Posts Tagged ‘Supermarkets’

Anti-NHS Privatisation Graffiti in Bristol’s Stokes Croft

April 2, 2017

Stokes Croft is not a part of the city I go to regularly. It’s on the other side of Bristol from me. However, I was passing through it yesterday on the way to a conference at elsewhere. It’s a very bohemian part of town, with an ethnically mixed population as well as a large number of students. It’s also very left-wing. A few years ago the people there rioted against the opening of yet another supermarket, which they were afraid would destroy the area’s local shops. One of the companies down there is a cooperative, which helps drug addicts and criminals back on their feet through creating new pieces from old pottery. I’ve heard this company has actually called itself at time, ‘the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft’.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see, staring out of a window, several large pieces of graffiti protesting against the privatisation of the NHS. One of them said in large, blue letters scrawled across the front of a closed shop, ‘Kissing the NHS Goodbye’. Even before the bus got to Stokes Croft, there was a large sign up in the Horsefair, which is just outside, advertising a demo against it a year or so ago.

I haven’t, unfortunately, got any pictures of this. I will, however, take some the next time I go there. If any of the readers of this blog also have pics they want to send in, I’ll gladly post them up here with the proper credit.

This issue isn’t going away, and more and more people are organising to challenge it.

How Labour Can Become a Party of the Countryside

April 2, 2017

Last Thursday Mike put up a piece asking ‘How can Labour become the party of the countryside again?’, following the announcement by the Fabian Society that it was launching a project to investigate ways in which the Labour party could start winning over rural communities in England and Wales. The Society stated that the government had promised to match the subsidies granted to farmers and rural communities under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020. However, farmers are faced with the devastating prospect of losing access to European markets, while being undercut by cheap foreign imports. Environmental regulations are also threatened, which also affect the continuing beauty of the English and Welsh countryside.

The Society recognises that agriculture isn’t the only issue affecting rural communities. They also suffer from a range of problems from housing, education, transport and the closure of local services. Rural communities pay more for their transport, and are served worst. At the same time, incomes in the countryside are an average of £4,000 lower than in the towns, but prices are also higher. Many market towns, pit villages and other rural communities have been abandoned as their inhabitants have sought better opportunities in the towns.

The Society is asking Labour members in rural communities to fill out a survey, to which Mike’s article is linked, and give their views on how the party can succeed in the countryside.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/28/how-can-labour-become-the-party-of-the-countryside-again/

This is a fascinating project, and if successful would see Labour challenge the Tories and Lib Dems in their heartlands. The Tories in particular seem to see themselves as the party of the countryside since the 18th and 19th centuries, when they represented the Anglican aristocracy, who tried to emphasise the rural traditions of a mythical prosperous ‘merrie England’ against the threat of the towns of the growth of the Liberal middle class.

Mike states that one of the problems he’s faced as a Labour party campaigner in his part of rural Wales is the myth that ‘Labour wants to nationalise farms’. Clearly, this is the part of the same complaint I remembering hearing from middle class children at school that ‘Labour wanted to nationalise everything’. It was to allay these suspicions that Blair went off and got rid of Clause 4 as part of his assault on Labour as the party of the working class. But even before then it was nonsense.

Following Labour’s defeat in the 1950 elections, the party halted its programme of nationalisation. Labour was in any case committed to nationalise only when it was necessary and popular. Thus, Atlee’s government set up the NHS and nationalised the utilities, with very little opposition from the Tories, but did not proceed further. And the Social Democratic section of the party, led by Tony Crosland, argued very strongly against nationalisation on the grounds that it was not only unpopular, but the benefits of nationalisation could be achieved in other ways, such as a strong trade union movement, a welfare state and progressive taxation.

This held sway until the 1970s, when the Keynsian consensus began to break down. Labour’s response in 1973 was to recommend a more comprehensive programme of nationalisation. They put forward a list of 25 companies, including the sugar giant, Tate & Lyle, which they wanted taken into public ownership. How large this number seems to be, it is far short complete nationalisation.

The party was strongly aware of the massive problems the Soviet Union had in feeding its population, thanks to the collectivisation of agriculture. Most of the food produced in the USSR came from the private plots the peasants were allowed on their kholkozy – collective farms. Tito’s government in Yugoslavia had attempted to avoid that by letting the farms remain in private hands. At the same time, only companies that employed more than 20 people were to be nationalised.

Even in the 1930s and 40s I don’t think the nationalisation of farmland was quite an option. Looking through the contents of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, I found an old copy of Production for the People, published by the Left Book Club in the 1940s. This explored ways in which Socialists could raise production in industry and agriculture, to the benefit of working people. The section on agriculture was almost wholly devoted to the question of subsidies and suitable government infrastructure to support farmers. I can’t remember there being any mention of nationalisation. The closest the book came was to argue for an expansion of rural cooperatives.

This project may well embarrass the Fabian Society. I’ve got the distinct impression that the Society is now staffed very strongly with Blairites, and it is Blairism as a barely left extension of Thatcherism that is at the heart of so many of the problems of rural communities. Blair, for example, like Major and now the administrations of Cameron and May, strongly supported the big supermarket chains. But the supermarket chains have done immense damage to Britain’s small businessmen and farmers. They force small shopkeepers out of business, and impose very exploitative contracts on their suppliers. See the chapter on them in George Monbiot’s Captive State. Yet national and local governments have fallen over to grant their every wish up and down the country. David Sainsbury even had some place in one of Blair’s quangos. I think he even was science minister, at one point.

If Labour would like to benefit farmers and traders, they could try and overturn the power of the supermarket chains, so that farmers get a proper price for their products and are not faced with the shouldering the costs while Sainsbury’s, Tescos and so on reap all the profits. At the same time, your local shops together employ more people than the local supermarket. So if you cut down on the number of supermarkets in an area, you’d actually boost employment. But this is unlikely to go down well with the Blairites, looking for corporate donations and a seat on the board with these pernicious companies when they retire or lose their seat.

At the same time, rural communities and livelihoods are also under attack from the privatisation of the forestry service. Fracking is also a threat to the environment, as is the Tories campaign against green energy. A number of villages around Britain, including in Somerset, have set up local energy companies generating power from the sun and wind. But the current government is sponsored heavily by the oil and nuclear companies, and so is desperate to close these projects down, just like the Republicans are doing in America.

The same goes for the problems of transport. After Maggie Thatcher decided to deregulate bus services, the new bus companies immediately started cutting unprofitable services, which included those to rural areas. If Labour really wants to combat this problem, it means putting back in place some of the regulations that Thatcher removed.

