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24 VICE Photos That Sum Up Four Miserable Years of Coalition Rule

You can tell they were great because of all the fire and broken glass.

by Simon Childs, Photos: Various
15 May 2014, 12:50pm

Photo by Theo Cottle

This week marks four years since the Conservatives and Liberal Dems joined forces to form a coalition government. During a rule that started out promising "Freedom, Fairness, Responsibility", England has been consumed by rioting looters and rough sleeping has risen by over a third. A reported 32 percent of long-term unemployed young people have considered suicide, while around the same proportion of people in work suffer from “depression, stress or burn out”. And, as we turn into a nation of mentally-exhausted obese shoplifters, the NHS and criminal justice system are being sold off to the likes of Virgin and G4S.

Of course, it’s not bad for everyone. Inequality is growing at twice the rate it did under Thatcher, so if you’re on the right side of the divide you’ll have even more cash to blow on things that are fast moving beyond the reach of regular people, like children and dinner. Less fortunate? Find cheaper ways to fill your time – like death parties for the architects of your misery.

Thatcher’s policy legacy has been the root cause of more left-wing gatherings than her passing, with anti-austerity protests a regular – if not always particularly effective – occurrence. Perhaps the rowdiest complainants have been the students, who, lest we forget, completely trashed the headquarters of the Conservative Party way back in 2010 and are currently engaged in an ongoing war with university authorities and the police. Other than that, there have been cutters, occupiers, squatters and frackers, but, to be honest, the summer riots of 2011 put the majority of these groups to shame in the "making yourself a bit of a nuisance" stakes.

The government has taken a harsh line with those perceived to be on the take, hammering disabled benefits claimants. Minorities have also been targeted, from the residents of Dale Farm, to non-white people trying to board trains, to Syrians escaping civil war. The UK is now a designated "hostile environment" from which foreigners are chased by vans, unless they're coming over to buy up property. Meanwhile, Londoners are forced out and shipped off to live in hotels in Birmingham's red light district by their local councils.

The government has dealt with discontent by pandering to the supporters of UKIP, a strangely popular bunch of Europe-hating ex-colonel homophobes. Because it's a lot easier to blame this mess on the weak than to accept any of the responsibility yourself.

Here are 23 photos – 24 if you include that one up top – that celebrate the last four years in coalition rule. You can tell they were great by all the fire and broken glass.

Photo by Henry Langston – READ MORE

10 November, 2010. London – One of the first policies the coalition proposes is the tripling of university tuition fees to £9,000. This is something that the Lib Dems had explicitly promised not to do – winning a good deal of student votes in the process – so a lot of people are pissed off when they renege on their word. Not least the students, who march in London and ransack the Conservative Party HQ at Millbank, smashing through windows and hurling fire extinguishers off the roof. Students spend much of the winter occupying lecture halls and marching down various streets, but eventually the bill is passed with a majority of 21, as riot cops and protesters clash outside Parliament.

Photo by Henry LangstonREAD MORE

26 March, 2011. London – The coalition's ongoing dismantlement of the welfare state grates with many – mostly those from the left, who spend a lot of time running around shouting about how unfair it all is. The zenith comes on the 26th of March, 2011, when hundreds of black-clad anarchists tear away from a 400,000-strong Trade Union anti-cuts march and lay waste to the West End of London, attacking the Ritz, a Porsche showroom, a branch of Ann Summers and various banks. Windows are smashed and posh shop Fortnum & Mason is occupied. Three years later, public service cuts continue apace.

Photo by Henry LangstonREAD MORE

8 August, 2011. Hackney, London – In August of 2011, the killing of Mark Duggan by armed police sparks nearly a week of the worst rioting England had seen for decades. An estimated £300 million of damage is done nationwide, as looters run amok and arsonists giddily firebomb shops and homes. The penal system exacts its revenge, with courts sitting for extended hours to hand out exemplary sentences, but not before a few cop cars are totalled by angry rioters.

Photo by Henry Langston READ MORE

19 October, 2011. Dale Farm, Essex –The coalition has made a point of socking it to minorities that it perceives to be gaming the system – immigrants who apparently come to scrounge benefits, or travellers who have little regard for planning regulations. In October of 2011, Basildon council – with the backing of the government – clears the UK's biggest Irish traveller camp, Dale Farm. The government argues that the eviction is not ethnic cleansing, merely enforcement of the law. However, in this case enforcing the law effectively criminalises the ethnic group's way of life.

