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What’s Wrong With Woman’s Place?

There have been few more bitter struggles on the left in recent years than the conflict between those who support trans inclusion and those who style themselves as Gender Critical and refuse to accept that trans people should be socially or legally treated as their aquired gender.

At the heart of this row has been Woman’s Place UK (WPUK), a group of socialist women who have held many high profile meetings discussing the rights of transgender people. These meetings have drawn heavy criticism and furious protests from those supportive of trans people who claim that the organisation is transphobic. Woman’s Place have hit back at these accusations, claiming that the protests have been an attempt to silence or censor women who just want to talk about how trans rights might impact on women. More specifically Woman’s Place insist they are not transphobic and are supportive of trans rights. Recently this conflict has intensified after three of Labour’s female leadership candidates signed a pledge which explicitly referred to the group a “trans-exclusionist hate group”.

WPUK was formed after the Government announced plans to make it easier to change legal sex by amending the Gender Recognition Act. Whilst it remains unclear after two years of stalling whether the current administration has any plans to pursue this, WPUK have grown into an organisation which now appears to oppose everything from the current evidence based trans healthcare provision for young people to trans inclusion in sport.

Much has been written about the dubious transphobic fringe that has accompanied WPUK’s meetings and which has rarely been challenged by the group. At it’s most extreme, the Gender Critical movement has claimed that trans people are all either sexual fetishists or mentally ill gays and lesbians, that Queer Theory is paedophile plot, that a trans cabal has secretly ‘captured’ government institutions, and that cautious and rarely used medical treatment for trans teenagers is equivalent to experiments carried out by Nazis in concentration camps. Current darling of the Gender Critical movement Harry Miller, an ex cop and former supporter of Tommy Robinson, even recently compared the LGBT Pride flag to the Swastika.

Whilst WPUK may claim not to share these opinions it is clear that many of the people who have handed the group thousands of pounds in donations and ticket sales are quite committed to promoting to this kind of anti-trans rhetoric. Without this support it is unlikely WPUK’s profile, or bank balance, would have grown as it has. Until WPUK stand up and loudly denounce transphobic conspiracy theories, and make it clear those who propagate them are not welcome at their events, then the organisation is likely to be viewed with deep suspicion by most trans and gender non conforming people.

But of far more concern is what this organisation is actually campaigning for. WPUK want to introduce laws that go far beyond the bathroom bills which have been so fiercely contested in Conservative states in the US and which would make the lives of trans people – and those whose gender is non conforming or ambiguous – almost intolerable. In a recent open letter to Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy, WPUK founder Ruth Serwotka, lays out their demands:

“Our views are that current equality law must be protected, that the current sex exemptions in the Equality Act must be upheld, understood and enforced.
Is that “hateful”, “harmful” or “offensive” – or grounds for proscription?”

Now on the surface that all sounds pretty benign. Of course women’s spaces need to be protected in a world in which male violence is endemic. And trans women, who equally face this violence, deserve that safety as well, and the current law reflects that. However neither Ruth Serwotka nor WPUK believe trans women should be included in that protection.

Currently the Equalities Act prohibits discrimination based on Gender Reassignment. Guidance from the EHRC is quite clear that trans people should be able to use toilets and changing rooms in line with their aquired gender and in fact this has been normal practice for decades. The act does however allow some leeway, in which a trans women may be excluded if it is a proportionate means of enforcing a legitimate aim. Equality experts have stated that this should really only be done on a case by case basis. Government guidance gives the example of rape counselling in which the presence of a trans woman may make some other women feel uncomfortable and prevent them from being able to take part. These are the ‘single sex’ exemptions to which Ruth Serwotka is referring to. As they are both voluntary and discretionary they cannot be ‘enforced’ without weakening trans rights under the act. This is something WPUK are quite openly campaigning for, although they use the language of strengthening women’s rights rather than weakening trans rights, presumably in an attempt to mask their true agenda.