Also, maintaining rural communities as living towns and villages also means building more houses at prices that people in the countryside can afford. It may also mean limiting the purchase of housing stock as convenient second homes for wealthy urbanites. The Welsh Nats in the ’70s and ’80s became notorious for burning down holiday homes in Wales owned by the English. In actual fact, I think it’s now come out that only a tiny number – perhaps as low as 1 – were actually destroyed by Welsh nationalists. The rest were insurance jobs. But I can remember my Welsh geographer teacher at school explaining why the genuine arsonists were so angry. As holiday homes, they’re vacant for most of the year. The people, who own them don’t live locally, and so don’t use local services, except for the couple of weeks they’re there. Furthermore, by buying these homes, they raise the prices beyond the ability of local people to buy them, thus forcing them out.

This is a problem facing rural communities in England, not just Wales, and there are some vile people, who see nothing wrong with it. I’ve a friend, who was quite involved in local politics down in Somerset. He told me how he’d had an argument on one of the Somerset or rural British websites with a very right-wing, obnoxious specimen, who not only saw nothing wrong with forcing local country people out of their homes, but actually celebrated it. This particular nutter ranted on about how it was a ‘new highland clearances’. I bet he really wouldn’t like to say that in Scotland!

Labour may also be able to pick up votes by attacking the myth of the fox hunting lobby as really representing rural Britain. Well, Oscar Wilde once described them as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible’. Which about accurately describes them. They were resented in the early 19th century, when some farmers and squires started ‘subscription hunts’. Their members where wealthy urban businessmen, off for a day’s ‘sport’ in the country. At the same time, harsh laws were passed against poaching, which saw starving farm workers transported.

Mike’s put up statistics several times on his blog, which show very much that very many, perhaps even the majority, of rural people do not support fox hunting. And I know people from rural Britain, who actively loathed and detested it. I had a friend at College, who came from Devon. He bitterly hated the Tories and the fox hunters, not least because the latter had ridden down a deer into school playing field and killed it in front of the children.

Another friend of mine comes from East Anglia. He told me how many of the tenant farmers over there also hated the fox hunting crowd, not least because of the cavalier way they assumed they had the right to ride over the land of the small farmers in pursuit of the ‘game’.

The fox hunting crowd do not represent rural Britain as a whole, and their claim to do so should be attacked and shown to be massively wrong at every opportunity. As for the Tories’ claim to be the party of the countryside, they have represented the interests only of the rich landed gentry, and the deregulation and privatisation introduced by Maggie Thatcher and carried on by successive right-wing administrations, including May and Cameron, have done nothing but harm real working people in rural Britain. The bitter persecution of the farmworker’s unions set up in the 19th century clearly demonstrate how far back this hatred and contempt goes.

‘I’ Newspaper: Joshua Bonehill Found Guilty of Harassing Liverpool Jewish MP

December 8, 2016

After all the false accusations of anti-Semitism made smear genuinely decent people, here’s a story about a real anti-Semite. Yes, it’s that old Nazi troll, Joshua Bonehill-Paine, the ‘Founder’ and wannabe fuehrer of legions of Fascist storm troopers that don’t actually exist. Today’s I newspaper (8 December 2016) carried a report by Emily Pennink, Anti-Semitic blogger guilty of harassing Jewish MP, that Bonehill has been found guilty of racially harassing Luciana Berger, a Jewish MP for one of the constituencies in Liverpool. The article states

A racist internet troll was found guilty yesterday of harassing the MP Luciana Berger in a series of anti-Jewish rants he sent after the jailing of a fellow far-right extremist.

Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 24, wrote five hate-filled blogs about the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree after Garron Helm was sent to prison for four weeks in October 2014. Bonehill-Paine denied racially aggravated harassment but was convicted by an Old Bailey jury.

Helm, 21, from Merseyside, had admitted posting a picture on Twitter which showed Ms Berger, 35, with holocaust-era Star of David on her forehead and the hashtag “Hitler was right”. Over the next four months, Bonehill-Paine posted articles online calling her a “dominatrix” and “an evil money-grabber” with a “deep-rooted hatred of men”. In one, he claimed the number of Jewish Labour MPs was a “problem”.

He illustrated his posts with offensive pictures. Throughout, Bonehill-Paine, of Yeovil, Somerset, was on bail awaiting sentence for claiming on Twitter that several people were paedophiles. Giving evidence in person, Ms Berger said she felt sickened by the blogs and “very much under attack”. (p. 21).

Bonehill’s a weird character, who’s been hauled before the beak several times for his bizarre, far-right antics. He’s been arrested for trying to steal police uniforms from a police station, threatening to defecate in a supermarket, falsely accusing a pub of not serving members of the armed forces so as not to upset Muslims, and harassing a young woman when she spurned his advances. This included him sending her an Iron Cross, which he claimed had belonged to Adolf Hitler.

He’s set himself up as the leader of a vast and growing Fascist party that doesn’t seem to exist except in his own imagination. He gave a public speech announcing the launch of one of these shadowy parties in one of the parks in his home town of Yeovil, to a handful of people comprising a couple of police officers and a journalist. Even so, the audience massively outnumbered his Fascist legions, which consisted of precisely one person: himself. He claimed that the real meeting was being held in an undisclosed pub elsewhere in the town.

It’s a moot point whether or not Bonehill himself believes the Nazi tripe he spouts. In a passage he wrote on his blog, which he has since denied, Bonehill claimed that he was only pretending to be a Nazi. It was, he claimed, an invented personality he created, inspired by David Bowie’s persona of Ziggy Stardust. It was intended to deceive and upset both Nazis and anti-Nazis.

Bowie himself did seem to come dangerously close to flirting with Fascism in the 1970s. There’s footage, which has been played by the Beeb on shows about the late pop idol’s life, in which he states that there could only be one real choice for prime minister, and so he was putting himself forward as the Fascist candidate. But Bowie very definitely wasn’t racist. His second wife, Iman, was, I believe, a Somali. The Nazis themselves hated Jazz, the ancestor of rock and roll, as Black music which corrupted Whites. And despite the homosexual undercurrent in Nazism, they hated gay men and sent them to the concentration camps. The ambiguous sexuality of the Ziggy Stardust persona would have been very definitely illegal in Nazi Germany.

It’d be good to think that if this is just a prank by Bonehill, that this time he just might take notice of where it’s getting him and drop it. Unlike Bowie and Stardust, there’s nothing clever or innovative about it. It’s just stupid, offensive and annoying. And it’s about time he realised this, and where it’s getting him, and stopped it.

