Tag Archives: EDL

Safeguarding: An established process, not a civil liberties dilemma

I first published this article 7 years ago. It’s unfortunate that so many people still fail to understand the need for robust Safeguarding processes, especially when the same people often express mock outrage at child abuse cases that the Safeguarding system attempts (& often manages) to prevent.

Child and ​Adult Protection have become increasing concerns over recent years. Several high profile incidents involving abuse of vulnerable people have prompted UK society to look again at the systems we have in place to safeguard those who need it most.

Social media currently features ill-informed and often frankly unconvincing outrage on behalf of Rachel Booth, a school dinner lady who attended a rally organised by Tommy Robinson (EDL founder & notorious Islamaphobe).

Mrs Booth has been suspended from her job as a result of her attendance at the far right rally. She has broken no law and is not being charged with any crime yet her job is in jeopardy (an inquiry is ongoing). Many people consider this to be abusive and an affront to freedom of speech. One particularly ill-informed right-winger even describes it as a ‘thought crime’, reminiscent of Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984’.

The inappropriateness & ironic hyperbole of this far right Tweeter’s statement is obvious when you realise what inspired it. Pastor Martin Neimoller was writing about German Nazism, a regime not unlike Robinson’s EDL. The Nazis executed vast swathes of people from minority or politically inexpedient groups without a hearing, often simply because of who they were. The British Safeguarding system aims to ensure the safety of vulnerable people and minorities through proper investigation focusing upon what people do.

As a trainer I am convinced that people make sense of things best when they know the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ as well as just the ‘what’. So read on to understand why this suspension isn’t only appropriate but, in Safeguarding terms, absolutely necessary.

We’ll begin with the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) system. This was introduced by the Care Standards Act 2000 with guidance from the government’s ‘No Secrets’ document. This outlined the definitions of abuse and of vulnerable adult. It also created the POVA list – a register of the names of people who were deemed to be unfit to work with vulnerable people because they represented too high a risk.

The POVA list was one of three basic lists:

1.The POVA list: related to vulnerable adults
2.The POCA list: related to children
3.List 99: Related to education

These three lists were operated by different organisations but all relied upon the enhanced CRB check. The CRB check (Criminal Records Bureau) check provided information on criminal convictions. The enhanced CRB check provided more than just this basic information. It also noted suspicions and unproven allegations that might be relevant.

When delivering training on adult protection and safeguarding I almost always come across objections when I make this point. This is understandable because it seems to contradict the long-standing legal principle of the presumption of innocence: the idea that we are innocent until proven guilty.

My response to this is always to put forward the following hypothetical scenario from the world of child protection:

Imagine a teacher – a good teacher – we’ll call him ‘Bill’. Bill has been in the job for many years and gets great academic results for most of the children he teaches. Bill specialises in the 7 – 11 year old age bracket.

Some of the children Bill teaches tend to do very badly though. They tend to be little girls with blonde hair and they often become withdrawn and emotionally needy shortly after joining Bill’s classes. I don’t think I need to be too specific here – the results of paedophilia are well known and the above scenario illustrates the point well enough.

Now imagine that this teacher has been working in a particular school here in Cumbria for a few years when he notices that some of the parents have taken to ignoring him. Bill also notices that when they’re waiting for their children at the school gates some of the parents tend to bunch together and seem rather conspiratorial whenever they see him. Bill’s no fool. He knows what’s about to happen. It won’t be very long before he’s formally reported to the local police.

So Bill applies for other jobs in other schools out of the area. His overall academic record is good and the head will give him a good reference (not least because she’s heard the rumours too and wants rid of the problem). Bill leaves Cumbria and takes up a post in a school in the neighbouring county of Lancashire. There’s no conviction and so no information follows him. He’s in a different education authority with a clean slate.

A couple of years later, having continued his abuses with a fresh group of Lancastrian children, Bill moves again, perhaps to Lincolnshire this time. And then a year or two later he moves once more – this time to your home town. Now Bill’s teaching your children.