And in case there is any doubt then the demands of WPUK are laid bare in this speech in which they discuss their demands in more detail. The speaker is quite clear about what the group want and equally clear that this should apply to all single sex spaces including toilets:

“The law must be strengthened to ensure that all women who want or need single sex spaces (including toilets, health provision accommodation, prisons, sports, sexual and domestic violence services) are able to access them without resorting to extraordinary measures. “

She then goes on to state what should happen to those organisations and businesses who still permit trans inclusion:

“The law needs to be tightened up and it needs to be enforced; enforced to ensure that female-only spaces and services in this country are protected. Business and organisations should face fines or legal action if they knowingly, and deliberately flout the law.”

The only state in the US to successfully introduce a Bathroom Bill was North Carolina. It turned out to be a disaster which nearly bankrupted the state due to widespread protests and boycotts and was largely repealed two years later. But even this law only made it illegal for government institutions such as schools to permit trans people to use toilets in line with their aquired gender. WPUK go much further than this. They appear to want to make it a crime to offer trans inclusive toilets or services even if an organisation or business wants to. And WPUK practice what they preach, inisisting, quite possibly illegally, that on the rare occassion a trans person turns up to their events then they must use the toilet in line with the sex they were assigned at birth.

The impact of such legislation would reach far beyond trans people, not least placing additional strain on low paid front line workers who will be expected to guess what genitals someone was born with under the threat of their employers being prosecuted. In practice, most businesses would be likely to remove toilets and changing rooms altogether if they are not legally obliged to provide them rather than risk being prosecuted because someone managed to get into the wrong toilet. It is astonishingly authoritarian and it would not just harm the lives of trans women, but gender non conforming and ambiguous people, Intersex people and of course trans men – quite possibly most of all. Many in the Gender Critical movement seem perfectly relaxed about this with regular WPUK speaker Kathleen Stock declaring masculine appearing women being quizzed about their sex assigned at birth as an acceptable but regrettable cost in the fight to keep trans women out of women’s toilets and changing rooms.

WPUK are not the only Gender Critical organisation who hold this line. Fair Play For Women (FPFW) who are closely linked to Woman’s Place and have been represented at many of their events, have published a guide to service providers on how to keep trans women out of women’s changing rooms. FPFW have decided that excluding trans women from women’s spaces is already perfectly legal despite both case law and guidance from the EHRC suggesting otherwise. To enforce this policy FPFW suggest that shop assistants and others may sometimes have to query someone’s gender and demand to see a birth certificates before providing entry into female changing rooms.  If they are not able to provide one then FPFW recommend they should be excluded from the space. The implications are horrifying for all gender non-conforming people who would be expected to produce their papers on demand should any shop worker, security guard or cop insist on them. The potential for homophobic, lesbophobic, misogynist and indeed transphobic harassment is chilling.  And a society which demands those who are gender non-conforming should face on the spot ID checks is unlikely to stop there as history all too ominously warns us.

The struggle against bathroom bills in the US has been hard fought but ultimately successful even in the most conservative states (for now at least). Peer reviewed evidence has shown that trans inclusive policies, where they have been introduced, have not led to increased risks for women. One religious group has even conceded that dire warnings of bathroom predators – abusive men who pretend to be trans women to access women’s toilets – were largely concocted by the religious right.  In the UK this same struggle has been masked by support from some feminists whose arguments however are little different from those contrived by anti-LGBT forces on the right of the Republican Party.