The Threatened Return of Tony Blair to British Politics

November 23, 2016

The I newspaper today carried the news that Tony Blair wants to return to British politics. Apparently, the former PM thinks that his reputation is ‘recoverable’. There wasn’t much more to the piece than that, the rest of the small snippet being composed of two other newspapers reactions to this news. One of them quoted Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, who claimed that without Blair making Britain join Bush’s invasion of Iraq, the Labour party would not be led by Jeremy Corbyn today.

I can see his point. Blair’s participation in an illegal war, which has turned the country into a blood bath, facilitated the rise of Daesh, and led to the deaths of so many brave men and women, simply so the multinationals and the Saudis can loot the country’s oil and other industries, is one of the major reasons why voters became increasingly disenchanted with the Labour party and its Tory leadership. But there were many other reasons besides.

Basically, Blair was responsible for many of the disastrous policies that are gutting our precious health and school systems. They were expanded by Cameron, and are being carried on apace by Theresa May, but Blair was responsible for starting them.

These policies include

* The privatisation of the NHS, with the piecemeal dismantlement of the Health Service into ‘community care groups’, intended to be able to commission private health care companies to provide medical services; the expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, launched by the Tories’ Peter Lilley, which has burden hospitals with massive debts, all for the profit of private companies; deliberate outsourcing of medical services to private healthcare companies; and the establishment of ‘polyclinics’ or walk-in medical centres, again as private firms. Alan Milburn had the goal of reducing the NHS to a kitemark on services provided by private healthcare providers.

* The launch of the disastrous academies. These were set up by Blair as City Academies, and based on an idea Norman Baker rolled out under Thatcher, but which had to be abandoned because even they realised it was rubbish. The academies are monstrously expensive, in many cases costing nearly ten times as much as the budget given to the LEA for all the schools in its catchment area. They are highly selective, and in many cases also extremely discriminatory, using mass expulsions and exclusion to get rid of difficult pupils, or students, who are less able than their fellows, in order to keep their academic ratings artificially high. Despite this, about 80 per cent of them are no better than the LEA schools against which they compete, and the excellent results of the other 20 per cent are no more than you would expect, if each individual state school received £20-£30 million in funding.

* The massive expansion of corporate power into the mechanism of government, with unelected managing directors and company heads being given positions on government committees and quangos.

* Massive backing for the supermarkets, despite these harming local businesses and exploiting their suppliers through highly unfair and manipulative contracts.

* Continuing the Tory policy of deregulating and favouring the financial sector, with the result that all the safeguards that could have prevented the 2008 crash were removed. And that led to the current situation, where ordinary people are being pushed further into poverty, while the bankers are back enjoying massive bonuses and corporate bail-outs.

* The further cutting of the benefits system, including the introduction of the Work Capability Tests, which have seen tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of disabled people thrown off benefits, declared ‘fit for work’, and left to struggle and die in poverty. Several hundred have so far died as a direct result of being left without an income due to these tests.

* Privatisation of the prison service. Blair was approached and lobbied by American private prison operators, like Wackenhut, about handing the running of British prisons over to them.

* The passage of further legislation intended to weaken whatever remained of the power of trade unions.

* Oh yes, and the privatisation, or at least the part-privatisation, of the Post Office.

He was also responsible for the further, massive expansion of the surveillance state, secret courts and expanding the length of time prisoners can be held without charge.

I realise that these policies weren’t new. Many of them, like the PFI and the City Academies, were recycled Tory ideas, as were his privatisations, including the NHS, and the welfare reforms, which were deliberately intended to cut welfare support to the unemployed and long-term sick. But Blair did not have a mandate for them, and in opposition had explicitly condemned them. And in fact, Blair 1997 election victory was such that he could have comfortably reversed them with no threat of losing votes to the Tories.

But he didn’t. He carried on with the policies he’d inherited from Thatcher and Major, policies which have been in turn passed on and expanded by Cameron and May. These policies also played no small part in creating the disenfranchisement of large sections of the working class from British politics, and alienating traditional, working class Labour voters as Blair chased the votes of the middle class and rich. And these policies on their own should be enough to make people heartily sick and tired of him. Coupled with his illegal, murderous wars in the Middle East, they present an overwhelming argument against him making a comeback.

Blair possibly believes that if he returns to British politics, his presence will be enough to rally the neoliberal troops in the Labour party, oust Jeremy Corbyn, and make the party ‘electable’, or rather, palatable to Britain’s corrupt, bloated and exploitative establishment again.

Let’s show the vile, corporate warmonger that he’s very, very wrong.

Vox Political: The Cooperative Party Fighting Back against New Labour Infiltration?

September 10, 2016

Mike today has posted up an interesting little piece about the Cooperative Party’s plans to develop some distinctive policies of its own. The party has been allied to Labour since 1927, and has 25 MPs elected on a joint ticket. Gareth Thomas, the MP for Harrow West, who chairs the party, has said that the party will be developing its own distinctive policies ahead of centenary next year in 2017. Among the policies suggested is the representation of carers on the boards of companies providing social care services, and that the care workers for those companies should be able to take over those companies if they’re going to close or change hands. Mike comments that these are excellent policies.

The party has also stated that it is staying neutral in the leadership contest, and has rejected the idea that it is going to be infiltrated by right-wing Labour MPs, who want to split away and turn it into a vehicle for their own campaign against Jeremy Corbyn. Mike comments that the policies look like they’re deliberately formulated as part of a backlash against attempts by the Blairites to take over the party. He is, however, sceptical about how neutral it really is in the leadership contest. He asks how many of its MPs signed the letter supporting Owen Smith.

Mike’s piece is at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/09/is-co-operative-partys-new-stance-a-backlash-against-new-labour-takeover-bid/

G.D.H. Cole in the 1940s wrote a massive history of the cooperative movement, A Century of Cooperation. It’s astonishing now, after the co-op has largely turned itself into a mainstream supermarket, how revolutionary co-operatives were, and how deeply ingrained they were as part of working class life. In their time, they were seen as a genuinely revolutionary movement that would superseded capitalism. The vast majority of co-operatives were retail, but producers’ cooperatives, in which the workers also had a share in management, also existed. I think all workers should have the opportunity to take over and run failing companies, just as a few were given such power way back in the 1970s by Labour party. A few years ago I reblogged a video on the way the Argentinian economy was partly saved by its workers taking over failing economies, with comments by the veteran American radical, Naomi Wolf. Since then, most have returned to being normal capitalist enterprises. Nevertheless, the success of these companies does show that workers also can be good managers.

