Things I thought

Monday 21 October 2019



Billboards haunt
Like shadows
From a dream
That's not my own

I want things I hate
For wanting

Monstrous Kaiju
Gorgeous desire
Fifty foot sirens
Me down
To their shallow depths

Light from adorned
Doorways claws
At my skin
The promise of denial

I scuttle home
To the safety of my
Private lies

Wednesday 28 August 2019


I am wedded to
An endless war of
Me against
A Me Who
Is not
A man from the past
Who has my face
Who shares my self
Who defiles it
He gets drunk to send me
He splits up and tells me
It's over
He procrastinates
Leaving me as the ruler
Of our ruined future
He dies in every moment
His inheritance is sorrow
I accept
He is a nightmare to share a home with
Let alone a body
If I could make the time
To make a time machine
I'd give you what-for
But what for?
I'll forgive you
And give myself
Wasted recovering
Put my feet up with a beer
Know I'm already hated
By one I tell:
I defy you
I know the price
Of now

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Calais Fundraising Update

Hey dangermice and chaosrats. I have good news and, as some proponents of Yin-Yang theory would argue is inevitable, I also have bad news.

First the good. Thanks to generous donations from literally some of you I have raised enough money to go to and even come back from Calais. Many thanks to everyone who contributed, you're all fucking legends. Now for the bad news, which is that there is currently nowhere for me to stay when I get there. With a bit of luck this will be sorted out soon and I'll be on my way. However, if the wheels are still in gridlock on (to pick a fairly random day) Monday, I will either have to postpone for at least a week (I have childcare responsibilities Fri-Sun which would make leaving any later than Monday probably not worth it) or postpone indefinitely and donate the money to Calais Migrant Solidarity.

With a fair wind not blowing shit towards any fans I should be at least on the road and possibly out of the country within 48 hours, but I thought I should keep everyone informed for the sake of transparency.

I am vaguely considering trying to stay in a hostel if all else fails, but I'm not sure it would be practical. If I do decide to go down this route I will need to appeal for more donations.

In the meantime any further donations will be donated to CMS (who you can also contribute to here) or possibly be used to pay for a hostel.

Big love,


Tuesday 25 February 2014

Cash For Calais

Hello hoodlums. Extremely long time absolutely no speak. I'd say sorry for that, but I'm sure you've all appreciated the absence of my infrequent, clumsy missives. In fact, you're welcome, but now I need you to return the favour.

As some of you will know shit has been getting real in Calais over the last week. To be honest, shit's veracity level is always pretty high there, with migrants living in frequently dangerous conditions and under constant harassment from the thuggish PAF or border police. Help is always needed, but rarely more so than now, with violent civilian fascists adding their own nasty note to the already cacophonous symphony of state bullshit. To put it a bit less florally, a massive fuckload of epic wankers calling themselves Sauvons Calais have been targeting, intimidating and attacking migrants and their supporters. When I say attacking I sadly don't mean they've been writing angry letters to their local newspapers, they've instead been throwing angry rocks at local buildings and, in some cases, setting fire to them.

In response migrants and activists in Calais have issued a callout for volunteers to go and support the ongoing efforts to provide safe spaces for migrants and push back agains the relentless bollocks being peddled by both amateur and professional fascists. As well as the day to day jobs of finding and maintaining places for people to live, providing legal support and documenting the actions of the police and other nasties, activists are holding a rally this weekend to show that the racist thugs currently besieging migrant populations are not the majority and can be stopped. With your help I would like to join them.

It is my intention to make my way to Calais some time this week. However, there is a problem. I am, as Adam Smith first put it in The Wealth Of Nations, "broke as a motherfucker". I need about £50 to get to and come back from Calais, and I would be sincerely obliged if some of you wonderful people could help mitigate this cost. I'm no rube when it comes to crowd-funding requests and I know that today's savvy donaters want bang for their buck, so with that in mind I offer the following exclusive rewards for your money:

Donate £5 or more and get a smug sense of self-satisfaction

Donate £10 or more to exponentially improve the chances of people throwing rocks at me this week

Donate £25 to get me to leave the country

Donate £50 to feel like a big-spending rockerfeller Mr. Moneybags king

You can donate via the button to the right of the screen, cunningly labelled "Donate" or, if you have an understandable aversion to all things PayPal, you can donate by bank transfer:
Jonathan May-Bowles
Nationwide Bank
Account no: 26326607
Sort Code 07 01 16

Any funds raised over and above what I require for my tickets will be donated to the activist network in Calais (who you can donate to directly here), where it will be sincerely and greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading and thank you for your support.

Big love and solidarity,


Saturday 12 October 2013

Heart Of Dacreness

Maybe I've become jaded in my exceedingly late twenties, but it seems like it's been a long time since there's been something genuinely, skin-tinglingly wacky enough to make me want to blog about it. Paul Dacre, Daily Mail editor and the man for whom the phrase "bilge-breathed fuckweazel" might well have been coined, can today add breaking that streak to his long list of highly questionable achievements.

For those of you who've yet to have this moonful of lunacy crash into your Saturday, let me recap: Mr. Dacre's taken time out of his busy schedule of generalised fist waiving to pen a rather spectacular missive, published within both the Guardian and his own organ, on how terribly beastly everyone's being just because he called someone's dead dad an evil traitor. The irony inherent in Dacre whining about the press treating him and his paper unfairly wafts through the piece like a pyramid of elephants in an elephant shaped room covered in elephant motif wallpaper on elephant and castle roundabout, but to dwell too heavily on that would be to miss the subtler tones present in Dacre's bullshit chardonnay. To really appreciate the heady mix of angry nonsense he's offered us it's important to savour each paragraph, swill it around our pallets and, perhaps most importantly, spit it out again.

"Out in the real world, it was a pretty serious week for news." 

Begins Dacre's explanation for why he spent 6,000 news words explaining how wrong someone's dead dad was.

"In contrast, the phoney world of Twitter, the London chatterati and left-wing media was gripped 10 days ago by collective hysteria as it became obsessed round-the-clock by one story – a five-word headline on page 16 in the Daily Mail."

Dacre actually starts on quite solid ground, making an argument oft heard on Twitter but more rarely from Daily Mail editors - that Mail stories aren't real news stories and it's absurd that people devote time to this volcano of piss-ink when there are both dragons to slay and puppies to play with.

"Leading the charge, inevitably, was the Mail's bĂȘte noir, the BBC. Fair-minded readers will decide themselves whether the hundreds of hours of airtime it devoted to that headline reveal a disturbing lack of journalistic proportionality and impartiality"

Maths minded readers can also decide whether it's likely the BBC devoted hundreds of hours of airtime to a story that only broke some 240 hours ago. If it helps, I couldn't detect any overt references to the story in The Great British Bake Off.

"The genesis of [our fucking reprehensible hatchet job] lay in Ed Miliband's conference speech."

