profit.

Now, in 2013,there were an estimated 4.9 million businesses in the UK which employed 24.3 million people, and had a combined turnover of £3,300 billion (that tells me that these small business entrepeneurs should carry some clout). SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) accounted for 99.9 per cent of of all private sector businesses in the UK and 59.3 per cent of private sector employment. In other words, the young men and women who upon leaving university or college, proceed to set up their own businesses, comprise that 59.3 percent. SMEs employed 14.4 million people and had a combined turnover of £1,600 billion. Small businesses alone accounted for 47 per cent of private sector employment and 33.1 per cent of turnover and of all businesses, 62.6 per cent (3.1 million) were sole traders (one man bands).


Please note the above mentioned Wealdstone based ‘sole trader’ one of the 3.1 million people who have elected to stake their futures on running their own businesses. Only, after Christmas, like the other small business owners working alongside him, he will find himself without a business to run, since the business entrepreneur who owns the lease on the shopping centre has decided to sell the centre to a fly-by-night property developer who is certain to make ‘a killing’. A tragedy some might say, however according to David Cameron, this is merely the way in which competitive profitable business interests operate.


The Inshops centre has since closed and is now a vacant shell in a community that is rapidly becoming a nest of empty shells. What we do have however, is a proliferation of aggressive, youthful police offices who aren’t so good at community policing, another ‘Cameron innovation’. Perhaps this is a reflection on the growing poverty in this particular part of Harrow, perhaps its simply that like the closure of its small businesses the neighbourhood deserves it.