Max Beer on the Depression of the Lower Middle Classes by Big Business

August 28, 2016

I found this passage in Max Beer’s two volume book, A History of British Socialism, in volume 2, page 347. It’s part of a long discussion on how the early Labour party was assisted in its rise because of the way the working class and the lower middle class found themselves under similar attack and allied themselves against attempts by big business to reduce their independence and grind them into subservience. Beer’s book was published in Britain in 1920, but this passage could describe the situation of millions of office workers, sales assistants and small shopkeepers today. And especially the latter. I’ve already blogged about the way the predatory supermarkets are driving the small businesspeople into bankruptcy, and in so doing pushing up unemployment. In this passage, Beer talks about how the shopkeepers of his time were under attack from the department stores. He writes

In commerce and finance a similar process has come into operation. The wholesale traders are reducing the retail traders to the role of distributive agents working on commission. And the great manufacturers are gaining control both over the wholesale and retail trade. The great departmental store, the large importers, and the co-operative societies have been displacing great numbers of small shopkeepers. The tendency of modern times appears to be the displacement of the independent lower middle class by a salaried class of clerks, salesmen, official and civil servants. This process of concentration in commerce and finance could not escape the observation of a sociological writers like H.G. Wells. “Shopkeeping, like manufactures,” he declares, “began to concentrate in large establishments, and by wholesale distribution to replace individual buying and selling… The once flourishing shopkeeper lives to-day on the mere remnants of the trade that great distributing stores or the branches of great companies have left him. Tea companies, provision-dealing companies, tobacconist companies, make the position of the old-established private shop unstable and the chances of the new beginner hopeless. Railway and tramway takes the custom more and more effectually past the door of the small draper and outfitter to the well-stocked establishments at the centre of things; telephone and telegraph assist that shopping at the centre more and more… And this is equally true of the securities of that other section of the middle class, the section which lives upon invested money. There, too, the big eats the little. through the seas and shallows of investment flow great tides and depressions, on which the big fortunes ride to harbour while the little accumulations, capsized and swamped, quiver down to the bottom”.

I think Wells was the son of a shopkeeper, and so had personal experience and interest in what was happening to this class. And the description of how trade was moving away from the local area into the centre of towns, assisted by the trams and railways, along with orders by telephone and telegraph, could almost be a description of the ruin of modern British high streets by the construction of vast, out of town shopping centres and the mass ordering of goods by shoppers through internet dealers, like Amazon. We’ve been here before, folks, and Old Labour had the capacity and will to solve those problems. And it still has, if it can get past the Blairites and their intransigent advocacy of big business against the worker, the employee and the small businesspeople.

Guy Standing’s Arguments against Workfare: Part 2

August 8, 2016

The arguments trotted out to support the workfare policies are these.

1. Everyone has a duty to work. Those who take money from the state have a reciprocal obligation to work for the support they have received.

2. Following Moynihan in America, it’s argued that part of the problem of poverty in society is communities, where there are families, which have not worked for generations. In order to break the cycle of poverty, these people must be forced into work.

3. It’s also argued that many individuals have also been unemployed for so long that they, too, have lost the habit of working. These people must also be forced to work.

4. The unemployed are also socially marginalised and excluded. Workfare helps them, its supporters argue, become integrated into society and so become productive members of the community once again.

5. It is also claimed that workfare allows people to acquire new skills. In 2012 a report was published on the exploitation of the people forced to work for free as security guards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A spokesman for the ConDem coalition responded to the claim by stating: ‘The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop skills that they need to get a job that is sustainable.’ As Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols sang back in 1977 ‘God save the Queen and the Fascist regime.’

6. Workfare somehow reduces government spending on welfare programmes. Liam Byrne, New Labour’s advocate for workfare, who was quoted in the first part of this article, said ‘The best way to save money is to get people back into work.’

In fact there are serious arguments against just about all of these points, and some of them simply aren’t factually true. Let’s deal with each of these arguments in turn.

The Duty to Work

If people have a duty to perform free work for the goods and services that are provided freely by the state, then the middle classes and the elite should particularly be targeted for workfare, because they use the state infrastructure and its services more than the proles and those at the bottom of society. But the middle and upper classes most definitely are not required to perform these services. Furthermore there are also strong objections to performing workfare for a profit-making company. Those who do so, like those poor souls working free of charge for the big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, are helping to make these companies even more profitable. It isn’t society that profits from their work, but extremely wealthy individuals like David Sainsbury and his shareholders, and the people running his competitors, for example. This claim also implies that low income people have a duty to work in an inferior position for the benefit of their social or economic superiors in a master-servant relationship. This is a distortion of the concept of duty. The same idea also leads to the view that if you are unsuccessful in the labour market, you therefore have a duty to work for nothing, a view of society that is both regressive – harking back to some of the worst aspects of the Victorian era – an alienating. On the other hand, if you are performing work that is unprofitable, then there should be no duty to perform it. If it is genuine, valuable work, then the people performing it should be paid the current market rate, not simply provided with unemployment relief.

Standing also makes the point that the concept of duty has led to the belief that people should be forced to find work. But the use of coercion is divisive and actually undermines the commitment to work. He also argues that it actually amoral, because it takes away from workers their ability to choose for themselves whether to be moral. Plus the fact that workfare is not levied on the idle rich, or the friends and relatives of the politicians forcing it on others.

Multigenerational Families of the Unemployed

The number of families that actually fit this description is so small as to be negligible, both in America and over here in Blighty. The academics T. Shildrick, R. MacDonald, C. Webster, and K. Garthwaite examined this issue in their Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain (Bristol: Policy Press 2012). Their research revealed that only 1 per cent fitted the description of a family in which two generations were unemployed. Official attempts to find these pockets of intergenerational unemployment have similarly turned up next to zilch. The whole idea is rubbish, but that hasn’t stopped papers like the Daily Fail claiming it’s true.

Getting People out of the Habit of Not Having a Job

Researchers have also looked at this one, too, and guess what? Yup, it’s similarly rubbish. There are very few people like this. But rather than acting as an incentive to find work, actually being forced to work unpaid in poor conditions may actually act as a deterrent.

Integrating the Jobless Back into Society

Far from being calculated to help the long-term unemployed back into society, the type of work that they are forced to do under workfare is humiliating. In many cases, this is quite deliberate as part of the government’s ideology of ‘less eligibility’ and dissuading people from going on benefits. And studies by the researchers and the DWP itself have also found that workfare makes absolutely no difference to whether a claimant gets a job afterwards.

Enabling the Unemployed to Acquire New Skills

This is also rubbish, as the type of menial work people are giving under workfare, in which they sweep the streets or stack shelves, are by their nature unskilled. And if a skilled worker is forced to perform them for months on end, this type of work is actually like to make them lose their skills.