This, at least, I suspect to be true. Having spent the summer in the vanguard of a right wing press that successfully chipped Labour's poll lead down from double figures to a dead heat, only to see those numbers shoot back up faster than an electricity bill must have left Dacre and his yobs shitting out their own bollocks. That the bounce seemed to come from Miliband paying some (admittedly mealy-mouthed and unlikely) lip service to socialism must've had them varnishing those same bollocks and attempting to fashion them into morningstars.

"Nowhere did the Mail suggest that Ralph Miliband was evil"

Again, I'm happy to take Dacre at his word here. He wasn't saying Ralph Miliband was evil with the "evil legacy" headline. He was just saying the things he'd produced in his life - his books, his thoughts, his son - were evil. Totally different. 

"Ralph Miliband was, as a Marxist, committed to smashing the institutions that make Britain distinctively British..."

Institutions such as, according to Dacre previously in the article, "the royal family, church and army" institutions which those of you in the advanced class will have noticed aren't distinctively anything except nasty. The royal family only makes Britain special in the same way that an oncologist might gravely tell you that yours is a special case, whilst saying you think Britain's distinctive because it has a church and army suggests you last ventured abroad when most of it was still unmapped.

"...and, with them, the liberties and democracy those institutions have fostered."

Again, not to labour a fairly obvious point - that Paul Dacre is wrong - but these institutions he claims were the standard bearers of freedom are still the same ones he referred to earlier, the ones chiefly concerned with ruling, lying to and shooting people. 

"Yes, we accept that he cherished this country's traditions of tolerance and freedom – while, in a troubling paradox typical of the left, detesting the very institutions and political system that made those traditions possible."

It's probably worth noting that, at the time Ralph Miliband arrived in this country, universal suffrage had been a proud British tradition for almost 12 years.

"Despite this we acceded to Mr Miliband's demand – and by golly, he did demand – that we publish his 1,000-word article defending his father."

Paul Dacre's article is 1,864 words long.

It's at around this point that Dacre ascends from mere finger-jabbing-at-a-waiter rage to foam-mouthed-conspiracy-theorist rage,  and starts spouting the kind of rhetoric you might hear from a wide-eyed woods-dwelling divorcee trying to convince you his ex-wife was behind 9/11. 

"it became clear that this was no longer a story about an article on Mr Miliband's Marxist father but a full-scale war by the BBC and the left against the paper that is their most vocal critic"

He fumes, inviting the reader to take the red pill with him and find out just how deep this rabbit hole goes. Who else, beside the British Bastards Company, is out to get you pray tell?

"Alastair Campbell."

Of course! Hasn't he been involved in some other dodgy dealings?

"[the] man who helped drive Dr David Kelly to his death, was behind the dodgy Iraq war dossier and has done more to poison the well of public discourse than anyone in Britain"

It's worth noting that, though it happily (and IMHO correctly) fingers Alastair Campbell (don't let that mental image linger) for Kelly's suicide here, the Mail has regularly published articles questioning whether Kelly was murdered. It must be frustrating that they can't blame Alastair Campbell, the BBC and Iraqi super-assassins all at once.

"my worry is that there was a more disturbing agenda to last week's events."

More disturbing than the combined armies of the left, commanded by the prince of political darkness himself, waging war on the poor little Daily Mail? Really?

"Is it fanciful to believe that his real purpose in triggering last week's row – so assiduously supported by the liberal media which sneers at the popular press – was an attempt to neutralise Associated, the Mail's publishers and one of Britain's most robustly independent and successful newspaper groups."

It might not be entirely fanciful, but when all your enemy needs to do to villify you is link to your webpage, it might be worth considering the possibility that you actually are a villain.

"Let it be said loud and clear that the Mail, unlike News International, did NOT hack people's phones or pay the police for stories. I have sworn that on oath."

Again, I trust Dacre on this. Why pay for bribes and expensive hacking equipment when you can just make stories up?

"No, our crime is more heinous than that.
It is that the Mail constantly dares to stand up to the liberal-left consensus that dominates so many areas of British life and instead represents the views of the ordinary people"
It's worth reminding readers at this point that Paul Dacre is cross because a lot of people didn't like an article he published and they asked him if he'd think about not doing things like that again.

Dacre then proceeds to witter on for literally 20 paragraphs about how the glorious Mail is the one true defender of the working class, who the left secretly hate for not reading the Guardian enough, and have single-handedly brought pedophiles, Stephen Lawrence's killers and MRSA to justice while bravely holding off threats to our freedom as diverse as the IRA and plastic bags. The whole thing has the air of an old man at a bus stop drunkenly barking "and another thing!" long after his fellow loiterers have scuttled off to find alternative modes of transport. He goes on to suggest that Ed Miliband not liking his dead dad being slandered is somehow payback for the fact they didn't give Tony Blair favourable coverage, and that the utter disgust with which people have reacted to the Mail's behaviour this week is proof that we shouldn't regulate newspapers. He finishes off by claiming that, as only "several hundred" complaints have been received, the British public are clearly on his side. I strongly suspect he typed the entire thing by bashing his semi-erect cock repeatedly into the keyboard while weeping tears of impotent rage.

Dacre does have time for a friendly PS aimed at the paper kind enough to carry his feeble teenage rant. To wit:

"This week the head of MI5... effectively accused the Guardian of aiding terrorism by publishing stolen secret security files... Again, I ask fair readers, what is worse: to criticise the views of a Marxist thinker, whose ideology is anathema to most and who had huge influence on the man who could one day control our security forces … or to put British lives at risk by helping terrorists?"

Leaving aside the fact Dacre was just moments ago singing his own praises for being the last remaining bastion of free speech amidst a press universally supine to government dictats, signing off an article in someone else's newspaper by accusing them of helping terrorists smacks of coming round for tea and shitting in the kettle.

Right, thank fuck that's over. I'm going to go and scrub my eyes. Peace out.

Sunday 3 February 2013

An Open Letter To Chris Grayling

Dear Mr. Grayling, Thank you for reading this letter. As one of Britain's premiere fuckwits I realise that you must be very busy. Just working out how to get out of bed and put your trousers on without kicking yourself repeatedly in the head must take hours, and that's before you've even started fucking up whichever department Cameron's deemed expendable enough to put you in charge of this week. That said, I would greatly appreciate it if you would take the time to explain a few details regarding the prison reforms you shat out during an interview with the Mail on Sunday today. I recognise that as you were speaking to the Mail you may have legitimately believed that nobody with a key stage 3 comprehension level or higher would ever read the bilious bilge you let dripple from your slackened maw. Sadly for the rest of us, your imaginative musings regarding the state of British prisons (as well as the revelations the joy you take in attacking people smaller and weaker than yourself) were reprinted in numerous respectable newspapers and the Guardian meaning many more people than originally intended, including my self, have now had the misfortune of reading them. While most of your reforms – for example restricting prisoners' access to Sky TV – are the equivalent of promising to finally rid the nation of unicorns, one measure did catch my eye. To aid you in your valiant effort to fight crime you've promised to end the “growing practice” of gay couples sharing cells – a form of “domestic life” which you say is unacceptable in prison. It is towards this towering totem of Tory toss that I'd like to direct my enquiries.