When pushed on the damage to trans lives that rigid trans exclusionary policies such as bathroom bills would cause then many Gender Critical activists will mumble something about third spaces for trans people. WPUK members have said they would support trans only spaces and services, yet no-one ever says how this should be paid for. It is hard to imagine, at a time of sweeping austerity and women’s services under threat due to a funding crisis, that those in the Gender Critical movement would genuinely support billions being spent on refitting every set of public toilets and changing rooms in the country to accommodate a third space. It’s equally hard to believe this is something the public would support. It certainly ain’t likely to happen anyway under a cost cutting Tory government. All bathroom bills would be likely to achieve is either forcing trans and gender non-conforming people to compromise their dignity and safety or prevent them from accessing public facilities at all. That’s why people are pissed off with Women’s Place.  And whether you regard the group’s rhetoric as transphobic or not, it is surely not unreasonable to question whether those fighting for authoritarian policies that would make the most conservative bible belt Republicans blush have any real place in the Labour Party.  Not that I give a shit about the Labour Party.

It is a tragedy that this fight has broken out at a time when the UK is lurching towards the right and austerity is biting as hard as ever. It is understandable that many women, including trans women, are frightened that demands being made by the opposing side will leave them vulnerable to violence from men. And let’s not be in any doubt, it is male violence that is the fucking problem here. But bathroom bills will not prevent this. All they will achieve is further isolating and stigmatising an already marginalised group and serve to socially punish gender non-conformity. If WPUK really want this then it doesn’t seem unreasonable to call for them to be open about their intentions instead of hiding behind vague statements about sex based rights and strengthening the Equalities Act. If they genuinely support the kind of bathroom bills that have done so much damage to LGBT people in other parts of the world then perhaps it is time for them to make that clear.

And finally you might be thinking who the fuck am I to stick my oar in. One thing this debate does not need is more male voices who are largely unaffected by any of these issues. So here’s the thing. I have lived with gender dysphoria my entire life. Sometimes I have hidden it, in more recent years I have lived kind of a double life. If I was younger and hipper I’d probably have some exciting new term to describe my gender identity but I’m not young and hip. I recognise that I have not had the lived struggle of women, and I include trans women in that. I do not, as yet at least, live it every day and maybe never will. That doesn’t mean I haven’t taken a fair amount of shit for being perceived at times as a woman, trans woman and gender non conforming man.  And I do think trans women are women, and that trans men are men and that non binary people are valid, and that only we can be the judge of our own gendered experiences and identities, whatever the fuck gender identity is. There is so much about this we don’t understand and neither science nor philiosophy as yet have any of the answers. All we can do is fight for a world where we all live in as much comfort safety and dignity as it is possible for humans to achieve. That means doing all we can to confront male violence however we describe or experience our sex and gender. It also means working class people uniting against our exploiters and putting an end to the brutal economic system called capitalism that seeks to turn us against each other in a desperate scramble for resources whilst the rich look down on us and laugh. And they are laughing. No-one has done more to ferment this split than the right wing press and the forces of both capital and conservatism.

But that’s enough of that, this blog was never about me and it’s not going to start being now. Unless you know me personally I am not taking questions.  In truth this conflict has been the main reason I went quiet for a long time. And that started to feel like cowardice and I didn’t like that but I honestly don’t know whether I’ll get back to regular posting or not. Sorry to everyone I’ve lost touch with, I am slowly dragging myself out of the shadows. In the meantime can we please get back to some good old fucking class war and start to make the bastards scared of us again.

Simon Chapman, A Very Distinguished Fucking Anarchist

simon

Over the last couple of days the strangest thought has plagued me.  Two simple ugly words have kept emerging, only for me to lock them out and ridicule them as bizarre.  Simon’s dead.  Just to write it down feels like treachery.  Part of me looks forward to seeing him, to sharing a drink and dispelling this nonsense.  He’d say something wry, and witty and that would be that.  He was good like that.  Was.  Sometimes the shittiest word to ever have to use about a friend.

As part of a (temporary, and self-imposed) exile from all politics, I didn’t know his health had deteriorated so much.  We weren’t the kind of friends who lived out of each other’s pockets.  There are many who were closer to him than me and I wish them all my love.  But for almost 15 years he was always there.  At crap protests and good ones, festivals and parties, we’d find each other and we’d usually end up drinking together.  We shared a love of getting proper twatted and so we did that a lot.