That’s OK isn’t it?

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that if we can only use convictions to identify abusers we will fail more often than we succeed. But this gave us a dilemma as a nation. Whatever we do we cannot have a perfect system – mistakes will be made. The choice we have had to make as a society, the way through the dilemma, is to consider what the price of our mistakes will be.

If we rely upon convictions only then the price will be countless abused children. Exactly the scenario that ‘libertarians’ like the quoted Twitter-user & far right Islamaphobes like Tommy Robinson claim to oppose. Imagine how many youngsters a teacher will come across in the space of a career. How many vulnerable elderly residents might an abusive ’carer’ come into contact with too?

If we use wider sources of information the price of our mistakes will be some people having to get a different job. Neither outcome is ideal but then it’s not an ideal world. Which price do you consider to be the lesser of two evils? I think – and the government thinks – that the lesser price is the fact that some people will need to get a different job.

So child protection systems solved the problem, at least in part, by considering wider information and adult protection has followed suit – hence the enhanced CRB check (now the DBS). Even then it doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual whose information shows up on the check is barred from working in the care sector but they may have some things to discuss with prospective employers at interview.

Only in the more extreme cases are people actually prevented from working with vulnerable adults and that was what the old POVA list was about. People whose names ended up on the POVA list were legally barred from working in social care.

In 2005 Kings College London produced a report analysing the first 100 referrals to the POVA list. Their findings were significant and in parts very worrying. The document can be viewed online here.

Firstly it was clear that the vast majority of referrals came from the independent sector with only around 5% of referrals generated by the NHS. This is unlikely to be because the NHS does not have any abuse issues – in fact it may demonstrate a culture of neglect and ‘turning a blind eye’ that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. When abuse in the NHS does come to light it is often extreme and systemic as was demonstrated in the North Cornwall scandal of 2006.

The report also noted that in many cases abusive practice had been tolerated and left to continue for long periods. This was especially true in smaller establishments. The vast majority of abuse involved front line workers.

Perhaps most worryingly several workers had actually been convicted of relevant offences and yet continued to work in health or social care. The main arguments put forward in mitigation by those accused of abuse were:

Overwork;
Lack of training (particularly relating to challenging behaviour and hostility);
Accidental harm/lack of intent to cause harm;
Mental health problems experienced by the alleged abuser (often linked to working conditions).

“In our reading of the referrals there appeared sometimes to be a merging of poor skills and abuse”

The Kings College report acknowledged the reality of many of these mitigating circumstances and asked for greater scrutiny of employers and their practices when determining the truth of such allegations:

“As a means of reducing harm to vulnerable adults, it is clearly important to ensure that people of general ill-will or those who lack capacity are prevented from working in social care. However, it is also important to balance the focus on individual abusers and episodes of abuse with a wider examination on the quality
of social care employment practice, availability of training, working conditions, impact of under-staffing and ongoing nature of stress.”

“Consequently, it is possible that previous CSCI reports on the provider unit or company may be a valuable addition to the information to be considered in making decisions about referrals. In situations in which a worker claims not to have had training, examination of such records may help provide better evidence. Furthermore, some referrals included evidence about staffing levels at the time of and immediately preceding the incident or periods of misconduct would be useful. Such evidence may help in deciding individual cases, but also identify situations which might give rise to ongoing concern about the safety of service users in those establishments.”

Although several workers were dismissed and some were reported to the police not all of them were prosecuted. This is because it can be difficult to establish guilt in a court (beyond reasonable doubt) even when there is enough evidence (balance of probabilities) to dismiss them.

Differing ‘burden of proof’ has been a long-standing problem, especially in child protection. Child protection (CP) is an area of practice that has provided many answers to problematic issues and so it was used as a basic blueprint to guide adult safeguarding procedures.

Other problems identified by this and subsequent studies involved the lack of partnership working between sectors and what appears to be an element of ‘preciousness’ in some local authorities with regard to the sharing both of information and of resources.