First of all, at what point in a relationship would the proposed ban on gay couples sharing a cell/prison kick in? Would they need to have had “the talk” regarding what they meant to each other, or could they just be a couple of guys having fun without worrying where it was all going? Does the ban apply just to couples or fuckbuddies too? Will there be an exception for people who love shagging but secretly hate each other?

 By the way, is it just gay prisoners' sex lives that bother you, or is it the idea of them having “domestic” arrangements at all? Because if it's the latter, I've got some bad news: when you're less than 6 feet from someone for 23 hours a day, shit gets pretty domestic whether or not you decide to smoosh your erogenous zones together. In my experience most prisoners live the lives of elderly couples – nattering endlessly about TV and the weather, doing chores together and never having sex. With this in mind will you seek to break up straight prisoners who are just good friends?

Speaking of which, are straight prisoners allowed to fuck? As many of your colleagues will fiercely attest, fucking other men doesn't make you gay, so I smell a loophole.

On the subject of holes, would rimming count, or does your definition of gay sex only include penetration? What if my cell mate and I just decided to toss each other off? Just once? Twice? Three wanks and you're out?

As a former prisoner of Wandsworth, one of your government's shittiest penal establishments, I can confidently say that sucking another man's cock in order to get moved (which otherwise would have taken months or years) would have been a win-win situation. How will you stop wily bisexuals like me jumping the queue for the best prisons? On that note, how are you going to know who's in a relationship, who isn't, and who's faking? Will prison guards have to watch the actual act of coitus (again, a bonus as far as I'm concerned) or will you just move people from cell to cell and prison to prison based on whether they “seem like poofs”?

Considering the rise of polyamorous relationships, how will you ensure that you don't break up a gay couple only to inadvertently reaccomadate them with someone they're already dating? If everyone in the prison system enters a polyamorous relationship with each other, will 97,000 new one-person prisons need to be built?

As I know you'd never just parp out a half-arsed policy fart to appease the fuckbrained gobshites who read the Mail on Sunday (and have been deserting your party in droves lately), I'm sure you've already thought long and hard about all these issues, along with the obvious human rights implications of treating gay prisoners differently to other inmates. What concerns me most, though, is whether you've considered the personal cost. Despite the fevered fantasies of you and your Tory brethren, prison is not a paradise for gay people. In fact, the only openly LGBTQ person I encountered there was the subject of homophobic bullying and threats from prisoners and guards alike*. Many LGBTQ people – in couples or not – may choose to live with other gay prisoners simply because it's safer. So, Mr. Grayling, my last question is this: when the first inmate dies from this policy, either through violence or suicide, what will you tell their family?


Jonnie Marbles

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Policing Fanguage

A new and insidious practice has been gripping the public sphere lately: telling decent, well-meaning lefty writers like me not to leave boxes full of poisonous snakes lying around unmarked. The modish, cliquey trend for writing patronising warnings on containers of deliberately mislaid, highly deadly exotic reptiles probably grew out of the burgeoning third wave not-getting-bitten-by-snakes movement. While I certainly respect everyone's right to not get bitten by snakes, I am not personally going to facilitate this in any way, however easy it would be. Having been eaten by snakes myself, I personally feel the best way to combat the fear of snakes (and build up a good degree of resistance to their venom) is to fill your house and every public space with snakes. I admit that this approach is not for everyone, but I've decided to make everyone else do it my way anyway. The most damaging part of snake labelling, for me, is how it shuts down free speech by making me write two words when I sort of can't be bothered. Those three or four seconds I spend writing WARNING: SNAKES on a box before flimsily duct taping it shut leaving it under the pews of a local church or in the middle of a supermarket aisle are seconds I could have spent not writing anything at all. At the end of the day, isn't that what free speech is all about? Not saying things? At the end of the day, if you're one of the 99.8% of the population that's highly allergic to cobra venom or who can't fight their way out of a python's oesophagus, perhaps going outside isn't for you? You have to expect that, in the public arena, you're going to encounter one or two or several dozen dangerous snakes and it's not fair on the rest of us to expect us to warn you. At the very least, if you do die, don't complain about it. It shuts down debate. I mean, it doesn't shut it down in such a way that I say or do things differently, or start properly labelling reptiles, but it shuts it down in that I feel kind of bad that I keep endangering strangers' lives by leaving snakes lying around. Which, when you get down to it, is what's really important. FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT SNAKES AND WHY I KEEP THROWING THEM AT YOU CANNOT BE FOUND HERE:

Thursday 20 December 2012

A Modest Counter-Proposal

As many of you will already tragically be aware, on Tuesday up-and-coming arsepimple Alec Shelbrooke used his privileged position as a Tory MP and his rather more commonplace position as a cunt to launch what may be the most unpleasant Conservative attack yet on vulnerable people. Specifically, Mr. Shelbrooke would like to see all benefits provided on prepaid "welfare cashcards" the use of which would then be limited to "essential" items such as food, clothing and travel, with "non-essential, desirable or damaging items" (NEDDs - geddit?) prohibited. Dirty benefit scroungers would then be unable to levy their largesse on such gaudy baubles as alcohol, cigarrettes and Sky TV, the latter of which I agree is both unnecessary and damaging. Shelbrooke also argues that this would prevent benefit claimants spending their money in betting shops, though anyone who thinks only allowing people to purchase food will prevent gambling has clearly never bought a kebab.

It almost goes without saying that this idea is not only unfair but unworkable, the only sure-fire result being the creation of a black market where welfare cards are loaned out to people with ready cash in exchange for a commission. Leaving aside, for a moment, the fact that the plan is both cruel and fuckwitted, I'd like to make a counter-proposal: the Tory MP's Cashcard.

To take one example, Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke received £65,738 in wages this year, plus a further £38,666 in expenses for a total of £104,404 of taxpayer's money, around four times what the average British family earns. Currently this sum is paid directly into Shelbrooke's bank account where it can be spent on all manner of unnecessary things like illegal fox hunts and secret donations to UKIP. I propose that, instead, Tory MPs should only be able to spend their money on the following undesirable and hopefully very damaging items:

  • Special brew
  • Battered saveloys
  • 10-decks of Sovereign
  • Dangerous dogs (untrained)
  • McDonalds
  • The wrong gang colours for the local area (clothing)
  • Piggy-backs from skinheads (transport)
  • Payday loans
  • White lightning
  • The Guardian
  • Heroin
Limiting Tory spending to the above items will not only help increase the stigma and indignity associated with being a Tory MP, but it will also help reduce the cost to the taxpayer as more and more Conservatives take their rightful place as horribly bloated corpses, overfed on saveloys and McDonalds, reeking of cheap booze and slightly more expensive heroin. As an added bonus to the treasury, footage of Britain's small army of overpriviledged bellends vomiting themselves to death as skinheads kick the remains of a battered saveloy out of their uselessly chubby fingers can be made into a primetime BBC 2 reality TV show, and serialised around the world. The money raised could then be used to pay for the NHS and/or a bouncy castle. Possibly a bouncy NHS.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Has the general election already begun?