The London anarchist movement would have looked very different without Simon Chapman.  From the Movement Against The Monarchy to the Wombles, to May Day, several squatted social centres and finally Class War, Simon was an active presence both on the streets and behind the scenes.  Countless flyers were produced by him over the years. He helped organise dozens of gigs, parties, campaigns and demonstrations and I was lucky enough to work with him on several of them.   Up until very recently he was still updating the Class War website.

It was the streets where his heart lay though and he was no passive peaceful protester.  He got nicked all the time when he was younger.  He fucking hated capitalism, was never afraid to get his hands dirty and despised the police.  And he had good reason.

In 2003 Simon was arrested during a vicious police tear gas attack at a particularly fruity anti-capitalist protest in Thessaloniki, Greece.  It was claimed he was carrying petrol bombs in his rucksack and he was held on remand with charges hanging over him that could have seen him spend the next 20 years in prison.  Six other people were arrested and charged in similiar circumstances.  All denied the allegations against them.  Photographic evidence soon emerged that showed the rucksack the police claimed Simon was carrying was not the rucksack he was arrested with.  It was a transparent fit up.

The treatment of those arrested was obscene.  All were beaten savagely following their arrest.    For the first few days of his incarceration Simon was left virtually blind after the police smashed his glasses.  He couldn’t see a fucking thing without his glasses.  Despite these abuses the UK’s Labour government did not lift a finger to help.  Neither did any other state.  So the prisoners took the only action left available to them and began a hunger strike.

A militant Europe-wide campaign fast emerged demanding that all seven prisoners be released.  Greek embassies were picketed across the continent and in some cases attacked and occupied.  In Barcelona the Metro system was shut down during an international day of action in solidarity with the prisoners.  In the UK a relentless campaign targeted the Greek Embassy and Tourist Board.   Parts of Athen’s University were repeatedly occupied, whilst fierce demonstrations throughout Greece resulted in more arrests.

In the end Simon didn’t eat for almost seven weeks. All the hunger-strikers were repeatedly hospitalised, such was the strain on their health. In the final days the prisoners stopped accepting fluids.  By now the solidarity campaign was at fever pitch as the risk that someone might die grew ever closer.  Mainstream media across Europe began to take an interest, lured by sensationalism and smelling blood.  Faced with international embarrassment, and concerned about creating seven martyrs who would shine a light on the corrupt Greek police, all the prisoners were released on November 6th 2003 and the charges against them dropped.  Simon came home.

Then, five years later, the bastards came for him again.  After repeated appeals from the Greek state prosecutor the charges against four of the original seven were re-instated.  In 2008 Simon was found guilty of a string of exotic sounding and terrifying charges including Distinguished Riot  and the creation, possession and explosion of bombs.  He was sentenced in his absence to eight and a half years in prison.

Under the threat of a European Police Warrant, which was likely to see him dragged from his home by our own filth and handed over to the Greek authorities, Simon was forced to return to Thessaloniki in 2010 to appeal the conviction.  In the ensuing trial the police evidence was repeatedly demolished by the defence teams.  The case ended in humiliation for the Prosecutor with all charges  thrown out for all four defendants except for a hastily cobbled together guilty verdict of “minor defiance of authority”.  This misdemeanor was enough to justify the time those accused had spent in prison, although the six month sentence was suspended and Simon once again returned home.

Simon was much, much more than just one of the Thessaloniki Seven.  But I suspect none who knew him well would deny the shadow these events cast over his life, and the impact they had on his health.  Of course our own state also put the boot in, subjecting him to years of benefit cuts, Atos assessments and at the mercy of London’s fucked private sector rental market.

Throughout all this Simon stayed strong, never stopping fighting, or laughing and never losing his faith that a better world would one day be possible.  He was kind, and clever and both ruefully cynical and enthusiastically hopeful at the same time.  He was also more than just an anarchist.  As well as raising his fist, he also raised his daughter who he regularly spoke of with loving pride*.  His loss will leave a big hole in many lives.  The last thing he would want is tears, but he will get them.