In response to these sorts of concerns and also serious incidents such as the Soham murders (Ian Huntley) and the case of Miss X (Scottish Borders Enquiry) new legislation was drawn up and has been implemented throughout UK.

References and further reading

Department of Health (2000) No Secrets: Guidance on developing and
implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults
from abuse, London, Department of Health.

Department of Health (2004a) Protection of vulnerable adults scheme in England
and Wales for care homes and domiciliary care agencies: a practical guide,
London, Department of Health.

Department of Health (2004b) ‘P1.1 Rounded Referrals, Assessments and
Packages of Care, for adults’ Report of findings from the 2003-04 RAP
Collection, London, Department of Health.

Fyson, R., Kitson, D. and Corbett, A. (2004) ‘Learning disability, abuse and
inquiry’, in: Stanley, N. and Manthorpe, J. (eds) The Age of Inquiry: Learning and blaming in health and social care, London, Routledge.

Health & Social Care Information Centre (2004) Community Care Statistics 2004:
Home care services for adults, England, London, Department of Health

House of Commons Health Select Committee (2004) Report on Elder Abuse,
London, The Stationery Office.

Mathew, D., Brown, H., Kingston, P., McCreadie, C. and Askham, J. (2002) ‘The
response to No Secrets’, The Journal of Adult Protection, 4(1) pp. 4-14.

Social Care Workforce Research Unit 2007) Partnership and Regulation in Adult Protection http://www.prap.group.shef.ac.uk/PRAP_report_final_Dec07.pdf

Summer, K. (2004) ‘Social services’ progress in implementing No Secrets – an
analysis of codes of practice’, Journal of Adult Protection, 6(1) pp. 4-12.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (2004a) Reporting lack of competence: A
guide for employers and managers, London, NMC.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (2004b) Reporting unfitness to practise: A
guide for employers and managers, London, NMC.

This bulk of this (now slightly updated) article first appeared on Stuart’s personal blog early in 2010. It has been reposted here in response to current events.

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The Convention 13: When Islamophobia goes unchallenged

I purposely avoided focussing upon the English Defence League’s antics in the last entry on article 9. That was because ‘The Convention’ series aims to remain relevant for longer than the EDL’s limited lifespan. Let’s face it, like all such paranoid groups they will break up as infighting and internal mistrust takes over. This is already happening and the group probably won’t last for too much longer.

But then I came across this report on today’s EDL rally in Dagenham:

It seems that a limited police presence has given these anti Muslim ‘demonstrators’ a chance, once again to show their true nature. So far 3 Asian youths have been hospitalised and ‘HopeNotHate’ photographers have also been assaulted. This event is continuing as I type. Who knows what the final toll of violence will be by the end of the day.

It may be that the lack of police presence is due to the Islamophobic EDL’s recent decision to exclude police from the planning stage of their demonstrations. This is unlawful in itself and based upon today’s events it’s easy to see why. Peaceful demonstration is one thing. Violent discrimination is quite another!

Update from HopeNotHate blog:

“I’ve just spoken to one of our people on the ground. He confirms that three Asian teenagers were attacked, one seriously enough to require urgent hospital treatment. We do not know how badly this lad was attacked but there was a lot of blood.”

Here’s a photo of the assault itself.

Racist EDL mob violence in Dagenham
Racist EDL mob violence in Dagenham

Members of the EDL, of course, deny that any violence occurred at their ‘peaceful demonstration’.
And here’s an interview given by one of these young Muslim men (from his local hospital’s A&E department) following the EDL mob’s attack: http://bit.ly/mvLlMQ

HopeNotHate blog continues….

“We’ve also received more information about the police operation. It seems that Dagenham police were prepared and had 12 vans waiting for the EDL march as it was to enter their borough. The problem, it seems, was in Redbridge, where the march began. The only police presence was a community support officer on a bicycle and he did not intervene when the three lads were attacked. Apparently the police in Redbridge had no intention of diverting any resources to the EDL demonstration.”

