Freedom News

Bosses are circling the wagons against Don’t Pay UK

One of the most notable things about Don’t Pay UK and its plan of getting a million people to cancel their direct debits on October 1st, as a way of pressuring for energy price reductions, has been how rapidly the State, companies and now charities have rallied round in panic against it.

The campaign, which was initially started up in June, was covered early on by the Guardian but really kicked off halfway through July via a warning piece from personal finance guru Martin Lewis and a well-received interview on breakfast telly. Signups rocketed (heading towards 100,000 at the time of writing) as articles duly started to go up elsewhere – including in the right-wing press with the Sun, Times, Telegraph and Daily Mail picking up on a “new Poll Tax” angle.  

This level of interest from the right-wing press is telling in itself. Fully aware that their side have been taking the trickledown ever since Thatcher, they’ve been dreading the potential consequences for decades now, often inadvertently showcasing a dull, anxious paranoia especially during Corbyn’s time. Their paymasters have gobbled up a vast percentage of all available wealth but can’t just take these winnings home – they have to see how far they can push the working class. How much can it be squeezed before the party stops? Like the problem gambler, the rich know they’re on a precipice. They know they’ve taken things to the point that social stability is at risk. It’s why they’ve been quietly beefing up powers against protesting and went hard on the 2021 Bristol clashes.

But while Truss and Sunak waffle on about woke politics and tax cuts they can’t seem to stop. Another roll of the dice. Can we give shareholders unfettered dividends and bosses above-inflation pay rises while convincing the workers they have to accept pay restraint to “fight inflation”? Can we pass off massive incomes for private energy firms as morally correct while arguing there’s no option but to triple bills for consumers? How long can we ignore the chaos our ideological privatisation and running down of the NHS and education has caused? Will they notice that our raising of interest rates and plans to cut VAT either don’t or barely affect the ability of people on the breadline to afford food and energy prices, but are handy bungs for people with money? 

And these aren’t even the long-term picture, they’re just some of the key crises and scandals happening at this particular moment.

So it’s not surprising that they’re starting to both ramp up the rhetoric and look for ways to mitigate the impact of the first campaign in years to seriously challenge not just the consequences of their corruption but its legitimacy. The idea of Don’t Pay strikes directly at the heart of their ideology, that the owners are the only qualified, and indeed morally correct, people to set prices, even when this power hurts millions. 

What might have surprised some over the last few days however was the enthusiasm of our very own supposed watchdogs and protectors to jump into bed with this reaction. In one example the head of Ofgem, Jonathan Brearley, went on Radio 4 to say “it will drive up costs for everyone across the board … if you are facing difficulty in paying your bill, the best thing you can do is get in touch with your energy company.” This was echoed by Citizens Advice, which similarly suggested calling energy providers to “come to an agreement.”

Ofgem is, of course, supposed to be regulating the behaviour of energy companies, not consumers. But Brearley, a long-time civil servant, appears to have become an enthusiastic defender of big energy since he took over at the top in 2020. His hamstringing of smaller firms by refusing point blank to let them cut prices in response to market changes led Martin Lewis to label Ofgem a “fucking disgrace” which was “selling consumers down the river.” Brearley has presided over the collapse of more than 30 energy firms since the start of 2021, giving effective cartel power to a handful of outfits which are now benefitting hugely from the new regime. 

Citizens Advice, meanwhile, is also hamstrung, though for different reasons. NGOs of its type have for many years been partly prevented from campaigning on a political basis, and are heavily restricted in what they can do if they wish to retain their charitable status – for a start they can’t be seen to advocate a mass non-payment campaign. Especially given how many of their major backers are comprised of banks and energy companies. British Gas, E.On, SSE and Shell are all keeping the centres open. This is not to knock Citizens Advice of course, they have to get their money from somewhere to cover a vital role no-one else is doing, but they can’t really be expected to side against their sources of income in this case.

Indeed both cases smell strongly of leverage, if not a lack of imagination, and in the slightly less than two months which are left before October 1st, we can expect a great deal more of it especially as the Don’t Pay campaign continues to grow. Other charities and institutions will be wheeled out to give the official advice to “get in touch with your provider” as though this is any sort of solution to the problem of not having any money. If things go really well the government may begin to directly intervene, and companies will work up dirty tricks – there have already been reports of “reinstallation fees” hitting four figures for people who ask to swap out their “smart” meters for the old fashioned ones that actually have to be read and can’t cut you off at the drop of a hat. 

It’s important to bear all this in mind when following the campaign. The rich are jittery. They’re worried that once people reject the idea that bosses have a right to do what they want it won’t stop with gas bills. They’ll pull out the stops, attempt to delegitimise organisers, pull in respectable “independent” allies to naysay the campaign, stoke fear and target people to make an example of. But bear in mind they’re jittery for a reason. They’re a lot weaker than they look – they know they don’t have the resources to bring down the hammer on a million people at once.

Don’t Pay has a strategy, they have background information on how best to go about it, and for vast numbers of people those bills aren’t getting paid anyway. This is an opportunity to stand up and give the money grubbers a bloody nose – we should take it.


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