For myself, if you find me hassling you to come and find an off-licence with me at some boring, stale protest then sorry, but it’s because Simon isn’t there anymore.  And those are hard words to write, to accept as real.  I will fucking miss you mate.  I’m sorry I didn’t see you whilst you were so sick but glad my last memories of you are happy ones.  At least the bastards will never take you alive again. Rest well Simon, you deserve it.   Love and rage.

Johnny Void x

*If you’d like to contribute to a fund for Simon’s daughter please contact Freedom Bookshop.

The above pic was sent to me by someone, I hope whoever took it doesn’t mind me using it.

Less Queens More Guillotines, What Kind Of Mug Wants To #CleanForTheQueen

This is a real photo.

This is a real photo.

The fucking Queen has teamed up with the likes of McDonalds and KFC in an astonishing compaign ordering us to go out and sweep the streets for no pay to show our ‘gratitude’ for the parasitic royal family.

The campaign, launched by fawning socialite magazine Country Life and backed by leading Conservatives including Boris Johnson and Michael Grove, is calling for subjects to Clean for the Queen the weekend before her 90th birthday.  According to the organisers: “When she came to the throne litter was not the problem that it is today. Food packaging, plastic bottles, takeaway meals and cigarette butts have all contributed to a growing menace that affects our wildlife, streets, countryside and sense of pride. What better way could we show our gratitude to Her Majesty than to clean up our country?”

Boris Johnson has even promised to send out free bin bags to the lucky serfs agreeing to take part in the forelock tugging festivities. If that isn’t enough the event is sponsored by McDonalds, KFC, Greggs and Costa who are responsible for most of the fucking mess.

As well as a facebook page the campaign has a twitter feed where they are currently smearing the fine folk of Cardiff by referring to the city as a #grotspot.

Thankfully the hashtag #cleanforthequeen is currently having the piss royally ripped out of it on twitter.  Let’s make her feel unwanted.

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How The DWP Is Drafting In Doctors To Promote Iain Duncan Smith’s Warped Ideology

fit-note-guidanceAre you working hard enough?  Are you sure?  What if you get sick, or have an accident?  Are you prepared to go to work anyway, even if you don’t think it would be good for your health?  What if your doctor and boss agree you could do something other than your usual job instead of malingering at home?  Like making cups of tea all day, or cleaning the bogs, or any form of work your empoyer can dream up to force you not to take time off.  Because that is now the chilling reality as the DWP attempts to inject Iain Duncan Smith’s warped ideology into the NHS.

Last week the DWP issued patronising new guidance to GPs on when they should issue a Fit Note.  Doctors are warned of the dangers of ‘worklessness’ and told they must consider “the vital role that work can play in your patient’s health”.  According to the department, “the evidence is clear that patients benefit from being in some kind of regular work”.

This is an outright lie.  What the evidence says is that on balance most people might be better off working but the beneficial health effects depend on the nature and quality of that work.  In the report on which the DWP’s claims are based – a paper incidentally commissioned by the DWP themselves – the authors actually warn that “a minority of people may experience contrary health effects from work”. 

This study – called Is Work Good For Your Health and Well Being (pdf) – has formed the basis of government policy ever since the Labour administration launched the despised Work Capability Assessment for out of work sickness benefits in 2008.  It features a reasonably wide-ranging review of the evidence of the health risks and benefits of work and concludes that work, on balance, is better for most people’s health than unemployment but with important caveats.  These findings have been consistently misrepresented by politicians who have used them to claim that any kind of work is good for health, and that this applies to everybody.