About ‘The Convention’

This series of posts first appeared on Stuart’s blog in June 2011. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or even particularly authoritative reference guide to the ECHR. Rather it is a brief introduction to a much larger and infinitely more fascinating subject. You can download the entire series in PDF format here: https://stuartsorensen.wordpress.com/amj-freebies-downloads-and-services/

The Convention 12: The right to freedom of conscience and religious expression

My first thought on planning this blog post was to focus upon the abuses of the English Defence League (EDL) and the way that its members and affiliates persecute Muslims in modern UK. However to focus only upon this particular form of bigotry would be to miss the much wider point of article 9. So instead I’m going to explore ‘freedom’ of conscience and religious belief from a larger perspective.

Many religions

According to article 9 of the ECHR:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
    this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

 

This means that it’s OK for people to follow their own conscience or religion so long as that does not prevent others from exercising their rights. In other words religion is OK so long as it doesn’t abuse other people. Here’s an example:

On October 25th 2007, 22 year old EG gave birth to twins at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. A few hours later she was dead because she refused to accept a blood transfusion. EG was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. She suffered a sudden haemorrhage and bled to death following a natural delivery. EG had already signed a form before the birth refusing blood in such an event.

This is an interesting case and (since it’s already in the public domain) one I often use in training around rights and mental capacity. Participants are asked to consider a number of principles relating to EG’s capacity to decide, the rights of others to overrule her decision and the limits of an individual’s right to follow their religious beliefs in the face of life threatening injury or illness. It always makes for an interesting discussion.                       

Most people begin by arguing that EG’s husband could and should have consented to treatment (blood transfusion) on his wife’s behalf. Others argue that the medical team should have made the decision to treat her whatever her husband said.

However the fact is that EG was a consenting adult who had made her wish to refuse treatment abundantly clear. She understood the consequences (Jehovah’s witnesses do tend to understand the implications of refusing blood). She had made her decision.

To put it another way, EG had decided that the chance of eternity with her God was better than another few decades here on earth followed by the intolerably cruel torture of eternal isolation from that God.

Given that those were her beliefs it’s difficult to say that another few decades in this life would be worth the cost in the next.

So we see then that people have a perfect right to follow their religious beliefs wherever they will take them – even to their death if that is what their faith demands. However they do not have the right to inflict those beliefs upon others.

One excellent example of this involves the way that the law treats Jehovah’s Witness children (or more accurately the children of Jehovah’s Witness parents) when they turn up in hospital. Whilst an adult can refuse ‘life sustaining treatment’ for themselves on purely religious grounds they cannot do so for a minor. The law assumes that young children are too young to have chosen to follow a religion because they are unable to understand it in any meaningful way. So they are not bound by it. There are other considerations around consent and ‘Gillick’ or ‘Frasier’ competence as children grow older but the issue is always around the child’s own ability to decide – not the religion of other people, even their parents.

Typically in cases where the parent refuses consent on religious grounds the child is made a ward of court and treated in their best interests, regardless of the beliefs of their biological parents. This gives us a dramatic illustration of the basic principle that a consenting adult can follow their religion even to their death if they choose but they cannot inflict their views upon others.

As an aside, although I do not intend to focus very much upon the anti-Islamic ‘English Defence League’ (EDL) during this series, it is this article that will prevent the Sharia law that they fear so much from ever becoming law in Europe. It is a religious system and cannot be imposed upon anyone who does not agree to be bound by it. Such is the beauty of the European Convention’s article 9.

There are a number of Sharia ‘courts’ in UK but they do not have legal authority in the same way that other courts do. Instead they are centres of arbitration and rely upon all parties agreeing to their ‘judgements’. This is a far cry from the imposition of Islamic law across the board that some people pretend.

There are some concerns that Shariah ‘law’ discriminates against women and that Shariah based arbitration may well lead to unfair decisions. However that is no different from the way that many Christian churches operate in UK.