Many fellow tweeps have been pleasantly apoplectic today over a new Tory ad decrying Britain's ravaging horde of grasping dole scroungers (many of whom live it up on as much as £10 a day) which has apparently being floated in order to keep the furnaces of middle england hatred quietly smouldering until the next election (warning: link leads to the Conservative party website, which some readers should find distressing). The online ad, which will haunt the waking hours of residents in sixty of the UK's most marginal constituencies, links to a push poll that invites respondents to ponder whether benefits should rise faster than wages (i.e. in line with inflation) and whether people should be able to claim more than the average family earns in benefits (note: they can't). While many fine members of the commentariat have expressed inexplicable shock that an online poll on the Conservative party website is not scientifically rigorous, the real story lurks beneath the surface like a geeky political Kraken. To wit:

Why are the Conservatives running election ads 30 months ahead of the next general election? 

Perhaps most plausibly, it may be that the Tories are starting to lose the argument on welfare and benefits and, consequently, are shitting their expensively tailored pants. Facetious bullshit about scroungers has so far been a political fig leaf for the cuts in general, giving cover to many far less popular policies like closing hospitals and killing disabled people. The full gamit of wankers, from Osborner to IDS, have nimbly pivoted the discussion away from the effects of austerity onto the pressing need to make the lives of Britain's most vulnerable people as difficult as possible. However, many of the myths around benefits are now eroding, perhaps in part because the Labour party have decided to act slightly less like blubbering pisswillows and actually call the Conservatives out on their slippery little lies. Personally, I don't give a shit about whether poor people are fiddling the system, and I'd actively encourage them to avoid working which, as anyone who'se ever really done any of it can attest, is shit. Still, as well as the right's ideological argument against welfare being a stinking moral abyss, it helps that the facts behind the bollocks are now being exposed as non-existent, particularly when it comes to such well-worn tropes as "families in which no one has every worked". As a result the once formidable Conservative polling lead in this area is rapidly evaporating, with one survey already showing that over two thirds of people oppose the current round of benefit cuts. If public attitudes continue to develop in this direction the Conservative party, which has bet the farm on the electorate being composed of mean, ignorant bastards, will be left wanking into the wind come polling day. With this in mind, perhaps it makes sense for the Conservatives to try and shore up support on one of their key issues before their battleship is completely sunk, and it's certainly been an effective advertising spend, what with useful idiots like me crowing about the campaign to many who'd otherwise never have heard about it. That said, it's unusual for a political party to spend money on advertising at all this far out from an election, particularly on negative ads like this, which are usually reserved for the fag end of a desperate campaign. 

The other possibility is that the general election is closer than we think. The coalition, which has long been dysfunctional, now seems perpetually on the brink of all-out divorce. There are any number of catalysts that could thrust what's left of this unholy alliance back into the pit from whence it came, with both the Lib Dem left and the Tory right potentially having something to gain from such a fissure. There's even the possibility that the gently brewing palace coup within the conservative party will finally come to the boil and Cameron will be deposed and replaced by one of his (somehow even less pleasant) chums. Any of these events could readily lead to a vote of no confidence in the government - one which some members of the Conservative ranks might choose not to oppose, particularly if doing otherwise meant limping onwards in minority government for two years. The Tories may decide that, despite their current standing in the polls, it's better to strike before Labour have all their ducks in a row and before the economy slurps back into recession. Though far fetched, the Conservatives could even, hypothetically, call a motion of no confidence in themselves, thus triggering an early election (though it's hard to imagine a party succesfully campaigning on a "Vote for us! We don't believe in ourselves at all!" platform). So these ads may be hedging against, or even planning for, an early election. 

Whatever the case, it seems the Tories are fighting a rearguard action - the ad is set to run in the sixty most marginal Tory held seats, which Labour would only need 25 of to become the largest party. If the Conservatives thought they had a serious chance of winning the next general election, they'd be doing more than trying to cling on to what they've already got.

P.S. If you encounter any of these ads on google or anywhere else besides the Conservative website, be sure to click on them. Doing so will cost the Conservative party money which would otherwise be spent on evil.

P.P.S Am now hearing that the Tory ad campaign was launched in response to a Labour leafletting campaign in the same marginals. Curiouser and curiouser. 

Wednesday 12 December 2012

The Scheme For Full Unemployment - How The Tories Cook The Job Numbers

Today I'm going to do something I've not done before: praise the Tories. You see, as an anarchist, I yearn for a world where work is a thing of the past and, it would seem, the Conservative government (along with their sub-Robin-quality Lib Dem sidekicks) are well on their way to achieving it. Likewise, and if only for their sheer gumption, I must praise them for their success in convincing the public that they're doing precisely the opposite.

Today saw the release of the quarterly Labour Force Survey which aims to track what, if anything, Britain's 63 million inhabitants are up to at the moment. The headline stats, which various Tory twat-trumps have been gleefully bellowing all day, are that employment is up by 40,000 (or around 0.1%) and unemployment is down by 82,000 (or 0.2%). However, these are just the raw stats, raw in the same way chicken is raw, so swallowing them is not advised without at least acknowledging the following caveats. First of all it's important to note that this quarter's changes are all within the margin of error (which you can calculate for yourself here if you, as I, are an insufferable bellend) and occurred during a period which included Olympics, an event which might have been expected to produce more than a few extra jobs. Secondly, employment did not keep pace with population growth, likely to be in the region of 100-120,000 over the last few months. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the employment statistics issued by the government are, and have been for some time, a steaming crock of bollocks flavoured bullshit.

The Tories are cooking the books in three main ways. The first, and potentially largest, is through the Work Programme/Workfare. These government initiatives respectively force jobseekers to take mandatory training courses and work for nothing in return for the government not taking away your  Jobseeker's Allowance, a quantity of money which the government describes as "the minimum amount you need to live on". Despite the fact that in order to be on one of these programmes you must be jobless and claiming JSA, these people are not classified as "unemployed". In some cases (when a person is doing a workfare placement, "practical" training or work experience) they are simply described as "employees" and lumped in with the other 29 million employed bods. In other cases (hypothetically when a person is training on the work programme, though it's unclear) they're described as being in "government supported employment or training" which, bizarrely, still counts as a variety of employment, but is counted separately. The government admits to 171,000 of these latter beings (a rise of 19,000 in just the last three months). If these unemployed people were counted as unemployed, the official jobless rate would rise from 7.8% to 8.3%, close to the highest rate recorded under this government and higher than any recorded under the last one (though, to be fair, Labour employed the same statistical trick, albeit to a lesser extent).

However, we've yet to chew through the most fecal chunk of the bullshit sandwich: there are almost a million people missing from the official stats. According to the DWP, around 65,000 people a month have been referred to the work programme since its inception midway through last year, meaning an estimated 1.5 million people have been referred to it so far. Though a pitiful number of these people actually found jobs, around half of the people made to join the work programme when it began were forced into destitution within a year, most of them for at least three months, meaning they'd likely be classed as "economically inactive" (though still, strangely, not "unemployed" which is clearly what they are). The rest are still on the work programme, meaning that potentially hundreds of thousands of people are being counted as "employed" without actually having jobs.