The study found that in some cases – possibly 5-10% – unemployment can lead to improved health and well being.  It warns that negative health impacts of unemployment are “at least partly mediated through socioeconomic
status” – meaning it is not work that is good for you, but poverty that is bad for you.   The review points out that whilst the evidence is conflicting, shift work and long hours could have a weak negative impact on health.  It also finds that school leavers who move into ‘unsatisfactory’ employment can experience a
decline in their health and that economically secure people who retire early may experience beneficial effects on their health.   Even if this report is taken at face value – and it comes loaded with assumptions about the social and moral imperatives of work – all it shows is that work can be good for your health – but only if it’s a good quality well paid job.

If you are in low paid or insecure work then what your GP should tell you – based on the existing evidence – is to take a few days off if you aren’t happy or feel unwell.  Perhaps they should warn that you might be one of the 5 or 10% of people who are healthier if they are unemployed, despite the loss of income.  A more recent study carried out in Australia, and quoted on The Conversation, found that people “who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.”

What the new guidance to GPs is intended to do is impose workplace dicipline via the healthcare system.  Much like a seven day NHS is a health service for bosses, not patients, and likely to lead to pressure on workers not to book medical appointments in working hours, the Fit Note scheme is designed to bully people into the workplace even if they are sick.  That is why the guidance states that if GPs consider their patient could do any work at all, regardless of their usual job, then they should tick a box suggesting amended duties, or workplace adapatations rather than issue a full Fit Note.  And if doctors are too squeamish to treat patients this way then they are instructed to refer them to Maximus – the shadowy US conglomerate brought in carry out health assessments under the new Fit For Work scheme.

To help doctors decide what is best for their patients, or more correctly their patient’s employers, the new Fit Note guidance features case studies, with recommended courses of action that GPs should take.  They include an example of someone diagnosed with anxiety disorder who says that her work in customer services is giving her panic attacks and that she is too distressed to carry out her duties.  According to the DWP her doctor should first warn her that working is important for her mental health and “remind her that there are still other things that she can do – for example, physical tasks or back-room duties.”  This will help her feel more positive according to the department.  Then she should be referred to Maximus who will develop  a plan with her boss, such as sending her on a course to learn coping techniques, or doing quieter shifts.  And of course bosses, being always right and always reasonable, will not abuse this new power to force sick employees into the workplace.

Yet even the most bullying of bosses are to be accommodated according to the DWP.  Another case study features someone – a woman again – who complains that a poor relationship with her manager is causing her severe stress.  She says the manager has been ‘really horrible’ to her and she feels unable to cope.  Rather than raise any concerns about what seems to indicate workplace bullying however, her doctor is instructed to declare she does not have a health problem and she should speak to her human resources department, or union rep.  She should not be issued with a Fit Note and her GP should explain that they are “acting with her health interests in mind.”  It is better for her health to be bullied and abused in the workplace than be workless, even for a short while, according to the DWP.

The introduction of this guidance makes it clear that the scroungers vs scroungers narrative is now impeding on healthcare even amongst those who are not on benefits.  It is not hyperbole to suggest that the credibility of doctors is now at stake.  For too long the entire healthcare sector has remained silent whilst scientific evidence is distorted to further the ideology of modern capitalism and increase the power of employers over their staff.  Any GP who believes in evidence over rhetoric should tell Iain Duncan Smith to stick these guidelines up his fucking arse.  Anything else is a betrayal of the role of doctors as guardians of our health and well being.

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It’s Never Been More Important To Ask What’s Wrong With Work

work-makes-meIf work was really so fucking wonderful then nobody would resent people living on meagre unemployment benefits.  It might even be seen as a noble and selfless thing – to give up the wonderful opportunity that work offers – so that another can bask in the joys of daily toil.

The truth, that now goes almost unspoken, is that hardly anyone wants to go to  work.  Nobody who wins the lottery really carries on working in ASDA.  For those at the lower end of the jobs market work is a shit deal – poverty pay for a lifetime of monotonous and often back-breaking labour.  That is why the entire apparatus of the state is now being mobilised against those who can’t find work, or worst of all don’t want it.  To be unemployed, or workless, is now akin to being a criminal.  And if the economy doesn’t provide enough jobs, then that is the fault of the worker, for not working hard enough.