Workfare Cuts Government Spending

This is also rubbish. In fact, workfare increases government expenditure on the unemployed, as the government has to pay subsidies to the firms employing them, and pay the costs of administration, which are actually quite heavy. And the work those on the programme actually perform doesn’t produce much in the way of taxable income, so money doesn’t come back to the government. Furthermore, most of the people on benefits are actually working, which makes Liam Byrne’s statement that the best way to save money is to get people back into work’ a barefaced lie.

Let’s Get Fascist with Neoliberal Corporatism

August 1, 2016

By which I certainly don’t mean supporting racism, xenophobia, genocide and the destruction of democracy, or vile, strutting dictators.

British and American politics are now dominated to an overwhelming extent by the interests of corporations and big business. Corporations in America sponsor and donate handsomely to the campaign funding of congressmen and -women, who return the favour, passing legislation and blocking other acts to the benefit of their corporate sponsors. I put up a piece a little while ago from the radical internet news service, Democracy Now!, reporting on how funding by the Koch brothers has resulted in policies that massively favour the oil industry, against the Green movement and efforts to combat climate change. Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, is also part of this corrupt web. She sits a number of leading American companies, and was paid something like a quarter of a million dollars for speeches she made to Wall Street. This has had a demonstrable effect on her policies, which strongly favour big business and, naturally, the financial sector. This corruption of American democracy ultimately goes back to the 1970s, when a court ruled that sponsorship by a corporation constituted free speech under the law, thus undermining the legislation that had existed for over 150 years against it. After about forty years of corporate encroachment on the res publica, the result is that America is no longer a democracy. A recent report by Harvard University concluded that the nation had become an oligarchy. This is reflected by the low rating of Congress in polls of the American public. These have shown that only about 14% of Americans are happy that their parliament represents them.

This situation is no different over here, although the corruption has been going on for much longer. ‘Gracchus’, the pseudonymous author of the 1944 book, Your MP, detailed the various Tory MPs who were the owners or managers of companies. Earlier this evening I posted piece about the recent publication of a book, Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics, which revealed that British MPs have about 2,800 directorships in 2,450 companies. It’s blurb states that MPs are not working for the general public. They are working for these companies. Nearly a decade or so ago, George Monbiot said pretty much the same in his book, Corporate State, as he investigated the way outsourcing, privatisation and the Private Finance Initiative meant that the state was increasingly in retreat before the encroachment of corporate power, which was now taking over its functions, and official policies were designed to support and promote this expansion. This has meant, for example, that local councils have supported the construction of supermarkets for the great chains, like Sainsbury’s, despite the wishes of their communities, and the destructive effects this has on local traders, shopkeepers and farmers.

In America, there is a growing movement to end this. One California businessman has set up a campaign, ‘California Is Not For Sale’, demanding that Congressmen, who are sponsored by corporations, should wear sponsorship logos exactly like sportsmen. In my last blog post, I put up an interview between Jimmy Dore, a comedian with The Young Turks, and David Cobb, the Outreach Officer with Move to Amend, a campaign group with 410,000 members across America, working to remove corporate sponsorship.

As I’ve blogged before, we desperately need a similar campaign in Britain. But it would be strongly resisted. Tony Blair’s New Labour was notorious for its soft corruption, with Peter Mandelson’s notorious statement that the party was ‘extremely relaxed about getting rich’. The Tories are no better, and in many ways much worse. When this issue was raised a few years ago, a leading Tory dismissed it with the statement that the Tory party was the party of business. David Cameron pretended to tackle the problem of political lobbying, but this was intended to remove and limit political campaigning by charities, trade unions and other opposition groups, leaving the big lobbying companies and the Tories’ traditional corporate backers untouched.

This corporate domination of politics and the legislature has been termed ‘corporatism’. This also harks back to the corporate state, one of the constitutional changes introduced in Italy by the Fascists under Mussolini. This was partly developed from the Italian revolutionary syndicalist tradition. The corporations were supposed to be a modern form of the medieval guilds. They consisted of both the employer’s organisations and the trade unions for particular industries, and were responsible for setting terms and conditions. Parliament was abolished and replaced with a council of corporations. Mussolini made much of this system, arguing that it had created social peace, and that it made Fascism a new political and economic system, neither Socialist nor capitalist.

In fact, the corporate state was nothing more than ideological camouflage to hide the fact that Fascism rested on brute force and the personal dictatorship of Mussolini. The power of trade unions was strictly subordinated to the control of the industrialists and the Fascist party. The Council of Corporations had no legislative power, and was really just there to rubber stamp Musso’s decisions.

But if the Tories and big business want a corporate state, perhaps they should get a corporate state, though following the more radical ideas of Fascist theorists like Ugo Spirito. Spirito was a philosophy professor, teaching at a number of Italian universities, including Genoa, Messina, Pisa and Rome. At the Ferrara Congress on Corporative Studies, held in May 1932, he outraged the Fascist leadership and conservatives by arguing that the Corporate state had resulted in property acquiring a new meaning. In the corporations, capital and labour would eventually merge in the large corporations, and their ownership would similarly pass from the shareholders to the producers, who manage it based on their industrial expertise. It was attacked as ‘Bolshevik’, and Spirito himself later described it as ‘Communist’. Despite the denunciations, it was popular among university students, who wanted the Fascist party to return to its radical Left programme of 1919.

If we are to have a corporate state with industrialists represented in parliament, as so promoted by neoliberal politicians, we should also include the workers and employees in those industries. For every company director elected to parliament, there should be one or more employees elected by the trade unions to represent the workforce. And as another Fascist, Augusto Turati argued, there should be more employee representatives elected than those of the employers because there are more workers than managers.

And as the outsourcing companies are performing the functions of the state, and those captains of industry elected to parliament are also representatives of their companies, these enterprises should be subject to the same public oversight as state industries. Their accounts and the minutes of their meetings should be a matter of public record and inspection. Considerations of commercial secrecy should not apply, because of the immense responsibility they have and the importance of their duties to the public, particularly as it affects the administration of the welfare state, the health service, and the prison and immigration system.

On the other hand, if this is too ‘Socialist’, then industry should get out of parliament and stop perverting democracy for its own ends and inflicting poverty and hardship of the rest of us.

Frank Zola Gets DWP To Release Names of Workfare Companies

July 30, 2016

I got this message yesterday from blog reader, Michelle, with a link attached:

Hi Dave,

Just saw this, this eve, thought you and possibly Mike would find it interesting for your data banks, quite a list! Just need to scroll down to get to the list.