Photo by Sam Hiscox READ MORE

3 January, 2012. Brighton – If this miserable peep show is making you want to reach for a drink, you're in luck, because the government takes a whole penny off the price of a pint two budgets in a row. Someone somewhere presumably celebrates by sinking 320 pints in a single session, thereby saving up the necessary £3.20 to afford the 321st.

Photo by Ed Thompson READ MORE

28 February, 2012. London – Peaking at the end of 2011, the Occupy movement is the first major attempt to protest against the government's economic policies. It fails on an intellectual level by being too vague, and on a practical level because it's basically a load of tents, which aren't all that threatening to the machinations of global capitalism. On the 28th of February, 2012, the main Occupy camp at St Paul's cathedral is evicted by the Met, to the relief of City boys who no longer have to deal with the tinny blare of buttrock Goa on their way to Itsu every lunchtime.

Photo by Will Pine READ MORE

May, 2012. Royal Courts of Justice, London – Throughout 2011 and 2012, the Leveson Inquiry grills former News of the World editors and News International executives about how they hacked the phones of, among other people, the families of murdered schoolgirls, the relatives of dead British soldiers and 7/7 bombing victims. The whole thing is terribly embarrassing for the politicians, who'd spent so long sucking up to those who are now viewed as pretty much the only people in the country who are worse than politicians. One such politician is the prime minister, David Cameron, who used to sign off texts to Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, with LOL – which he thought meant "lots of love".

In May 2012, the news is full of reports of Brooks's appearance before Leveson, which VICE parodies by sending a fake along to confuse the paparazzi. In May 2014, her trial continues.

Photo by Lauren Wright READ MORE

25 July – 12 August, 2012. London – In summer 2011, London had been burning. In summer 2012, the Olympic flame came to the capital. In the build up people are dispossessed of their homes to make way for stadiums and the whole event seems to take place in an atmosphere of paranoid corporo-fascism, but the opening ceremony is really great and Britain come third in the medals table.

Photo by Jake Lewis READ MORE

8 April, 2013. Brixton, London – Margaret Thatcher dies. She was, the media constantly assure us, a divisive figure. Those who hated her and everything she stood for use her death as an opportunity to get drunk, burn effigies and celebrate the passing of their biggest folk devil. Those who loved her think this is all pretty bloody vulgar – not least Chancellor George Osborne, who sheds a tear at her funeral. Despite her death, her political legacy lives on.

Photo by Inès Elsa Dalal READ MORE

12 July, 2013, Sandbanks, Poole – Not everyone is losing out. Inequality is increasing, which means the rich are getting richer, thanks to a succession of budgets geared towards helping those at the top of the ladder while kicking down people already on the lower rungs. A recent Oxfam report has shown that the five richest families are worth more than the poorest 12.6 million British people put together. So obviously they have loads of money to spend on things like polo and second homes by the sea in the "British Monte Carlo".

Photo by Jake Lewis READ MORE

15 July, 2013. Brixton, London – The "regeneration" of inner-city areas sees people evicted from their homes, which are then demolished and turned into expensive flats aimed at yuppie interlopers and foreign investors looking for somewhere to park their obscene wealth. In Brixton, squatters are less than happy about the situation and have to be forcibly evicted by police and bailiffs after burning mattresses in the street.

Photo of an EDL member being helped by a cop by Lee Harper READ MORE

20 July, 2013. Birmingham – Throughout the coalition's rule, Islamophobia is perpetuated most aggressively by the English Defence League. After years of street marches that often involve getting pummelled by anti-fascists, the EDL is widely seen as a spent force, until the bloody murder of Lee Rigby by Islamist militants in Woolwich, South London. After a brief resurgence of support, the organisation collapses when leader Tommy Robinson leaves, apparently in disgust at the racist monster he has created.

Photo by Chris Bethell READ MORE

27 July, 2013. Balcombe, West Sussex – Fracking is a method of getting gas out of the ground by giving it a kind of chemical enema. It has the potential to poison water and create earthquakes, so David Cameron thinks it will be “good for our country”. Vivienne Westwood, lots of hippies and people who live in affected areas seem to disagree. It’s bizarre that they can’t see the benefits: unlocking all those fossil fuels might give us a few more years before we have to rely on wind farms to power us in between all the brownouts.

Photo by Jake Lewis READ MORE

4 August, 2013. Westminster, London – In 2010, David Cameron says that lobbying is, “the next big scandal waiting to happen”. Which is a strangely honest thing for someone who leads a government that is about to be hit by multiple lobbying scandals to say. A series of undercover sting operations by journalists show various MPs and lobbyists claiming that, for the right price, they can get access to the heart of government and influence policy.

This photo is actually taken two months later, at Anonymous' "Million Mask March", but that was in Westminster too and do you know how tough it is to make lobbying abuses visually interesting?