The capitalist class regards us all as nothing more than thieving scroungers, ever ready to skive if we are given half a chance.  And it is not the payment of benefits that really irks the rich – it is the refusal to put our human capital – our minds and bodies – into their service that enrages them.  How dare we not work to fatten their wallets.

As wages and working conditions decline then unemployment will be seen as an ever greater sin.  The Victorian workhouse principle of ‘less eligibility’ – meaning the life of somebody unemployed must be less eligible (more shit) than the life of the lowest paid worker – must be maintained.  The screw is being tightened for everybody and as benefits shrink so will wages.  It is more important than ever that we start to question what’s wrong with work.

An evening at the Wellcome Collection in London will be doing just that this Friday 4th September.  This will form part of the free Friday Late event at the museum which will explore noise, tumult, rest and relaxation.  The organiser’s say:

Fed up with work? Don’t want to work? Actually hate work? Maybe work isn’t ‘good for you’. Explore and express what’s wrong with work: record your thoughts on tape, do a video or write a post card to your boss, the Chancellor, your work mates telling them what you think. Or just start a debate with the person next to you about everything and anything that’s wrong with work.

You can tweet about what’s wrong with work using the hashtag #wrongwithwork.  The Friday Late will run from 7-11pm at The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE.  Nearest station Euston, for accessibility information visit their website.

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The Mayor Of Liverpool’s Murky Fundraising Ball Should Not Pass Without Scrutiny

liverpool-mayorThe James Bulger Memorial Trust are a good example of what charities should be like.  Born out of tragic events, they have raised thousands for disadvantaged youth in the city of Liverpool and they deserve support.

The charity have recently been in the press after the Merseyside Love Activists, a group of anti-austerity protesters, dirupted what has been called a joint fundraising ball for the James Bulger Trust and the current Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson.  According to the Love Activists they did not know that this evening was partly being held to raise money for charity and this was a spontaneous protest, initiated by local cabbies, at which they hoped to confront the Mayor over growing homelessness in Liverpool.

Whilst accounts of the night vary, there is no doubt the disruption caused distress to the Bulger family and the Love Activists are right to have issued a wholehearted apology.  This should not take away from the fantastic work the Love Activists themselves have done supporting homeless people in Liverpool.  As clumsy as this intervention was, there is no doubt that it was an honest mistake.

However there is one more aspect to this incident which cannot be ignored because it cuts right through to the Mayor of Liverpool’s moral and financial integrity. And that is the fact that the financial arrangements for this event are so murky that it probably should never have taken place at all.

According to an advertisement for the night on Joe Anderson’s website, this event was a business dinner and charity auction with money raised “split between local charities and Mayor Anderson’s campaign fund.” Further down the page the James Bulger Memorial Trust are named as a nominated charity. It is unclear from this page, which was used to both sell tickets and solicit sponsorship for the event, exactly how much money was going to Anderson and how much to the trust or whether they were the only charity to benefit. Clearly the use of the trust’s name and logo would have been one deciding factor in whether someone bought a ticket. To put what Anderson did in context, this is a little like a chocolate bar company saying if you buy our product we’ll give some of the money to charities, but not saying how much, or even being clear about which charities. It is without doubt unethical. It is thoroughly dishonest. And, whilst the situation is complex, it is quite probably illegal.

How much money the evening raised in total is unknown, although local media reported that the charity received £21,000.  Whether this came from solely the charity auction, a cut of the ticket prices, or some of the sponsorship money, is unclear.  Details of sponsorship packages on Joe Anderson’s website suggest the event had attracted at least three silver sponsors, priced at £7500 each and one gold sponsor who had given an unspecified sum.  Along with a drinks sponsor, charity auction and ticket sales it appears that Anderson’s campaign also received a tidy sum from this charity-themed event.