I remember many years ago when I was a fundamentalist Christian myself being encouraged to follow the church’s own arbitration system as laid down by the Apostle Paul (Corinthians Chapter 6). But I also know that when it became clear how flawed that system of arbitration was there was nothing to prevent me from contacting a solicitor and solving my problem that way. In fact that is precisely what I did back in 1993.

Nasty Nick Griffin

The same rules apply to matters of conscience. Morality is not always based upon religion and so article 9 protects people who have firmly held beliefs wherever they come from. But again the same rules apply – only in so far as those beliefs don’t interfere with the rights of others.

It’s OK for Nick Griffin and others to believe in some mythical Arian ideal but it’s not OK for them to remove the right of others to join any political party they choose to because of it.

The British National Party (BNP) led by Nick Griffin was forced to change its policy in October 2009. The court ruled that the BNP policy that only white people could join this political party was judged to be discrimination.

We can see then that whatever we believe article 9 both protects our right to act according to our consciences but also protects us from the interference of others who want to impose their beliefs upon us. This is why, for example, Christian B&B owners are not able to discriminate against people using their services – it breaches the potential guests’ equality rights under article 14.

This is why the nursing professional governing body, the Nursing & Midwifery Council forbids nurses from inflicting their own religious opinions upon vulnerable patients. It’s why Gary MacFarlane was sacked by Relate and why the courts did not uphold his ‘right’ to discriminate against gay people.

There is no right to discriminate against others because of your own religious belief. You have the freedom to follow your conscience but so have others.

About ‘The Convention’

This series of posts first appeared on Stuart’s blog in June 2011.  It is not intended to be a comprehensive or even particularly authoritative reference guide to the ECHR. Rather it is a brief introduction to a much larger and infinitely more fascinating subject. You can download the entire series in PDF format here: https://stuartsorensen.wordpress.com/amj-freebies-downloads-and-services/

The convention 9: No punishment without law

In an earlier post I mentioned the appalling events that took place at Winterbourne View Hospital, a private establishment owned by Castlebeck.

wpid-Panorama-abuse-allegation-007.jpgThere have been some excellent blogs written about the scandal since it broke on a Panorama programme last week. These have mainly been from the perspective of liberty. For example This ‘Fighting monsters’ blog or this one from Lucy Series at ‘The small places’.

Of course this is important. In fact it’s vital that those of us who work in health and social care understand and respect the right to liberty. However there’s another, equally important principle to consider here. The idea that there can be no punishment without law. Welcome to Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

According to Article 7 people have the right not to be convicted of a crime that was not an offence at the time they committed it. They also have the right not to be given a harsher sentence than the maximum allowed at the time of the offence. This seems eminently fair and reasonable and few people object to it – at least in theory. It’s when we start to look at the wider implications that things become interesting – especially in health and social care.

wpid-winterbourne_2376241b.jpgThe Panorama footage from Winterbourne View leaves no room for doubt that staff were taking it upon themselves to ‘teach residents a lesson’ whenever their behaviour didn’t meet expectations. At least it leaves no doubt in my mind but of course, I’m not the court. This apparent abuse is all the more poignant when we learn that the expected behaviours involved passive acceptance of mistreatment and that the punishments meted out to them were torture by any definition.

But torture is not the focus of today’s blog. Instead I want to concentrate upon the widespread practice of people taking the law into their own hands. That’s what the staff at Winterbourne view did (allegedly) when they decided who to punish and who to let be. They were setting themselves up as judge and jury. But they were not judges or jurors and they most certainly were not entitled to act as executioners. Remember the maxim:

No punishment without law.

There is no law that allows care workers to punish anyone. That’s not what our work is about. If a criminal offence has been committed then we have a legal system designed to deal with it. A legal system that abides by the laws of the land and that understands proportionate punishment – not using a hammer to crack a nut.

