One of the things I’ve put a lot of time to thinking about is how Class War can get media coverage and then control it. It’s not a square I’ve been able to circle. I’m part of the group and I’m also researching their foray into electoral politics (I was a candidate for the Class War Party in 2015).
The mass media is exceedingly fickle and I’ve been on protests where I’ve thought “this is going to get a lot of attention” only to find no mainstream media coverage. One example was the day, a week before the 2015 general election, when we blocked Tower Bridge in London with hundreds of people on a meandering demonstration through the streets. As Class War were a political party at the time I imagined this would garner some sort of attention for the group. There was nowt. You can see a selection of pictures from this event at Peter Marshall’s My London Diary site
Then one day you wake up to articles all over the news about Class War doing this, that and the other. The attack on the Cereal Killer Café later in 2015 for example or the occasional mentions of Corbyn’s policy advisor, Andrew Fisher, and a tweet he made in support of my standing against Labour’s Emily Benn. Often these are accompanied by outlandish claims on the fringes of the fake news media (as it’s become known). There were reports that protesters tried to rip a dog apart with their bare hands at the Cereal Killer Café and of course that Class War is a fringe group within the Labour Party.
Yesterday the media was at it again in one of the most bizarre collective outbursts to date. The group had planned a little trip to the London residence of Jacob Rees-Mogg. The reasons are very simple for targeting this man. He currently holds a great deal of sway within the Tory Party and they are battling and have been for over quite soem time about not just the direction of Brexit but the future leadershipof their party and therefore who will be the next Prime Minister of the UK. Rees-Mogg is seen as being on the right of the party and supports Boris Johnson. This is a battle that is as much about his Eton background as anything else. With no old Etonian’s in the cabinet at the current time, people like Rees-Mogg, who have been educated to believe that they have a right to rule over us, must be incredibly frustrated. You can guess that these battles for supremacy are basically a race to see who can be the shittiest in power. The debate is about the class interests of the ruling class. The fact they are split is welcome but one day a side in this battle will win and we need to be ready.
And then we find out about the Rees-Mogg nanny. Veronica Crook has spent over 50 years slaving for the Rees-Mogg’s. She has wiped arses for multiple generations. We can probably assume Jacob wipes his own now but you never know with these cossetted feudal types. Feudal is the right word. Slaving is the right word. So Class War’s intention was to protest and to seek answers about the treatment of Nanny Crook. What does she get paid? Does she have holiday? Does her pay amount to the London Living Wage?
At the protest, Rees-Mogg emerged and then after a while so did Nanny Crook. Ian Bone, founder of the group, put these questions to Crook but she was always looking towards her master to ensure she was saying the right thing. She told Ian that she wasn’t paid an hourly rate. Of course, it wouldn’t be difficult to work one out. The hours she must work and being always on call for the little Moggs must make her hourly rate pitifully small but Rees-Mogg could come clean and tell the world.
In his autobiography Ian writes about growing up the son of a butler. This is an issue that resonates with him. The video of the protest shows him making some comments about Stokholm Syndrome but his conversation with Crook is actually heartfelt and comes across as caring. The mass media though have chosen barely to mention Nanny Crook and the point of the protest. The media have shrieked and wailed about “far leftist” protesters who shouted and screamed and Ress-Mogg’s children.
If you watch the video you can clearly tell there are very few raised voices. Rees-Mogg brought his children to a Class War protest. Ian chose to engage with them directly, telling them the truth about their father. That incident lasted about 40 seconds and consisted of Ian telling the little Moggs that their father didn’t pay their nanny very well and that this issue means he’s not a very nice person. Prior to that you can see Ian putting these points directly to Rees-Mogg himself, who refuses to answer and puts a hand up to instruct his wife to be quiet when she says something about the nanny getting time off at weekends. Let’s be clear, he brought his kids out into that protest but in any case these kids are going to be just fine aren’t they? They’re never going to know what it’s like to suffer because of the actions of their father. They won’t suffer because of Universal Credit or the bed room tax. They won’t need to use a foodbank. They’ll be just as cosseted as their father.
Tory and Labour MP’s were quick to condemn Class War after footage was shown on the BBC and other news outlets. Many of them just took the line that Class War were shouting at kids, that those 40 seconds would damage them irreparably and going to a politicians home is out of order. On the fringes (but not fringe enough) bloggers like Guido Fawkes suggested a link between Class War and John McDonnell because both were supporting United Voices of the World strikers at a PCS union organised solidarity protest outside the Ministry of Justice last week. On twitter and facebook general lefties and Labour Party members have criticised the group for helping Rees-Mogg get sympathetic coverage, as if it was all part of a great plan.
This morning I thought things might have settled down a bit and maybe the media would shift their focus to what the protest was about rather than the “explosive” and “sensational” 40 seconds. So far I’ve only seen Janet Street-Porter’s effort. She does mention Crook but she claims that the nanny answered all the questions adequately, concluding that it’s “game, set and match” to Rees-Mogg. This was because she was desperately trying to compare Ian Bone to Serena Williams, claiming the two had both had media meltdowns this week. Street-Porter ends her piece with this amazing observation:
“Although the rant at the Rees-Mogg nanny was distasteful, Bone has a point. The number of poor people working as slaves in domestic households in Britain has risen sharply in recent years – but they are just as likely to be trapped in middle class homes as obvious toffs like Mr R-M. And if Nanny Crook didn’t like her pay and conditions, what’s she still doing wiping bottoms after 71 years?
But if on the off-chance she has had enough of Tory high life she might bring her child-minding skills to help multi-millionaire Serena Williams control her tantrums.”
She doesn’t link the word ‘slave’ to her ponderings on why Crook doesn’t get a different job for some reason. And guess what? Class War doesn’t want the middle class to have slaves either. Unfortunately it’s hard to protest outside everyone’s house so we chose a high profile bastard to target. The point is made though: there are far too many people in wage slavery of this obscene kind and it needs to be tackled. Maybe with Street-Porter’s article we see a shifting of the discussion on the protest. Time will tell.
Once again Class War are all over the news. There’s no predicting it and once it happens there’s very little anyone can do to control it.
Photo credit: Peter Marshall