Photo by Alex Sturrock READ MORE

13 August, 2013. London – The destruction of benefits and job opportunities has stirred Britain's entrepreneurial spirit, or at least our sense of desperation, as people have no choice but to try to find their own ways of earning enough money to keep themselves fed, housed and heated. The number of self-employed people has surged in the five years since the start of the recession from 650,000 to 4.5 million.

Imagine a modern entrepreneur and you probably picture someone with an iPad, a deep-V and a B@1 black card. However, a typical self-employed worker these days earns 40 percent less than a typical employee. One of those is Shane, a scrap metal collector, who we followed around for the day. In the end, he manages to earn 20 quid.

Photo by Nicholas Pomeroy READ MORE

Summer 2011/12/13, Absolutely Everywhere – Fortunately in Britain we still have a monarchy to take our minds off of our terrible lives. As if by some divine intervention, the Royal family give us not one, not two, but THREE opportunities to celebrate their inherent majesty at vast public expense during the coalition's rule. First there is the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, which shows that any commoner can become a princess, especially if your family have been moving in royal circles for a century. Next comes the Diamond Jubilee and, finally, the birth of Baby Prince George, who – from his first boke on someone’s shoulder – sets about proving himself a worthy head of state.

It's all pretty handy because if the money's getting tight all that red, white and blue bunting is massively re-usable, especially if you really care a lot about the Queen and are thinking of joining Britain First this summer.

Photo by Simon Childs READ MORE

30 August, 2013. Westminster, London – It's the summer of 2013, and Western intervention is all set to make a big comeback. Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s forces have reportedly gassed civilians, which is judged to be a step too far after over two years of terrible, terrible war. Despite public opinion, David Cameron is gunning to drop some peace bombs, but Labour say we should hold off until the UN have okayed military action. In a huge embarrassment for the government, those who are unconvinced that sending in a load of missiles is the best way to foster peace win the vote. Shortly afterwards, the US get cold feet, too. The civil war continues and the death toll passes 150,000.

Photo by Kieran Cudlip READ MORE

15 September, 2013. Gloucestershire – In October 2013 the government trial a cull of badgers, which they argue is necessary to prevent the spread of bovine TB. This brings animal lovers out into the wild to patrol the countryside, sitting at badger setts to sabotage the cull and stop their friends being blasted to death. The trail is considered a failure with the cull target not met. Environment Minister Owen Paterson complains that "the badgers moved the goalposts".

Photo by Oscar Webb READ MORE

11 December, 2013. London – After the battle to halt the rise in tuition fees has been lost, the narrative for student activists moves on. Their new target is the commercialisation of education and the increasingly shitty social strata that they are beginning to occupy. In late 2013, they take to the streets with the slogan, "Cops Off Campus", the idea being that the cops are needed to help implement unpopular wage cuts, and that they therefore deserve to have refuse thrown at their vans.

Photo by Tom Johnson READ MORE

9 January, 2014. London – After a three-month inquest, the police officer who shot and killed Mark Duggan is declared innocent, outraging his family who point out that Duggan was unarmed when he was shot. The decision does little to soothe community relations with the police in Tottenham.

Photo by Cian Oba-Smith READ MORE

28 February, 2014. Torquay, Devon – Many of those angry at the government eschew the Labour Party as the go-to opposition vote. The immigrant hating, anti-EU UK Independence Party race ahead in the polls and are widely tipped to come first in June 2014's European elections.

Photo by Nicholas Pomeroy READ MORE

28 March, 2014. Westminster, London – In the space of three days, two giants of the British left bow out. Bob Crow, the leader of the RMT union, was a thorn in the side of stressed-out commuters and transport bosses for decades, but was loved by his members, among them tube drivers who – thanks to their strong union – are some of the last working-class people in London who earn a decent wage. Crow dies on the 11th of March and three days later, Tony Benn – a former aristo turned compassionate hero of the left – follows him.

Up until his death, Crow remained one of the British establishment's biggest foes. In 1981, Benn came within 1 percent of winning the Labour Party leadership on the hardest-left wing platform of modern times. Inevitably, their passings are widely portrayed as symbolic of the demise of the British left.

Photo of young Tory members by Huw Nesbitt READ MORE

Spring, 2014. The future? – If you thought the government were universally hated, you'd be wrong. In 2013, a British Social Attitudes Survey reveals that Generation Y's support for the Tories has doubled to 20 percent since 2003. In March 2014, a Guardian/ICM poll finds that 54 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds would consider voting Tory at the next election.

@simonchilds13