Winterbourne View staff wrestling someone to the ground because they ‘looked at them’ is neither lawful nor proportionate. It’s a punishment meted out by someone with no right to decide upon guilt and penalty in the first place. That really is punishment without law. Throwing cold water over residents, pinning them to the floor with chairs or standing on their hands is equally indefensible.
The simple truth is that only the courts can condemn and only the courts can punish. Private citizens are not authorised to take the law into their own hands, especially if they are in charge of vulnerable people.

But this principle goes much further than Winterbourne View. One of the most common misunderstandings I come across when delivering training on challenging behaviour work is the belief that behavioural regimes involve punishment. They do not. Punishment is both illegal and unethical. It’s abuse.

edl rioters in BradfordA more obvious example of Article 7 at work is in the field of ‘hate politics’. From animal rights campaigners to religious fundamentalists there are always individuals ready to hurt those with whom they disagree. They see a difference of opinion, of race or of religion as an offence worthy of punishment and sometimes they take the law into their own hands.

Currently the UK group most often prosecuted for condemning and punishing others is the English Defence League whose members, ironically enough, regularly ‘defend’ England by attacking and harassing English citizens.

It is ironic that the ECHR not only prevents groups like the EDL from getting their way but also ensures that the Islamic ‘Sharia’ Law they fear so much could never hold sway in Europe. If EDL members would only stop and think for a moment they’d see that the very convention they oppose so vehemently protects them from the thing they fear the most.

It really is true that the more people know about the ECHR the more they appreciate it and the positive impact it has for us all.

About ‘The Convention’

This series of posts first appeared on Stuart’s blog in June 2011. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or even particularly authoritative reference guide to the ECHR. Rather it is a brief introduction to a much larger and infinitely more fascinating subject. You can download the entire series in PDF format here: https://stuartsorensen.wordpress.com/amj-freebies-downloads-and-services/

White, working class & British 3: Similarities, not the differences

Masked EDL demonstrators
Masked EDL demonstrators
What the hell do you EDL supporters want to achieve? I mean really – think about it – what are you aiming for?

There is no way that any Abrahamic religion (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) can possibly be banned in any European state. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) prevents it. Even if the UK backed out of the Convention (an unlikely scenario in spite of Cameron’s rhetoric) you still wouldn’t be able to make it work.

The very thing that sets UK apart from theocracies (religiously run states) like Iran is our tolerance. Without that we’d be just as likely to end up as a Christian theocracy which, by the way, could be just as barbaric. Have you read the bible lately? It’s every bit as brutal as the Koran, which is hardly surprising since it’s based upon the same God of War.

Of course, many EDL supporters might complain that it’s different in Christianity – modern Christians are usually pretty moderate. And they’d be right – many Christians are moderate, but so are many Muslims. Have you ever wondered why so many Muslims choose to live in less radical countries like UK instead of Islamic strongholds? Have you ever taken the trouble to talk to a few Muslims and ask them? I have. Many Muslims are moderate – that’s why they’re here.

Of course there are some Muslim extremists in UK – but there are at least as many extremist Christians. I know – I used to be one.

wpid-1342295979.jpgHere’s a challenge for you. Go to your local Pentecostal, fundamentalist Christian church and ask the local congregation what they think about male dominance, about the wife being subservient to the man in all things. Ask them what they think about women speaking in church or about the rights of homosexuals. Ask them if the rules in Leviticus are to be obeyed (that’s a real eye opener) and then disregard their bigotry.

The fact is that there are bigoted Christians just as there are bigoted Muslims. But the Muslims that don’t like those rules – those awful prejudices – are the ones most likely to come to countries like UK where they can be free. These people are much more like you than you might imagine.

Just as you reject the more ridiculous rules of both Islam AND Christianity (you know – the bits about keeping slaves and stoning raped women to death), so do they. That’s why they moved.

And these Muslims have something that can be a great asset to UK society – they understand what religious oppression is all about. They understand it and they want no part of it.

Of course there will be exceptions. But then there are exceptions among the Christian community too. There are Catholics who oppose contraception and Christian fundamentalists who oppose sex education. There are Christian creationists who want our children taught only creation instead of evolution and there are Christian bigots who oppose equal marriage as though what other people do in their own bedrooms is any of their business.