Names of hosts for DWP “schemes…collectively referred to as “workfare”” – a Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions – WhatDoTheyKnow from refuted’s Tweet

Hope all is well,

This took me to the What Do They Know page,describing how Frank Zola launched several Freedom of Information Act requests to get the DWP to release the names of the companies participating in the workfare scheme. Like Mike with the DWP and the figures for the number of people dying after being declared ‘fit for work’ by Atos, Mr Zola had to struggle, and was faced with repeated denials, against which he appealed.

He was successful, and got a full list of the companies employing labour from the workfare scheme. They are

NAMES OF PLACEMENT PROVIDERS FOR MWA DURING THE REQUESTED PERIOD
African Childrens Fund
Abacus Children’s Wear
ABCAL
Ability
Ace of Clubs Charity Shop
Acorns
Action for Disability
Action Housing
Active Community Team
Advocacy Support
Afro Caribbean Centre
Age Concern
Age UK
Agnew Community Centre
Air Ambulance
Aire Valley Recycling Ltd
Airedale Computers,
Al-Khair Foundation
All Aboard
Allied Healthcare
Almadene Care Home
AMF Torquay Bowling Alley
Amicus Horizon Housing Association
Animal Krackers
ARAS German Shepherd Inn
ARC
Archer Project
Arthritis Research UK
Arthur Rank
Arts Factory
ASAN
Asda
Asha Charity Shop
Ashgate Hospice
Aspire Community Enterprise Ltd
Auchinleck Talbot F.C.
Autism Plus
Aylestone Park Boys Football Club
Babygear
Back2Earth
Bangladesh People
Bangladeshi ass sangag centre
Barnardos
Basic Life Charity
B’Dwe
Beaumaris Hostel

Bedfordshire Education Academy
Belgrave Hall Museum
Bernicia Group (Social housing provider)
BHF
Blaby & Whetstone Boys Club
Blue Cross
Bluebell Wood
Bookers
Boots
Botanical Gardens
Bottle Rescue Aireworth Mill
BR Environmental
Bradford Autism Centre
Bradford Community repaint
Breaking Free
Brian Jackson House
Briardale Community Centre
Bright House
Brighton and hove wood recycling
Britannia College
British Heart Foundation
British Red Cross
British Waterways
Brockhurst Community Centre
Bryncynon Strategy
Bryncynon Strategy
Butterwick Hospice
Cancer Research
Cancer Uk
Capability Scotland
Care & Repair
Carers Centre
Caribbean Centre
Caribbean Restaurant (Streatham)
Carlisle Park
Carr Vale Allotments
Cash Convertors
Castle Gresley Community Centre
Cat Haven
Cats Protection League
Cauwood day services
CCA Furniture Outlet
Cerebal Palsey Care
Changing Lives in Clevedon
chapletown youth community centre
Chesterfield FC Community Trust
Chestnut Tree House Shop

Children in Distress
Children Scrapstore Reuse Centre
Children Trust
Childrens Society
Chopsticks North Yorkshire
Circulate
Citizen Advice Bureau
Claire House
Clic Sargent
Comfort Kids
Community Association – Trefechan
Community Re-Paint
Community Resource Centre
Community Voice
Complete Professional Care
Compton Hospice
Congburn Nurseries
Cooke Computers
Cooke E – Learning Foundation
Co-op
Corby Boating Lake
Cornerstone
Cornwall Hospice Care
County Durham Furniture Help Scheme
Croydon animal samaritans
CSV Media
Cusworth Hall
CVS Furniture
Dan’s Den Colwyn Bay
Dapp UK
DC Cleaning
Deans
Debra
Demzela
Derbyshire Timber Scheme
DHL
Dial Intake
Didcot Railyway Museum
Disabled Childrens Services
Discovery Community Cafe
Dogs Trust Glasgow
Dogsthorpe Recycling Centre
Doncaster College
Doncaster Community Centre
Dorothy House Hospice
Dorset Reclaim
Dovehouse Hospice Shop
Dragon Bands

Durham Wildlife Trust
E Waste Solutions
Earl Mountbatten Hospice
East Anglia Childrens Hospice Shop
East Cleveland Wildlife Trust
East Durham Partnership
East Midlands Islamic Relief Project
East West Community Project
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
eco Innovation Centre
Elleanor Lion Hospice
ELVON
Encephalitis society
English Landscapes
Enhanced Care Training
Enterprise UK
Environmental Resource Centre
Essex County Council
Extra care Charitable Trust
Fable
Family Support
Fara
Fare share Malmo Food Park
Featherstone Rovers
Fenland District Council
First Fruits
FN! Eastbourne
Foal Farm
Food Cycle
Fops Shop
forget me not childrens hospice
Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy
Fountain Abbey
Fox Rush Farm
FRADE
Frame
FRESCH
Fresh water christian charity
Friends of St Nicholas Fields
Furnish
Furniture for You
Furniture Project
FurnitureLink
Gateway funiture
Genesis Trust
George Thomas Hospice – Barry
Geranium Shop For The Blind
Glasgow Furniture Initative

Glen Street Play Provision
Goodwin Development Trust
Govanhill Baths Community Trust
Greenacres Animal Rescue Shop
Greenfingers
Greenscape
Greenstreams Huddersfield/ environmental alliance
Grimsby District Health care charity
Ground Work
Hadston House
Happy Staffie
Harlington Hospice
Hart Wildlife Rescue
Hartlepool Council
Hartlepool Hospice
Hartlepool Prop (Mental Health)
Hartlepool Trust Opening Doors
Hastings & Bexhill Wood Recycling Project
Havens Childrens Hospice Shop
Havering Country Park
headway
Healthy Living Centre
Hebburn Community Centre
Help the Aged
helping hands
High Beech Care Home
High Wycombe Central Aid
Hillam Nurseries
Hinsley Hall Headingley
Hobbit Hotel
Holmescarr Community Centre
Home Start
Homemakers
Hope central
Hospice of hope
Hounslow Community Transport Furniture Project
Hull Animal Welfare Trust Hull
Humanity at Heart
I Trust
Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO)
Intraining Employers
Ipswich Furniture Project
Iranian Association
Islamic Relief
Jacabs Well Care Center
Jesus Army Centre
JHP
Julian House Charity Shop