The truth is that joint fundraising events are a legal minefield. It is possible that Anderson would be viewed as acting as a commercial partner under the law and this would mean a whole host of fundraising regulations come into play. These would include a requirement to provide a clear statement showing the exact percentage of the money raised that would go to the charity. There is no such information on Anderson’s website.

In addition to this there are strict rules to prevent unscrupulous politicians from taking advantage of public goodwill towards charities. And when it comes to raising money then charity law is clear, registered charities and political parties or individuals should not take part in joint fundraising events. The Charity Commission themselves issued guidelines on this (pdf) after an investigation found that The Prince’s Trust had broken charity law after a joint fundraising event held with a Tory Party campaign group.  According to the Commission:

“Joint fundraising ventures with political organisations pose fundamental risks to a charity’s reputation and to public perception of its independence from political parties.  Entering into a joint fundraising venture with a political party will almost certainly result in the charity giving support to that party, politician or political candidate.  This would breach charity law and could, in damaging the charity’s reputation, jeopardise its future ability to fundraise and further its charitable purpose.”

Whether the Mayor of Liverpool knew about these regulations, and ignored them, or was ignorant of the law, makes little difference.  Elected officials should be meticulous in informing their constituents how they raise money and what it is to be used for.  Perhaps most despicably, it would be the James Bulger Foundation who would face any potential legal problems were the Charity Commission to investigate this event. Yet it is Anderson to blame, this is clearly his initiative – there is no mention of the Mayor’s fundraising dinner on the charity’s website.

It was a mistake for the Love Activists to disrupt the evening, and they are right to have apologised to the Bulger family.  But they acted with a decent, if on this occasion misguided, intent – to confront the Mayor about the homelessness crisis emerging in Liverpool.  Joe Anderson however, who is currently milking the events of Friday night for all they are worth, is only fucking in it for himself.  To raise money for his own political campaign on the back of a well loved local charity – and potentially put that charity at risk – is about as low as a politician can stoop.

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When Politics Is This Broken It’s Time To Get Out In The Fucking Streets – Starting Tomorrow, 3pm Conservative HQ

fuck-rich1If yesterday’s election showed anything it is that most people do not want a Tory government.  Just 20% of the public voted Tory – the same proportion of the population the Office for National Statistics estimates have a personal wealth of over £600,000.  The rich are in charge despite what the rest of us want.  As usual.

No matter what might have happened yesterday the rich would still be in charge.  The UK’s electoral system has been designed over hundreds of years to ensure precisely that.  In Scotland the whole country can vote on mass to reject both of the main political parties and it doesn’t make a blind bit of fucking difference.  A million people can vote Green and nearly four million UKIP and nothing will change.  Although the UKIP thing is pretty funny.  Bye Nigel.

Already some in the Labour Party want to lurch even further to the right as if Ed Miliband really was the comedy communist some sections of the press protrayed him as.  This is a party that just lost dozens of seats to the SNP who want to build council houses, scrap Trident and halt many of the most vicious welfare reforms.  Despite what’s staring them in the face Labour still think that being more Tory is the only thing that will lead them to success.  They don’t give a shit about the people who actually did vote for them, in Northern England, London and Wales.  There is no voice for the poor, at all, and that is the way it’s intended to be.

When politics is this broken then all that is left is the streets.  For the last five years the real opposition has not been the Labour Party, but disabled people, benefits clamaints, students, tenants and the low or no paid.  As bleak as things may seem today we are in a better position than we were last week.  The Tory majority is paper thin.  Scotland is rising.  The Libs Dems are dead.  Welfare reforms are still in chaos and Iain Duncan Smith is still a fucking idiot.  And Minister for Employment Esther McVey is now unemployed.

London Black Revs have called a protest tomorrow (Saturday 9th May) outside the Tory HQ in London.  The sooner we get back out on the streets the better.  Please help spread the word, meet at 3pm, Conservative Campaign Headquarters, 4 Matthew Parker St, London SW1H 9HQ.  Visit and share the facebook page for more details.

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