There are also people who believe the world is flat because the bible tells them so but they’re hardly mainstream. So it is with Muslims.

And there are other things that we know about Muslims too.

• We know that many Muslims are hardworking and peaceful.
• We know that many Muslims are devoted to their families.
• We know that many Muslims hate terrorists and report extremism to the UK intelligence services when they turn up in their Mosques.
• We know that many Muslims are just like the rest of us.

So here’s a challenge – ask yourself just what it is that you hope to achieve by standing around in car parks and police kettles shouting obscenities about someone else’s God. And when you ask yourself – answer honestly.

• Is it about the people in your local Mosque or is it about your need to blame someone, anyone for the fact that you’ve been knocked back by an oppressive society?
• Are you really sure that you’re attacking the right target?
• Are you really sure that your methods are the right ones?

White, Working class and British 2: A little history

EDL skull masksIn one sense the current trend toward nationalism (toward fascism, to give it its true name) can be thought of as just ‘more of the same’. I was a teenager in the late 1970s and I vividly remember the abuses of the National Front (NF) with their violent rampages and attacks on black and other ethnic minorities. By the mid 1980s these racist thugs had morphed into the British National Party (BNP) in an attempt to develop a veneer of respectability to cover their abuses. It is out of the ranks of the BNP that the current threat, the EDL has arisen.

The English Defence League (EDL) claims to represent the traditional values of the working class. However even the briefest glance at the history of working people in the United Kingdom shows this not to be the case. My people, the working class majority, have always opposed fascism. Ours is a socialist tradition where all people are judged upon merit, not colour or religion, where a fair day’s work is rewarded with a fair day’s pay and where the vulnerable are protected by the people around them.

It was the white working class people of Britain who opposed Moseley and his fascist Black Shirts at the battle of Cable Street. It was the white, working class people of Britain who stood shoulder to shoulder with their Black and Aisan neighbours to beat back the National Front during the Battle of Brick Lane and it is working class whites who today stand in solidarity with their Muslim neighbours against the English Defence League and the British National Party.

The modern nationalist movement can be traced right back to the brown-shirted thugs of Baronet Oswald Moseley – a group of Nazi sympathisers who wanted the UK to join Germany and Adolf Hitler in his bid to subjugate Europe under the fascist jackboot. Working backwards from the EDL and UKIP we can move effortlessly back to the BNP and the NF, from the NF to Enoch Powell with his ‘rivers of blood’ rhetoric until ultimately we land on the doorstep of Moseley himself. This is far from a working class movement.

Baronet Ernold Oswald Moseley was a British aristocrat who thought no more of the working classes than did any other aristocrat, then or now. He saw working people as resources to be exploited, much as (arguably) the wealthy, aristocratic conservative party does today. And Moseley knew, as Hitler did, that the best way to exploit the masses is to pretend that you are on their side. This means finding a scapegoat to hide behind. People who are downtrodden will always need someone to blame for their misfortune. It’s better for the fascist to keep the poor blaming each other than to let them know that the real enemy is their ultra right wing ‘friend’.

That’s why the naive prejudices of football hooligan turned EDL leader Tommy Robinson (real name Steven Yaxley Lennon) was such a gift to the fascists. It created a vehicle to distract the dispossessed and prevent them from asking the really important question:

Why are we so downtrodden?

There have always been exploiters and those exploiters have always sought to scapegoat others as a distraction to hide behind. Let’s face it – even when Europe was essentially white there were poor people struggling to survive. The workhouses and mills of Victorian England weren’t run by Muslims – they were run by Christians who exploited the workers for their own ends. The feudal system that saw so many peasants starve to death wasn’t the creation of Islam – it was the work of white Normans (the ancestors of Nick Griffin of the BNP, as it happens).

EDL Islam is evil placardThis series then is written as much for English Defence League supporters as it is for anyone else. It’s an attempt to ask them to calm down and deal with the real cause of their dissatisfaction through the ballot box.