K.T. Performing Arts
Kagyu Samye Dzong London
Keech Hospice Care Shop
Keighley & District Disabled
Kier Services – Corby
Kilbryde Hospice
Killie Can Cycle
Kingston Community Furniture Project
Kiveton Park & Wales Community Development Trust
LAMH
Leeds & Moortown Furniture Store
Leicester City Council
Leicester Riders
Leicester Shopmobility
Leicestershire Aids Support Services
Leicestershire Cares
Lifework
Lighthouse
Linacre Reservoir
London Borough of Havering
London College of Engineering & Management Woolwich
Longley Organised Community Association
Lyme Trust
Lynemouth Resource Centre
Mackworth Comm. Charity Shop
Making a Difference
Marie Curie
Mark2 (marc)
Martin House Hospice
Mary Stevens Hospice
Matalan
Matchbox
Matthew25 Mission
Mayflower Sanctuary
MDJ Lightbrothers
Meadow Well Connected
MEC
Mental Health Support
Midland Railway Trust
MIND
Miners Welfare community centre
Mistley Place Park
Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal Regeneration Partnership Scheme
Moore Cleaning
Morrisons
Muslim Aid
Myton Hospice
Nandos

Naomi Hospice
National Railway Museum
National Trust
NDDT
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
Necessary Furniture
Neighbourhood funiture
Neterlands Dog Rescue
New Life Church
Newham Volenteers Group
Newport City Council
Nightingale House
NOAH enterprise
North East Lincs Motor Project
North London Hospice Shop
North Ormesby Community Shop
Northumberland County Council
Norwood
Old Nick Theatre
One 0 One
Open Secret
Overgate Hospice
Oxfam
Papworth Trust
Partner Shop
Paul Sartori Warehouse
Paws Animal Welfare Shop
PDSA
Pegswood Community Centre
Pennywell Community Association
Peterborough Streets
Pheonix Community Furniture
Pilgrim Hospice
Placement Furniture Project
Platform 51 Doncaster Womens Centre
Playworks
Plymouth Food Bank
Plymouth Play Association
Plymouth Volunteer Centre
Pound stretcher
POW Shop
Powys Animal Welfare Shop
PPE Paving
Preen Community Interest Company
Primrose
PRINCE & PRINCESS OF WALES
Prince of Wales Sherburn in elmet
Princess Trust
Queen Elizabeth Foundation

Queens Walk Community
Queensland Multi-Media Arts Centre
Rainbow Centre
Rainbows End Burngreave
Real Time Music
Recycling unlimited
Red Cross
Refurnish
Regenerate Community Enterprise
Remploy
Restore
Rhyl Adventure Playground Association
Right Time Foundation
RNID
Rochford Council
Rosalie Ryrie Foundation
Rosliston Foresty
Royal Society for Blind.
Royal Wotton Bassett Town Council
RSPB
RSPCA
Rudenotto
Rudyard Lake
S & S Services
Saffcare
Sainsburys
Salvation Army
Santosh Community Centre
Sara
Save the children
Savera Resource Centre
Scallywags
Scarborough Council
SCD Fabrications
School of English Studies
Scope
Scottish Cancer Support
Scottish International Relief
Scunthorpe Central Community Centre
Seagull Recycling
Seahouses Development Trust
Second Chance
Second Opportunities
Sedgemoor Furniture Store
Sense
Sesku Acadamy Centre
Shaw Trust
Sheffield Reclamation Ltd – Reclaim

Shelter
Shooting Stars
Shopmobility & Community Transport – Access
Slough Furniture Project
Smythe
Sneyd Green
Somali Community Parents Association
Somerfields
Somerset Wood Re-Cycling
South Ayrshire Council
South Bucks Hospice Warehouse
South Wales Boarders Museum
Southend United Football Club
Spaghetti House
Spitafields Crypt Trust
Splash fit
St Barnabas
St Catherines Hospice Trading
St Chads Community Centre
St Clare’s Hospice
St Davids Foundation
St Elizabeth Hospice Charity Shop
St Francis Hospice Shops Ltd
St Gemma’s Hospice
St Georges Crypt
St Giles
St Helens House
St Hughs Community Centre
St Lukes Hospice
St Margarets Hospice Scotland
St Oswald’s Hospice
St Peters Church
St Peters Hospice
St Raphaels hospice
St Vincents
St. Catherines Hospice
St.Theresa’s Charity Shop
Stages Café
Stannah Stair Lifts
Stef’s Farm (Education Farm)
Step Forward
Stocking Farm Healthy Living Centre ( Sure Start)
Stockton Council
Stone Pillow
STROKECARE
Strood Community Project
Strut Lincoln
Sudbury Town Council

Sue Ryder
Sunderland Community Furniture
Sunderland North Community Business Centre
Superdrug
Swindon 105.5
Sycamore Lodge
sydney bridge furniture shop
Sypha
T&M Kiddy’s Kingdom
Tara Handicrafts
Teamwork
Teesside Hospice
Tendring Furniture Scheme
Tendring Reuse & Employment Enterprise
Tenovus
Tesco
Thames Hospicecare
Thames Valley Hospice
Thanet District Council
The Ark Shop
The Art Organisation
The Charity Shop
The Childrens Society
The Childrens trust
The Crossing
The Good Neighbour Project
The Greenhouse
The Harrow Club
The Hinge Centre Ltd
The Isabella Community Centre
The Island Partnership
The Kiln Cafe
The learning community
The Linskill Centre
The Listening Company
The Octagon Centre Hull
The Old Manor House Riding Stables
The Princess Alice Hospice
The Range
The Reuse Centre
The Rising Sun Art Centre
The Rock Foundation Ice House
The Shores Centre
The Spurriergate Centre
The Undercliffe cemetary charity
The Vine Project
The Welcoming Project
The Woodworks (Genesis Trust)

Think 3E,
Thirsk Clock
Thurrock Council
Thurrock Reuse Partnership (TRUP)
TLC
TooGoodtoWaste
Top Draw
Traid
Trinity Furniture Store
Troed Y Rhiw Day Project
True Volunteer Foundation
Tukes
Twice as Nice Furniture Project
Twirls and Curls
Ty Hafan
Tylorstown Communities First
United Churches Healing Ministry
United Play Day Centre
Unity in the Community
UNMAH
Untapped Resource
Urban Recycling
Vale of Aylesbury Vineyard Church Project
Vista Blind
Walpole Water Gardens
Walsall Hospice
Wandsworth Oasis trading Company Limited
Wat Tyler Centre
WEC
Weldmar
Well Cafe
Wellgate Community Farm
Wellingborough District Hindu Centre
Western Mill Cemetary
WH Smith
Wheelbase
Whitby Council
Wildlife Trust
Wilkinsons
Willen Care Furniture Shop
Willington Community Resource Centre
Windhill Furniture Store Shipley
Woking Community Furniture Project
Womens Aid
Womens Centre
Woodlands Camp
Worsbrough Mill & County Park
Xgames
YMCA

York Archaeological Trust
York Bike Rescue
York Carers centre
Yorkshire Trust
Yozz Yard
Zest
Zues Gym

Mr Zola’s correspondence with the DWP and his attempts to get this information out of them can be read at the What Do They Know page at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/names_of_hosts_for_dwp_schemesco

