Jobs, the BBC and the Socialist Workers Party
Published in: Daily Mail
Hands up all those who actually know someone in the Socialist Workers’ Party.
Hmm, just as I thought.
Now hands up all those who think the Socialist Workers’ Party plays a significant role in British public life.
Exactly. The SWP is a marginal, far-left revolutionary grouping of placard-toting obsessives and droning Marxist bores which until very recently had zero public impact except in the context of raucous and occasionally violent demonstrations.
Yet astonishingly, it has all but derailed a key government policy designed to bring jobless youngsters back into the workplace.
This scheme targets 16 to 24-year-olds who have been unemployed for three to nine months, and gives them a work experience placement lasting between two and eight weeks to make them more attractive to employers.
It is an excellent policy. It exploits no one. The placements are so short they do not take away paid jobs from other people.
It does not penalise the unemployed. Nobody is compelled to go on these placements. If the unemployed choose to take part in the scheme, they lose no welfare benefits.
Instead, by giving them lessons in punctuality, what to wear for work and how to speak courteously to customers, such placements provide invaluable assistance to people whose hopes of finding work are often blighted by disadvantage.
So it would seem to be a win-win situation, and accordingly has struck a chord with the public. Heck, even the usually knee-jerk leftie audience on BBC TV’s Question Time seemed to support it on last week’s show.
Yet in the course of just a few days, high-profile demonstrations and internet campaigns claiming that the scheme amounts to ‘workfare’ involving ‘forced labour’ caused one firm after another to pull out.
How absurd. These placements are not forced but entirely voluntary. Nor in fact are they ‘workfare’ — a system under which benefits are made conditional on the taking up of a permanent job — but merely temporary work experience schemes.
Moreover, far from representing mass public opposition, the campaign against the placements was masterminded by a mere handful of diehard SWP agitators hiding behind a front organisation, cynically named the Right to Work campaign.
Just a dozen people protested in the Tesco Express opposite the Houses of Parliament, causing it to close for barely an hour.
At the head of that protest was a full-time SWP activist who last year led an attempt to storm the London headquarters of Royal Bank of Scotland in protest at bankers’ bonuses. Another SWP demonstrator had previously called for a ‘global intifada’.
Yet in response to this public nuisance by extremist agitators, Tesco promptly ran for the hills, abandoning its work experience programme which provided placements for 3,000 young people and instead instituting its alternative scheme.
Other companies and organisations such as Waterstones, TK Maxx, Poundland, and Burger King all followed suit and declared that they, too, would no longer take part, with still more companies reviewing their own positions.
So how on earth can the British Government have been pushed off course like this by a few far-left thugs?
The immediate answer is the contemptible absence of spine displayed by these firms in the face of such manipulative and bully-boy tactics. They caved in because they were frightened by SWP threats of a ‘wave of protest’ that would lead to boycotts of their stores.
The further question posed by that, however, is why they were so spooked by such risibly marginal individuals.
The disturbing answer is that the otherwise negligible impact of this campaign was vastly amplified by a combination of social media and the BBC.
Twitter, Facebook and other digital platforms have immeasurably amplified the potential for rabble-rousing incitement and hate campaigns. So charities involved in the work experience scheme were targeted on websites and received abusive emails.
The parenting website Mumsnet was bombarded with abusive messages attacking firms involved in the scheme. The effective hijacking of this mainstream family message board gave the ugly campaign a spurious centrist veneer.
But what really put rocket fuel behind these extremists was the BBC. Day after day it gave them a platform, sanitising their true nature and unashamedly endorsing their message that the Government scheme was somehow immoral and unacceptable.
Uncritically, it presented the protest as if it really was about the ‘Right to Work’, rather than what it really was — a campaign of intimidation against work.
It left the public wholly unaware that ‘Right to Work’ was merely a fig-leaf for far-left troublemakers. Indeed, had it told the truth about them it could hardly have put them on to its TV and radio shows, as it did so assiduously.
So egregious was this partisanship that the Tory MP Priti Patel has made a formal protest about bias to the BBC.
In particular, she points out that BBC2’s Newsnight ‘spent all week putting solitary Government ministers up against panels made up of the hard left’.
On one of these shows, presenter Jeremy Paxman four times asked the Tory MP Harriet Baldwin: ‘Do you understand why people find the schemes offensive?’
Another presenter, Kirsty Wark, opined the following day: ‘It’s just essentially cheap labour.’
A day after that, Newsnight broadcast a report pouring scorn on the Government’s claims that the protest campaign was being pushed by social media manipulation.
And on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Evan Davis said: ‘The amount you are going to learn stacking shelves is not going to be very great — it’s been over-sold. What do you learn when you go and do work experience in supermarkets?’
Contrast all this hyperactive support for far-left troublemakers with how slow the BBC was to report the huge scandal over A4e, which has taken millions of pounds of public money in contracts to get the unemployed back to work, even after police had launched a fraud inquiry into the company.
And yet with what glee the BBC extensively reported 75-year-old June Hautot berating Health Secretary Andrew Lansley over the NHS reforms, presenting her merely as an irate pensioner — but somehow obscuring the fact that she too was a veteran left-wing agitator.
How very typical. The BBC always seems ready to sign up to the latest wailing and whingeing from the public sector, doubtless because it is itself used to receiving large amounts of public money.
Too often it sounds like the Guardian of the airwaves. And it is the Guardian which surely takes the biscuit for the most shameless and poisonous hypocrisy over the ‘Right to Work’ campaign.
For it produced piece after piece supporting the campaign’s ludicrous claims, and rejoicing at the bloody nose the protesters were giving the work experience scheme.
Yet this is the same Guardian which even now is advertising for its own work experience scheme where people voluntarily work for nothing because they are glad to get the experience.
Does this not just tell you all you need to know about the left? Purporting to care about the poor, they kick away from them the ladder of opportunity they provide for their own young people. Bloated with often inherited wealth themselves, they flay companies that make wealth and opportunity for others.
The Government’s work experience scheme is part of a crucial and commendable attempt to rescue lives being ruined by joblessness. The SWP want to destroy that scheme because their aim is to destroy British society.
But the companies who have caved in, along with the BBC and the left-wing press, are far worse — because they have shamefully made themselves complicit in that nihilistic and despicable aim which so cavalierly trashes the poor.