The real reason that working people are downtrodden in UK has nothing to do with Muslims. Nor are the current acts of terrorism the fault of our working class neighbours here in UK. There have been religious terrorists of all stripes for decades. Remember the IRA. Remember the Orange Volunteers. Remember Aanders Breivik. They were guilty of appalling atrocities in their day but nobody blamed all Christians for it. It’s equally wrong to blame all Muslims for the violence of a few.

If you truly wish to support the working classes of UK. If you genuinely want to improve the lot of disadvantaged citizens then stop targeting equally disadvantaged Muslims and start voting instead. If you genuinely want to combat terrorism then stop wasting public resources policing your attempts to defend empty car parks or smash up public houses. And stop beating people up just because they look a bit foreign.

Above all – stop firebombing Mosques, assaulting non-whites, sending hate mail, nailing pigs heads to places of worship and stripping Hijabis in the street. These tactics do you no favours – not least because you’re aiming them at the wrong targets.

Please stop being the distraction that prevents the working class from tackling the real problems of inequality and exploitation that concern us all regardless of colour, creed or ethnic origin.

Read part 3 here.

White, Working class & British 1: Introduction

Sharper eyed readers will notice that I’ve made a few changes to this post. That’s because I made a couple of errors in relating my family history. The changes are to reflect the facts rather than my half-remembered (& inaccurate) romanticising. My thanks go to my mother for keeping me accurate.
wpid-Granda-at-17-G.-St-1978.JPGI’m a working class white bloke. My grandmother started life as a domestic servant and my grandfather left school as a young boy to be apprenticed to an undertaker. My great grandfather was instrumental in starting the first union in my hometown and was consequently ‘blacked’ by the local bosses. He never worked again.

My mother struggled to get herself trained as a teacher whilst bringing up three kids on a shoestring. I’ve been homeless, a busker, a care assistant, a barman, a salesman and eventually a nurse. I’m as working class as you can get – but I’m not special – and I’m not racist.

I’m writing this because I’m annoyed and I’m insulted. There is a growing sense of nationalism, of sectarianism and of racism in modern Britain that claims to represent me and others like me. The hard-working white people of UK, by virtue of skin colour, are expected to welcome fascism and racism as though it’s an indispensible, undeniable part of our group heritage. It isn’t.

In truth – nothing could be more removed from the heritage and traditions of white, working class Brits than the fascist ideal our grandparents fought against during the second world war. During that war huge numbers of ethnic soldiers wore British uniforms in a combined struggle against the extreme right wing policies of Hitler and Mussolini. Many others were our allies.

To say that I’m insulted though is only half the story. I’m also worried. I fear that the neoNazis of 2013 will continue to terrorize and abuse large sections of UK society. I worry that they will destroy all that the working classes have struggled for without ever realising how toxic right wing politics is to working people. And I am outraged that all this will be done in the name of ordinary working people, most of whom want no part in such abuse.

EDL giving Nazi salute because they don't know any better
EDL giving Nazi salute because they don’t know any better
Why the English Defence League (ELD) doesn’t speak for me!
I worry that the footsoldiers of this nationalistic rise, themselves working class Britons, are blissfully unaware of the wholesale oppression that their violence could bring about – not only upon those whom they mistakenly think of as ‘the enemy’ but upon themselves and their families. The current nationalistic, racist fervour is the thin end of a very large wedge. It’s a slippery slope that threatens to devour working people of all colours, creeds and backgrounds.

I worry that our working class youth is being hijacked into supporting the very same people who kept their ancestors downtrodden in the past. The divisions being created by right wing opportunists, aided and abetted (however unintentionally) by the alienated, the downtrodden and the disenchanted threaten us all.

Throughout this series I will attempt to explain why I feel so strongly about this nationalist, racist, fascist cancer and why it is so vital that it stops before UK citizens destroy everything that they hold dear.

Read part 2 here.