The list can be read as an attachment to the page at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/348484/response/845583/attach/html/3/326%202012%20Info.pdf.html

This is important. Workfare is one of the most exploitative of the New Labour/ Tory welfare reforms. It was taken over from the American Democrat party under Bill Clinton, who in turn got it from the Republicans. Before Tony Blair introduced it, it was a Tory idea. It’s supposed to help get the long term unemployed back into work. In practice, it does no such thing. Those completing workfare sessions aren’t taken afterwards by the companies for whom they laboured. They just return to the dole queue. New Labour launched the scheme with great fanfare in the 1990s as part of their ‘New Deal’, a name that deliberately harked back to Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s, and the work programmes that inaugurated. In some ways, it’s similar to the various British attempts to launch voluntary work scheme during the Great Depression, and similar schemes which operated in Weimar Germany, before it was expanded into the Reichsarbeitsdienst, a compulsory programme of voluntary work launched by the Nazis.

The Republicans and Conservatives embraced workfare not as way of getting people into work, but as way of getting people to work for their unemployment benefit. It’s part of the moralistic attack of anyone getting ‘something for nothing’, even if that ‘something’ is just a pittance to allow them to survive, and quite frankly they’d rather have a paying job.

And rather than getting people into paid employment, it’s a way of supplying cheap labour to firms, that really don’t need it. Like the supermarket chains, with their bloated profits. Bloggers against workfare like Johnny Void have pointed out how punitive the system is. He, and many others, including myself, have compared it to slavery, and under certain circumstances that comparison is literally true. If you are sanctioned so that you can’t receive benefit, you are still required to perform workfare if the Jobcentre tells you to. It’s a neoliberal form of forced labour, and very similar to the way the NKVD used to arrest particular groups of workers to fulfil the demands for cheap labour by the heads of companies under Stalin, when the USSR industrialised in the 1930s.

Johnny Void on his blog reported the repeated attempts of activists to get the DWP to reveal the names of the companies participating in the scheme. This was withheld for a very long time, on the grounds that if they were released, pressure would be placed on these companies to withdraw from the scheme, and it would fail. I’ve no doubt that some of the companies and charities listed here no doubt feel that they are being public spirited and doing something positive for the unemployed in assisting the government. They aren’t. They are merely perpetuating a vicious, exploitative system, and should end their connection with it as soon as possible.

Moronic Nazi Troll Joshua Bonehill charged with Hate Crime against Labour’s Luciana Berger

June 23, 2016

Mike today has also put up a piece from the BBC News reporting that Joshua Bonehill-Paine has been charged with a racially or religiously aggravated hate crime for harassing Luciana Berger, the Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, and the party’s shadow mental health minister by sending her hate messages via Twitter.

Mike asks the $64 million question: is this the ‘moronic Nazi troll’ Joshua Bonehill-Paine?

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/23/man-charged-with-hate-crime-against-mp-luciana-berger/

Mike won’t be surprised to learn that yes, I’m afraid it probably is. And it’s about time this idiot was stopped for good.

Bonehill, unfortunately, has previous for this. He has been posing for years now as the Fuhrer-in-waiting of British Fascism, if only the other stormtroopers would wake up and rally to his supreme, racially-pure genius. He had his own small Fascist party going, for which he styled himself ‘Founder’, and was appealing to similar morons, who wanted to serve in his ‘founderguard’, presumably the Bonehillist version of the Liebstandarte Waffen SS, Hitler’s bodyguard in the Third Reich. He also held a very small rally in a park in Trowbridge, if I recall correctly, essentially consisting of himself, in which he unanimously announced to the gentlemen of the press, who outnumbered him, that he was successfully launching a new, mass Fascist party. In a pub somewhere else, the location of which he could not reveal. He was also telling the world at one time that he was the messiah of the White race prophesied by the ancient prophet Aryanus.

In fact, it all seems to me that much of this is just extremely tasteless play-acting. Bonehill has said in one of his past blog posts that his posture as a neo-Nazi ‘Founder’ is all a stage persona, inspired by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. Basically, he’s what the real racial nationalists in the far right call a ‘Hollywood Nazi’: somebody who merely acts the part. As for David Bowie, there’s a recording of him, which every now and then gets played on various TV or radio documentaries, of the great man saying that he was putting himself forward for the 1975 elections as the Fascist candidate. In mitigation, Bowie at that time does seem to have been close to a very severe mental collapse, and nothing in his career since then suggested that he had any real sympathy for the Nazis and their ideals. This is clearly shown by his marriage. His wife, Iman, I think is Somali. Her name means ‘Faith’ in Arabic. If he was a genuine Nazi, he would never have married her.

Bowie as musician and actor – he was in The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Hunger and Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence – gave people a lot of pleasure with his performances. Unfortunately, this cannot be said of Bonehill, who has shown himself to be a serial nuisance instead. He has an impressive string of convictions and arrests, several for harassing people. He was sent to jail for harassing a young woman after she spurned his romantic overtures, and was also arrested for sending hate mail and harassing the staff at a pub. He has also been arrested for trying to break into a police station to steal a uniform and equipment, as well as attempting to defecate in the meat section of one of the supermarkets. He is not so much an Aryan superman, more a stupid prat.

This does not, however, make any of his daft, unpleasant and thuggish antics any better. He has still harassed and threatened people, mainly women. The tweets he sent to Berger were reported to be anti-Semitic. If so, then they were definitely not a joke. Berger’s Jewish. I don’t know if she’s like many other British Jews in having lost family in the Holocaust, but even if she wasn’t, receiving racist hate messages from a self-professed Nazi isn’t remotely funny.

Looking at Bonehill’s antics, the way he keeps going despite being repeated hauled up before the beak, actually makes me wonder if he really doesn’t have some kind of psychological disorder. It’s clear he has an obsessive, compelling need for attention, and gets perverse pleasure from seeing others upset and distressed by his Nazi posturing. He’s a troll, but this has gone beyond simple trolling. Many of the idiots, who get similar kicks from being gratuitously offensive, would have given up after the first time they got sent to the slammer. That’s the point at which, even to the densest troll, things have become too serious. Prison’s no fun, and it’s no place to try to get pleasure from offending people, not when there are hard men around you who will rape, maim and kill you for it.

But Bonehill carries on regardless, leaving me wondering if he’s bonkers, or just to stupid to realise that it’s long past the time he gave up all this up, and started to try, as far as his meagre powers allow, to live as a decent citizen. And I do wonder how long it will be before all this catches up with him, and he’ll find himself in prison or in psychiatric care for much longer than he’s used to.