Britain First have had great success on social media, with their Facebook page having gained almost 1.5 million likes in the past few years. Founded by ex BNP chief fundraiser Jim Dowson in 2011, the group started as another of his get-rich-quick schemes. In 2012 they collected money on the streets under the guise of helping ex armed forces, in a true Del and Rodney style complete with folding table that got packed up in seconds if someone called the rozzers. This was recorded by an ex soldier who tracked them down. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mMGG6gNfKm0
In 2014 Britain First registered as an official political party, with Paul Golding as leader. Also in 2014 Golding along with his father and his deputy Jayda Fransen, opened a limited company – Britain First Merchandise Ltd. The company initially used Jim Dowson’s patriot store to sell their products, heavily promoting the link on their now popular Facebook page. These days the online shop is directly accessed from the official party website. Party accounts are registered annually with the Electoral Commission and are available to the public. On checking the available 2014 and 2015 accounts, we noted that there was no revenue declared from any commercial or miscellaneous activities. Obviously we were aware the party promoted and sold their merchandise, so we queried this omission of declared funds with the Electoral Commission. The response was predictably unhelpful. Britain First have confirmed to them the Ltd company and the political party are two separate entities and the proceeds from each activity are completely separate. BUT THEY USE THE SAME WEBSITE! THEY PROMOTE THE GOODS THROUGH THEIR PARTY PAGE!! THEY EMAIL PARTY SUPPORTERS TO ASK THEM TO PURCHASE GOODS!!! Imagine the same thing happening with the Conservatives or Labour. Surely this can’t be legal, we asked? The EC were once again unhelpful and suggested we contact the police ourselves if we believed fraud had been committed.
Of course we have reported this to the police, along with evidence of Mr Golding and Ms Fransen emailing supporters of the party for donations to fund their own criminal legal proceedings and fines. Now we hope they will pursue a case, this time not funded by people who have fallen for their lies.
We posted this on our Facebook page this week, and the reactions of many seemed to really reinforce the point we were trying to make. Many people questioned the figures, saying the rent was too expensive (yes, yes it is, but it is what people are paying for private rental of a 2 bedroom home in the south east!), or that the food budget was too low (again, yes it is but a lot of families are trying to feed themselves on this amount or even less). We were told to move somewhere cheaper, or not to have a car, or even that people who couldn’t afford children shouldn’t have them. The responses surprised us, the fact that these were the first reactions people had, rather than anger at exploitative workplaces or the lack of affordable housing. Has the constant media “benefit porn” become so ingrained in our subconscious’ that our first instinct is to judge and criticise people stuck in the poverty trap rather than the issues that put them there?
This is an example of the finances of a working family living in private rented accommodation in the south east. It allows for only the most basic of living costs, not including clothing a family, birthday or Christmas presents, any social events or treats, or even haircuts. With 2 working parents it isn’t possible to live without tax credits. There are many vital jobs that are paid the the national living wage. Social care, childcare, retail, warehouse and factories to name a few. Many of these jobs are also zero hour contracts, providing employees with very little security. The corporations that employ thousands in this manner, such as Sports Direct, Care UK, McDonalds, Amazon and many more, make large profits for owners, shareholders and private equity firms. We need to acknowledge that for a majority of families the living wage is impossible to live on. Tax credits are not a benefit for employees but a subsidy for large profitable organisations that also aggressively avoid tax liabilities. Our system, our laws and our politics are weighted in their favour. We are encouraged by media and politicians to direct our anger at the poor because they claim benefits, or to migrants because they accept low paid work. Why? Because it creates a diversion from the real problem. A 50p per hour increase on low wages in a society that doesn’t provide enough genuine social housing, and that reduces in work benefit thresholds, achieves nothing. The system is fundamentally and deliberately broken. Until that message is received and understood by the majority, we won’t see any real change.