The second way the government's been fiddling harder than a rooftop Topol is by slowly growing, both by accident and by design, the number of people classified as "economically inactive". People unversed in labour statistics might reasonably think everyone is either employed or unemployed. Well, they fucking well aren't. Just over nine million people in this country apparently don't have a job and aren't looking for one either. They may have recently won the lottery or married into a wealthy dynasty, meaning they never need to work again. Perhaps just as often, these people have been kicked off benefits and/or given up on looking for work entirely and are instead spending their days alternately sobbing and angrily shaking their fists at the sky. Either way, there are 900,000 more of them now than when the current cohort of clustercunts came to power, with 60,000 more joining the ranks of the forsaken in the last 3 months alone. The government likely sees these people (who, by definition, can't claim Jobseeker's) as successes, workshy wannabe parasites whose greedy grasping has been thwarted by the coalition's brave and noble war on poor people. Handily for them, the exclusion of these 900,000 poor sods from the official stats also shaves 3.5% off unemployment.

The ranks of the economically inactive have likely been swelled by the government's relentless barrage of unemployment-shaming. The lazy, factphobic way members of the coalition throw around perjorative words like "scrounger" and meaningless phrases like "alarm clock Britain" has probably encouraged those who can to avoid benefits and rely on help from friends and relatives where possible (this is also evident in the growing ranks of the self-employed-but-out-of-work who, again, are counted as fucking employed for some reason).

However, it may also have depressed unemployment in another, previously unreported way. As I mentioned earlier, our employment figures are gathered through the Labour Force Survey which is, as the quick amongst you will already have accepted, a survey. This means someone from the LFS has to call someone up (or, with the majority of first interviews, go round their house) and ask them lots and lots questions about who they are and how they live their lives. In an age where shirkers and skivers are routinely described like the particularly unloved lovechildren of a drunken tryst between Beelzebub and Hitler, survey respondents may be disinclined to put up their hands and mark themselves out as the benefit swilling dolepigs that they, in all actuality, aren't. This is then exacerbated by a couple of factors. First of all, at the beginning of 2011 the government stopped using face to face interviews (which people, dolepig or otherwise, are more likely to respond to) to get in touch with people. As a result, the full response rate dropped to around 50%. Secondly, the LFS is a kind of cohort study (meaning it studies the same sample of individuals over a period of time) with a couple of odd quirks. People who initially respond to the survey will be contacted again every three months for the next year, with 20% of burnt-out, cynical respondents being replaced with pouting, wide-eyed newbies every quarter. Unsurprisingly, not everyone can make it through all five gruelling questionnaires, and a substantial number disappear each time a new wave of contact is made. The surprising bit is what the LFS does when these people decide the don't want to respond to that quarter's survey: they assume everything is fine and fill in the gap with the previous quarter's data (a process called "imputation").

Why, exactly, you'd do this seems beyond me, unless it's a process specifically designed to under-record those who've recently become redundant and aren't feeling too chipper about it. That said, it's the way the survey's been conducted since long before the Tories began cynically tub-thumping about the evils of Britain's poor. However, the coalition's shameless barrage of shame does seem to be having an effect - the proportion of data imputed has increased by 13% since they came to power (full, nightmarishly boring methodology reports for the LFS can be found here).

A lot of the above could be dismissed as par for the course or, at least, as a problem with the (internationally recognised) Labour Force Survey rather than with the coalition. Still, the policies of David Cameron and his gaggle of cock-anused fuck-wranglers seem specifically designed to exploit weaknesses in how we collect the data (in the same way Thatcher's government did everything they could to move people off Jobseekers and onto other benefits). In doing so, they have created a truly Kafkaesque sitution - one where the jobless work and the workless are employed.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

The Work Programme: Why it's worse than you think

Being a strange and lonely soul, I've spent the morning pouring over the DWP's reluctantly released figures revealing the catastrophic failure of its work programme. The headline numbers are that, of the 878,000 people referred to the Work Programme so far, around 31,000 have found gainful employment for at least 3 or (in around two thirds of cases) 6 months. This works out at a success rate of about 3.5%, missing even the government's startlingly low minimum target of 5.5%. Even this eye-bogglingly shit accomplishment isn't all it seems, however, as I'll attempt to demonstrate using the system of arithmetic developed by the Greeks around 300 BC.

The first thing to note is that though 31,000 worked for at least 3 months, only 23,000 of them still had those jobs by July of this year (see page 5). Secondly, just because a person has worked for 3 or 6 months does not mean they've done so continuously - the Work Programme providers (such as notorious shitcunts A4E) get paid even if the work is made up of patchy week long temp jobs and zero-hour contracts. Speaking of those payments, buried in the data is a fact the DWP clearly don't want to make a song and dance about - the work programme has so far cost around £400 million. That's £12,883 per job. Assuming, generously, that those placements lasted six months on average, the government could have just spent the money we used finding 31,000 people jobs in Tescos and Poundland to employ 37,000 nurses.

How have we joylessly spunked such an unberable sum up the wall, you may ask, particularly in times of such bleak austerity? The answer comes largely in the £400-£600 payment the cavalcade of limited liability bastards get for taking on new "clients". These payments, made before the corporate fuckpots have actually done anything, exemplify the something for nothing culture Iain Duncan Smith regularly works himself up into a cross-eyed lather about, and account for about £335m of the money we've so far rammed round the fiscal u-bend. The sliver of cash which doesn't go directly into shareholders' pockets goes on mandatory courses which (according to one friend) teach you that it's better to look in the local paper for a job than ask a psychic, amongst other vital life lessons. This may explain why people seem to do a better job of finding an, er, job, if they aren't on the programme at all.

There are further incentives for these cocktoed wankmuffins, however, and every time an employment "outcome" is achieved (i.e. someone has stayed in a job for a set amount of time) another fat cheque is written. The amount offered differs between different groups, and bizarrely the government have decided to give companies less cash for finding work for young people (amongst whom the unemployment rate is 18.9%) and much less for people trying to find work while receiving incapacity benefit.

I can only assume this latter provision is part of the Tories' well established, multi-pronged strategy to fuck the ill, a strategy which today's data sadly shows to be working. Of the 15,210 people forced off incapacity benefit and referred to the work programme, just 160 of them have found jobs. That's a "success" rate of 1.05%. If you'd like to check this for yourself the numbers are on pages 4 and 13 here - the relevant columns are JSA ex-IB and ESA ex-IB.

The government will try to dress up this colossally expensive, inconceivably mismanaged cocktastrophe with reference to one final (fudged) figure: 56% of those referred to the work programme have come off benefits. Thankfully, this is not the case. While 56% of those referred to the work programme have had a break in benefits (maybe for just one or two weeks), we have thankfully not seen nearly 500,000 people hurled, starving, into the streets quite yet. If we had, we'd have seen a huge spike in violent crime, even bigger surges in suicides and homelessness than we've experienced already, and a huge strain put on charity and health resources. It is illustrative, though, that the government clearly sees making people destitute as a good thing. So when the government bandies about their fake 56% figure today, remember the Dickensian nightmare they're actually aspiring to.

