UK Uncut have made a fatal error

Posted on December 10, 2012

UK Uncut has a pretty simple mission. They think corporate taxes should be higher than they are. Therefore they protest at the shops and outlets of the brands they have judged are not paying enough. The objective is to force the companies to cough up over and above their legal requirements out of a combination of shame and commercial inconvenience.

It’s a pretty messy approach, catching customers and ordinary staff in slanging matches which should really be between activists and Chief Executives. It has also led to UK Uncutters getting remarkably outraged about the idea that a company might have the right to not allow them on their property.

Last week, the movement had its first major victory. Starbuck’s buckled under the pressure and agreed to pay £20 million to the taxman which it does not legally owe. It was a jubilant moment for the high tax pressure group, but within days they have managed to turn their first victory into what may very possibly be their last.

Successful political campaigning is about stick and carrot, pleasure and pain. I want you to change your position, and to persuade you to do so I need to do two things: 1) make your current position extremely uncomfortable and 2) make the new position I am proposing much more attractive.

UK Uncut have done the first thing pretty well. Aided by the Guardian, which itself uses some complex but entirely legal jiggery pokery to keep its tax bill at a minimum, they have driven large amounts of negative media exposure for the firms they target at the same time as besieging their shops and cafes until they are forced to close. Like the Sith, they may be using their powers in the pursuit of the wrong ends, but you can’t deny their Force is strong.

So, having hammered Starbucks into submission and extracted voluntary payments into the Exchequer as planned, the next step would naturally be to congratulate them. End the boycott and move on to other targets, now the precedent has been set, proving to others that doing what you ask will bring rewards.

But, instead, on Saturday HMRC’s little helpers were back at Starbucks’ door – shouting at customers, grappling with police and making a general nuisance of themselves. Just as they did before the baristas opened their wallet.

This is a fatal error. The message UK Uncut have sent is that if you do what they ask in response to their beating you with the stick, they will put the carrot away and hit you some more.

Other UK Uncut targets will have been watching closely. When Starbucks took the plunge, they will have wondered if they should follow suit – particularly if it would be worthwhile to save them the disruption caused by these fiscal versions of Mary Whitehouse.

The lesson they will take now is precisely the opposite. Why bother bowing to UK Uncut’s demands if your reward is more punishment, more heckling and more trouble? Unless their tactics change, I suspect we won’t see anyone else do what UK Uncut want for quite some time to come.

Trenton Oldfield and the Suffragettes – those similarities in full

Posted on April 11, 2012

In the aftermath of his wrecking of the University Boat Race on Saturday, maritime Marxist Trenton Oldfield has done an insightful interview with the Independent in which he modestly claims to be the modern-day ideological descendant of the Suffragettes – and in particular of Emily Davison, who died after throwing herself under the King’s horse.

It’s quite an ambitious claim – let’s check the similarities…


Insufferable and Wet


Votes for women. “Fighting elitism”.

Personal link

Denied the vote. Err, private school and the LSE.


At least half the population. Laurie Penny. Himself.


Hurling oneself under a dashing horse. Swimming towards two boats.


The King. Rowers.

Personal Cost

Loss of life. Damp beard. Widespread disdain.


Full voting rights for women. Mockery.



The Suffragette slogan was “Deeds not Words” – if you judge Trenton Oldfield by the former or the latter, his was a belly-flop of a protest.

#Fail to the Thief

Posted on December 07, 2011

So Thom Yorke of Radiohead appeared at Occupy London last night to play a gig in support of their aims.

Whilst most of what Occupy stands for is so vague it’s almost impossible to pin down – even when they try to do so themselves – it is perfectly clear they claim to be for the poorer “99%” and against the rich “1%”. In their world the 1% are responsible for all ills, their wealth should be redistributed and they are fundamentally immoral by simple virtue of their wealth.

But which group does Thom Yorke fall into? With over 30 million record sales worldwide, it’s hard to see how he is part of the 99%…

Or do their principles of class war not apply when it’s someone left wing who’s been raking in the cash?

St Paul’s #OccupyLSX protesters finally reveal what they really want

Posted on November 01, 2011

From an eyewitness on the ground, I can reveal the Occupy protesters outside St Paul’s Cathedral have finally revealed what they really want. After much confusion over vacuous, vague and vapid mission statements ranging from out and out revolution to “can’t we all get along and be friendly”, this comes as a welcome relief.

The protest camp have erected a board listing their demands for donations to the camp. At present it apparently reads:



Yep, smashing some stereotypes there, comrades. Middle Eastern dips for all! Death to the lactose oppressors!

Join me at the Free Tibet march tomorrow

Posted on March 11, 2011

Yesterday was the 10th of March – the 52nd anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, in which over 80,000 Tibetans were killed by the Chinese authorities for daring to demand liberty an self-determination.

As a supporter of the Free Tibet movement, I’ll be helping to commemorate that event and support Tibetans’ demands for freedom at a march tomorrow, Saturday 12th March, from Victoria to the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place. The full details, times and route are online here. If you’d like to come along too, either I’ll see you there or comment below or tweet at me, and we can arrange to meet.

For those of you who haven’t been to such an event before, the Free Tibet movement is brilliant – a friendly alliance of Tibetan exiles, Buddhists, hippies and anti-Communist freedom activists pulling together in a common cause. If you’re free tomorrow, please come along.

Love Music, Kick Police Officers

Posted on September 09, 2010

One of the worst threats to the campaign against fascism and racism is the thuggish and totalitarian nature of the hard left activists who squat at its core. Where you should have a mass movement refuting the BNP’s absurd arguments in a public forum, you have a minority clique like Unite Against Fascism who repel the general public, campaign for censorship and – ironically – have political views on economics and state power that are remarkably close to the fascists they claim to oppose.

Sadly, they show no sign of cleaning up their act.

Take, for example, the case of Martin Smith (pictured right, and yes he really did dress like that on Newsnight).

Smith is heavily involved in UAF and is the organiser of Love Music Hate Racism.

On Tuesday, Smith was convicted of assaulting a police officer during protests outside the BBC against Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time. A Magistrates’ Court found that he had kicked a policeman who was there to make sure the protest didn’t turn violent. As the Ian Tomlinson case showed, some police officers certainly can be violent themselves but there have been no such allegations in this case – this was a thuggish protester lashing out with no good reason.

The remarkable thing is that instead of condemning such violence and thuggery, Smith’s colleagues have rallied round to suggest the courts are somehow biased in favour of neo-Nazis. Even Mark Serwotka at the PCS Union has suggested that conviction in a free and fair court of law will “provide encouragement for the abhorrent views of racist and fascist organisations” and represents “the unequal way in which anti-fascist campaigners and activists are treated in comparison with racist and fascist thugs.”

The simple fact is that the UAF and their mates are just as totalitarian and unpleasant as the BNP – Smith’s aim is to secure the censoring political parties that he doesn’t like. Brands like Love Music Hate Racism are designed to suggest the UAF are mainstream, ordinary people – but how ordinary is it to go around kicking coppers because of production decisions on Question Time?