Saturday 24 November 2012

The BNP and UKIP - A Spot The Difference Game

Twitter and assorted, credulous media tosspots have been aghast today at the news that Rotherham council has reservations about letting racists foster immigrant children. While there are obviously a number of problems with this policy - most obviously that we shouldn't be letting racists foster anyone (Rotherham council were apparently quite happy to place British born children with the couple) - the twatosphere has chosen to focus on a completely upside down set of facts, in much the same way you might use a knife and fork to shove your dinner up your arse.

Putting aside the problems people have raised about councils acting like "thought police", the most egregious part of this fuckwitted debate - if you have the temerity to label it that - is the spectacle of people falling over themselves to point out that UKIP is not a racist party. This splurge of fucknippled fabulism culminated in the prime-minister - who, as always, desperately needs to rim the airtight little arseholes of eurosceptics both in and out of his party - retracting one of the few true statements he's ever made - a sentence uttered some six years ago, back when he was pretending to be anything other than a morally bankrupt shill for all that is cancerous, vapid and venal in our society.

The cry has gone up, now, clearly, that UKIP are a mainstream political party. They're no some weird, loony fringe any more. They're the respectable face of the far right, and they should be treated with respect, because the far right is respectable now. They're not like... you know... *them*. The ones with all the racism and the tendency to get sued by Unilever.

Which would be fine, except UKIP are exactly fucking like the BNP, save for the fact their leader is slightly more eloquent and slightly less likely to provoke a vomiting fit using only his smile. Oh, and their acolytes are more likely to watch cricket than football, so it's all good, old fashioned, Jeremy Clarkson on the village green, Nan's been on the sherry, traditional British racism. Not like the BNP, who are scurrilous thugs with nothing British about them.

To illustrate just how indistinguishable the two parties are, I've created a fun "spot the difference" quiz! Yes, that's how boring my Saturday has been. For each round I want you to guess whether the statements written came from UKIP or the BNP - or, in at least one case, both! When you're done, write your answers down on the back of a postcard and wait for me to collect them.

Round 1. 

Each of the following is a statement from either UKIP leader Nigel Farage or Nick Griffin leader of The BNP. But which is which? Try and guess the correct answer to find out, or just cheat! The choice is up to it's your choice, so choice wisely.

1.) “Let’s put British people first. Only [PARTY NAME] is brave enough to say that.”
2.) "We've given them unlimited rights of free movement into this country and now we've given them total freedom to use our benefits system, our health system, our schools."
3.) "Sending aid to rioting ingrates while our own people die is stinking, elite hypocrisy." 
4.) "“We are going to get Britain out of Europe and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights,”
5.) "We want our country back. We will not be conned again."

Round 2.

In this round you'll be reading excerpts and policies from the UKIP and BNP manifestos. Using only your brain, try to sort out which is the racist party and which is the really, really racist party!

6.) "The first responsibility of the British government is to its own citizens, not those who would like to settle here."
7.) Which party wanted to apply "Britishness tests" to assess immigrants' suitability? 
8.) Which party would institute an immediate, 5 year freeze on all immigration? 
9.) Which party "loves Europe but hates the EU"? 
10.) Which party would require health checks for all those wishing to live in Britain to check them for "communicable diseases"?
11.) Which party advocates immediate withdrawal from the EU? 
12.) Which party seeks to "end the active promotion of the doctrine of multiculturalism" by local and national government?
13.) Which party would seek to deport immigrants, including those given permanent leave to remain, if they are found guilty of a crime?

Round 3.

The final round. Congratulations on making it this far without dying! BUT YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE IS YET TO COME! The following all come from campaign literature. So pin the bigotry on the party and win yourself a smug feeling of self-satisfaction!

14.) "The British Fishing and farming industries have been destroyed to allow Spanish fishing vessels and French farmers to benefit instead." 
15.) "We, the undersigned, demand a referendum on British membership of the European Union."
16.) (Next to a photograph of a sad looking Native American wearing a headdress) "He used to ignore immigration. Now he lives on a reservation." 
17.) "Only [Party Name] is against unlimited immigration."
18.) "Surely, no believer can vote Labour and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ." 

Now you've got your answers, let's see if they're the right answers or the wrong answers, then tell us how many of the answers you answered corresponded with the real answers in the comments section. Here are the answers:

11.) Both UKIP and The BNP. Give yourself one point for each!
13.) Both UKIP and The BNP
18.) BNP


I'd like to point out, for the record, and in response to a couple of tweets that I've gotten about this, that obviously Cameron, Miliband, Brown, Blair etc etc etc are all terrible, racist wanksprockets too. I didn't mean to offend anyone by excluding them. 

Wednesday 5 September 2012

David Cameron, Smeg Head

Ever felt like David Cameron reminded you of someone unbearably naff, but couldn't work out exactly who?

Well he right dishonourable @creepytennis has finally put his finger on it - Rimmer from cult 90s sci-fi series Red Dwarf

No sooner had this blinding epiphany hit us than @ArthurCS furnished us with a suitable graphic accompaniment. Enjoy.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

The Cabinet of the Damned

By now an entire thunderstorm of electrons have probably been wasted by bloggers picking apart David Cameron's latest - and first - cabinet reshuffle. I'm sure many of them have correctly mentioned the unseemly lurch to the right that this unsightly new jumble of cocks represents, but just as striking as the right-wing what of it all is the what-the-fuck why of Cameron's new cabinet.

The last six months have seen the wheels come off the coalition, along with the brakes, the chassis and a significant part of the windshield. Since the omnishambles of the budget, the government hasn't managed a single week without some kind of scandal or fuck-up, from jerry-can-gate and Jeremy Hunt lying to parliament, right up to the recent parliamentary defeat over lords reform, which brought Lib Dems and Tories to the brink of open warfare. In short, the events of the last six months revealed this government to be made up of even more brashly incompetent, slitheringly venal pricks than even the most cynical of us had suspected, clownishly fumbling the dagger of power even as they tried to thrust it into each other's backs.

All of which left Cameron with two incompatible problems. First of all, the country is angry that their Faustian pact with cuts has not brought about the promised paradise of economic growth, and our rulers' constant ineptitude has left many with the impression that they couldn't run a bath let alone an economy. Secondly, even the government is discontent with itself - the Tory right (or Tory "mainstream" as the boggle-eyed, bulge-walleted extremists call themselves) always felt having to get elected at all was an imposition, and sharing power with mere mortals an outrage. The Lib Dems, for their part, seem aghast that their blood-soaked backstreet deal with Beelzebub somehow left them shortchanged. Faced with a choice between appeasing an angry country and an angry coalition, David Cameron has chosen to do the latter, and in doing so all but conceded that a Tory majority is impossible at the next election.

Let's not forget how this coalition came to be. The Tories did not fail to secure a majority, as many in the cornerstone group (a faction within the Conservatives populated by its most judderingly offensive pricks) would have it, because they neglected to focus on a "core vote" (read: mind-laceratingly right wing) strategy. That was the strategy they pursued in 2005, and it led them to defeat. As wince-inducingly insincere as it was, Cameron was tactically correct in 2010 to champion many policies which the majority in his party see as namby-pamby bullshit. It's easy to forget now, as we lurch towards the mid-point of this government's term, that the prime-minister spent much of his time in opposition courting greens, gays, and people who don't despise the NHS. The coalition came about because people (rightly) didn't trust the weaselly little sod, not because he failed to honestly articulate his true roadmap to disaster.

Now, in place of a faux-progressive Big Society conservatism, we have a cabinet that gloatingly shits on the very idea of centrism. Maria Miller, a woman who voted against gay couples adopting and a woman's right to choose is promoted from obscurity to the equalities department. Jeremy Hunt, who openly hates the NHS, is moved to health. Owen Peterson, who denies climate change, encourages fracking and believes banning fox hunting is akin to Nazism becomes the environment minister. All in all, it's clear that Cameron now sees the biggest threat to his tenure at number 10 coming not from the electorate, but from extremist elements within his own party.

Which, of course, makes him more dangerous than ever. One of the good things about elections is they force politicians to at the very least acknowledge that there is a urine problem while they piss all over their bedraggled subjects. Without even this to constrain them, this band of sociopaths is likely to spend the next two and a half years drowning us in their micturitions.

I don't want to end on an entirely bleak note, so I'll instead leave you with the sole dry spot in this ghastly vomitarium. There was little (though not quite nothing) for lib dems to feel appeased about in today's clumsy shakeup, making it not entirely unlikely they'll decide to scupper what's left of the project before too long. Equally, Cameron's obsequiousness to the right of his party are likely to be viewed as weakness by its beneficiaries, and the jackbooted little fuckbuckets may decide to thrust the knife in before too long. While all I can promise out of this potential melee is chaos, there are few outcomes that would be much worse than we have now.

Monday 20 August 2012

Day 8 - Tossers, Tolerance & Tactical Cowardice

Please read this disclaimer before embarking. You can also read the original prison blogs here.

As the sun sets on my eighth day of incarceration my cell has become a bunker, both guarding from and storing me for an expected retribution. Every time a screw walks by I find the small of my back seizing up and my fist clenching tightly round my pen. Today wasn't supposed to be like this. I had a whole missive prepared for you lot about how hard it is to get a phone call round here. I can feel your anguish at missing that one. Events, however, have pre-empted my hard hitting expose and left me instead with the possibility of just getting hit, hard.

With Splinter gone and the TV resultingly off I am no longer constantly awoken by the dread incantions of Hubba-Hubba, merciless overlord of the Hoob people and coming curator of mankind's demise. I miss him, though expect I shall feel differently when I'm toiling in the kryptonite mines with all the other tiddlypeeps. Today began instead with an induction aimed at preparing me for prison life which, ironically, came a day after my resettlement that was aimed at getting me ready for life back out in the big wide world. The induction consisted primarily of a basic literacy and numeracy test (which contained a mistake) and a chance to wander round outside my cell for a bit, during which time I discovered I really should be doing much, much more of this sort of thing.

Officially, the Wandsworth E Wing schedule, which I found pinned to a noticeboard, looks like this:

7:45-8:15 Exercise

8:30-9:00 “Free Flow” movement for morning workers and those doing training (so prisoners can get from one wing to another)

9:00-11:45 Association time (prisoners out of their cells, mingling, fondu)

11:45-12:00 Workers etc return

12-13:00 PM Lunch

15:00-16:30 Association time

16:45-18:00 Dinner

18:00-19:30 Association

Maths fans in the audience will have worked out that prisoners should get 6 hours and 15 minutes out of their cells a day, not including meals (which, whether by incompetence or design, are collected at the canteen and eaten in our cells). The most time I've gotten out of my cell in a day so far is an hour, assuming the exercise yard isn't rained off and association isn't cancelled due to a lockdown. Like it was today.

Today's lockdown wasn't the product of prisoner misbehaviour, at least not misbheaviour by any prisoners who are actually here. Rather it's you lot outside, with your halfbricks, molotovs and utter contempt for Dixons who condemned me to missing my 30 minute afternoon wander. That and the fact this place already seizes to a claustrophobic halt if anything as unpredictable as Sunday happens, let alone the biggest riots in a generation.

Perhaps it was my ubercarceration that caused me to act more than a little unstably at dinner time today as I strolled down to the hot plate and found one of the guards mincing limpwristedly at the head of the dinner queue. Or perhaps I'm just going crazy. Either way my remaining few days in here now threaten to be rather more interesting than I'd hoped. 

A little background: prison is the most racist and homophobic place I've been since university, where I accidentally sat down at a Conservative Future social. Whilst I was more than happy to argue the respective merits of Martin Luther King and Hitler with the rahs of Royal Holloway, I've thus far decided that Wandsworth might be a good place to employ a policy of tactical cowardice in a calculated bid to keep all my teeth. In other words, and with a few exceptions, I've turned a shamefully blind eye to all manner of depressingly casual bigotry from otherwise nice people. Nicer than I'd have expected, anyway.

A major target of prisoners' prejudice during my stay here has been a guy who we'll call Snarf. To my untrained eye, Snarf seems to be suffering from some mental health issues. I say this partly because he's constantly talking to himself, and partly because his preferred method of ambulation around the prison is a pronounced mince, something my own staying-alive-strategy would counsel against. It's this, and the associated inference of ZOMGGAYNESS, which is causing consternation amongst the prison's close-knit community of likeminded bigots.

I've so far responded to my fellow inmates' intolerance with vacant smiles, non-committal grunts and silent wails of inner despair but, this evening, with the stalwart courage of a moth confronting a bang out of order flame, I finally said something.

Perhaps it helped that tonight's perpetrator of prejudice was one of the screws instead of a prisoner. I certainly felt more comfortable arguing the toss with a confirmed tosser than I would have with someone who dwells on my side of metal doors, though whether it was actually any safer is debatable. In fact, looking back, I'm not sure I considered safety at all. Either way, before I knew it, I'd squared up to the mock-flouncing fucker (who we'll call officer W133, HMP Wandsworth, E Wing) and demanded to know, in my most earnestly annoying inquisitive voice, whether he was being homophobic. He replied to my question with one of his own, like we were playing some kind of GCSE drama game. To wit: “do you have a fucking problem with that, mate?”. It's my custom, when I get out of my depth, to keep on swimming in the hope of eventually reaching the other side, so I replied that, yes, actually, I did have a problem with it, particularly as homophobic behaviour was contrary to the “standard compact” between prisoners and staff, so could realistically be expected to get the cock in question fired. It was at this point that officer W133 got right up in my grill, took out a notebook, told me I was “bang out of order” and demanded to know my cell number. I'm surprised he didn't put a note in my homework diary while he was at it.

As the adrenaline faded I began to get the creeping feeling that fucking off officer W133 might not have been the best idea I'd ever had, particularly considering that the conversation had ended with the Wandsworth equivalent of “I know where you live!”. My growing sense of worry was helped on its way by a lag who accosted me a few moments later, shaking his head and warning me that I'd picked the wrong screw to mess with.

Once this state of affairs was quickly confirmed by the uh-ohs and you-fucking-whats of other inmates, my adrenaline was back up and I was soon in full on panic mode. I went back to my cell and spent the next several hours making a list of all the bad things W133 could possibly do to me, a list which ranges from stealing my canteen ration to kicking my fucking head in. It's surprising how many ways there are for someone who runs your house to hurt you, and how few ways there are to reliably respond. For now I've opted for starting a paper trail so that, if something does happen, I'll at least have some evidence I can use to implicate the evil fuck. Sadly my paper trail largely resides in the “confidential”complaint form, which goes in a envelope on the front of which I had to write my name and cell number, thereby somewhat defeating confidentiality's purpose.

I don't know if anything will happen. I might be incredibly paranoid or not nearly paranoid enough. The worst thing W133 could do, besides beating me up (or getting someone else to do it), would be confiscating these notes before I can get them to the outside world. That's what really tightens my grip every time I hear footsteps by the door.

So, if you're reading this, ends day 8.

You can read day 7 of the prison blogs here or day 9 here

Saturday 18 August 2012

Why Pussy Riot would have been jailed in Britain

Unless you've been living under a particularly wi-fi resistant rock for the last six months, you've probably heard about Pussy Riot, the trio of Russian punk protesters who pissed off a literal patriarch and were sentenced to (the statutory minimum of) two years for hooliganism yesterday. If you've not heard of them, that last sentence may be of some use.

Commentators from across (almost) the entire western political spectrum have been rightly outraged at this draconian sentencing and lack of due process, with some talking heads going as far as to suggest this is the return of the good old fashioned Stalinist show trial. While it's great to see so many people, particularly on the right, finally take the side of protesters, it's hard not to detect a scent of xenophobia, or even propoganda, wafting from these proud mouthed denunciations of all things Putin, particularly when you remember there is nothing uniquely Russian about locking up protesters. In fact, what Pussy Riot's protest would have been an imprisonable offence right here in the UK. They might even have gotten more time for it.

First, let's take a quick look at what Pussy Riot actually did (if you're familiar with the case, feel free to skip this paragraph. In fact, even if you aren't, do whatever the hell you want. I'm not the boss of you): on February 11th this year, during the run up to the Russian presidential election, members of Pussy Riot and unknown others disrupted a Russian Orthodox service by running in front of the altar and singing an anti-Putin hymn, kicking and punching the air and brandishing instruments. They were dressed in brightly coloured balaclavas, short skirts and neon tights, an ensemble which mightily offended the presiding judge. The song they sang satirised both the church and Putin, and contained lewd and blasphemous lyrics. I strongly approve of this behaviour.

Pussy Riot were found guilty of (roughly translated) “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in Russia. Coincidentally, seven years is the maximum you can expect in prison under the UK Racial andReligious Hatred Act of 2006. Could the act have been used to prosecute Pussy Riot had they played their gig in, say, Westminster Abbey? Probably not, partly because (in theory) section 29J of the act exempts “expressions of dislike and ridicule” (though it's hard to know how the difference between dislike and hatred would be assessed in practice) and partly because Britain just don't give as much of a shit about religion as Russia does. Indeed, if Pussy Riot were to storm your average C of E service, I imagine most of the parishioners would be glad of the distraction.

Let's assume, though, that Pussy Riot's hypothetical UK stunt did cause Daily Mail-esque public outrage (if you're having a hard time imagining that, pretend they said bad things about Tom Daley instead of Vladimir Putin) and also that section 29J works in practice. What crimes would Pussy Riot have committed?

A renegade legal system (of which ours is frequently one) could try them on at least two charges: Aggravated Trespass and Violent Disorder. There would also almost certainly be potential for an offence under section five of the public order act, but that doesn't carry a custodial sentence, so I'll leave it to one side for now. If you can think of any other charges an out-of-control judiciary could try them for, let me know in the comments section.

If Pussy Riot had acted in the UK, securing an aggravated trespass conviction would be fairly straightforward. For a start, AT is pretty easy to commit – you just have to be trespassing somewhere (which PR were) and attempting to disrupt alawful activity (again, yeah, pretty much). It is not a defence to say that your actions were part of a protest or otherwise politically motivated – indeed, as members of UK Uncut discovered last year,prosecutors can argue that a political context actually makes things worse. Aggravated Trespass admittedly only carries a three month sentence rather than one of two years, but conviction would be a near certainty: just like in Russia, the case would be heard, decided and sentenced by a single judge acting without a jury. As has happened in a number of sensitive political cases in the UK, a compliant, anti-protester judge can usually be found (in my case, the judge's name was Daphne Wickham, who is notorious for sending activists down and letting coppers off, and plies her dirty trade at Westminster Magistrate's court). The potential for corruption in this judge-no-jury set up should be obvious to all.

If the crown felt like slicing off a slightly more succulent pound of flesh, they could always opt for a Violent Disorder charge. “Don't be silly!” I hear you cry through my computer screen in a way that's frankly creepy “Pussy Riot weren't violent!”. Indeed they weren't, dear readers, but for a violent disorder prosecution to be successful no violence need be inflicted. Therelevant statute reads:

Where 3 or more persons who are present together use or threaten unlawful violence and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety, each of the persons using or threatening unlawful violence is guilty of violent disorder.

“But they didn't threaten violence either!” come your ethereal voices once more as the edge of my laptop glows a ghastly red. Didn't they? Those punching and kicking motions certainly SEEMED violent to me, and would doubtless do so to a sufficiently imaginative prosecutor. In fact, now I think of it, couldn't those instruments of theirs be used as weapons (as one pro-Putin blog bizarrely claims)? If this seems fanciful, consider that playing with a beach ball was described as “intimidating” at the UK Uncut trial by prosecution lawyers, who reportedly kept a straight face the entire time.

Lest you think I'm yanking your collective shin, consider further that the state wouldn't need to provide any witnesses to attest they'd felt threatened by Pussy Riot's hypothetical onslaught of music. Yes, their actions need to be likely to cause a person of “reasonable firmness” to fear for their safety, but, in the words of the law:

No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.

So you and your three friends could kick the shit out of the empty air in a deserted street and, with a sufficiently motivated prosecution, be found guilty of violent disorder. Indeed in practice, such broad wording of the law means that its interpretation is entirely subjective, a situation which results in (to take one example) a man being sentenced to a year in prison for throwing an empty plastic bottle at the Israeli embassy.

So would Pussy Riot have faced jail in England? Probably. If the British public felt the same way as the Russian public do about Pussy Riot, then I think they'd be doing a long stretch. Which is one thing people always forget about the legal system – that it's not only subjective but subject to public opinion. We create the conditions judges judge in –whether those conditions are the mindless, knee-jerk cauldron of public disgust and misunderstanding that informed the UK riot sentences or, well, good ones.

In other words the state can only commit the crimes the public allow it to. So don't. 

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