Simon Walters and Glen Owen
Last updated at 8:21 AM on 26th February 2012
Sparks fly: Tory MP Priti Patel accused the broadcaster of being biased in favour of the protest led by the Left-wing Right To Work organisation
A police crackdown on anti-capitalist extremists who invade shops to sabotage the Government’s work experience programme has been ordered by Ministers.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has asked the police to act amid growing fears in Whitehall that the protesters’ wrecking tactics are succeeding.
Burger King yesterday became the latest major company to withdraw from the Welfare-to-work scheme after claims that it amounts to ‘slave labour’.
Last week, a Tesco store in Westminster was forced to close after it was targeted by Left-wing activists bearing placards accusing the firm of ‘exploitation’.
Mr Duncan Smith believes retailers are not getting enough protection and, after raising the matter with Home Secretary Theresa May, asked the police to get tough.
He said: ‘We have asked the police to be more pro-active. If they receive intelligence that a shop is to be invaded they should stop it happening. And if a shop has been invaded, retailers need to know that they can call on the police to eject them. It is illegal to prevent people going about their normal business.’
The aim of the scheme is to place young people on Jobseeker’s Allowance in work experience for up to eight weeks to help make them more ‘marketable’ to employers.
It is voluntary and those taking part have a week to pull out of a placement if they feel it is not right for them. However, if they withdraw without good reason after that stage, benefits can be withdrawn.
So far, more than 34,000 jobseekers have volunteered for work experience stints of up to two months, and about half have stopped claiming benefits as a result.
The decision to send in the police came as Tory MP Priti Patel made a formal protest to the BBC, accusing it of being biased in favour of the protest led by the Left-wing Right To Work organisation.
Protest: Mark Dunk, of the Right to Work group, at a demonstration outside Mcdonald’s on London’s Oxford Street
She claimed BBC 2 Newsnight had ‘spent all week putting solitary Government Ministers up against panels made up of the hard Left’.
And fellow Conservative Philip Davies said: ‘Burger King are spineless. They have caved into pressure from a small band of hard-Left militants.’
Critics claim many of the job placements are for ‘worthless’ shelf-stacking roles – but Ministers point out that Burger King was offering youngsters white-collar work experience at its office HQ.
The Right To Work group has close links with the Socialist Workers’ Party and Ministers say it is using ‘sinister’ methods.
They claim agitators were responsible for flooding the website Mumsnet with abusive messages attacking firms involved in the scheme, such as Tesco.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling, who devised the scheme, says he has fresh evidence to back up his claim that ‘fake activity’ by a ‘small number’ of Socialist-linked activists is driving the campaign.
He says that hours after he repeated the claim on the BBC last week, he was bombarded with dozens of emails, using almost identical wording, from campaigners. They all ‘protested in the strongest possible terms’ against his claim that the Right to Work campaign was a front for the Socialist Workers’ Party.
The emails all say: ‘I am not, and never have been, associated in any way with the Socialist Workers’ Party – or indeed any other Left-wing political group.’
Sources say David Cameron is ‘determined’ to rescue the scheme and is ‘livid’ at the BBC’s role. On Tuesday’s Newsnight, Tory MP Harriett Baldwin was put up against three critics who had experience of workfare schemes.
Jeremy Paxman asked Baldwin four times: ‘Do you understand why people find the schemes offensive?’
And on Thursday, presenter Kirsty Wark said: ‘It’s just essentially cheap labour.’
On Friday morning’s Today programme, Evan Davis said: ‘The amount you are going to learn stacking shelves is not going to be very great – it’s been over-sold. What do you learn when you go and do work experience in supermarkets?’
Then Friday evening’s Newsnight – following a filmed report which poured scorn on the Government’s claims that the protest campaign was being pushed by social media manipulation – put a Tory MP up against another panel of three critics.
And Paul Callanan, representing Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, was asked whether the campaigners were a front for socialism.
He said: ‘I am a member of the Socialist Party’, adding: ‘The reason socialists are taking up this issue is because it’s a symptom of a capitalist system that is utterly corrupt, rotten to the core.’
The Tories have also questioned the role played by the Left-wing Guardian newspaper.
It has offered blanket, supportive coverage of the Right to Work’s campaigns, with many pieces written by Left-wing activist Shiv Malik.
Mr Malik, 30, has been a controversial figure for more than a decade. Just six days after the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, he wrote: ‘The world has gone crazy, 5,000 businessmen and military personnel die and suddenly we are at war. With whom? More people die each day from starvation or bad water as a result of IMF loans.’
In 2008, police raided Mr Malik’s North London home to search for interviews he carried out with Hassan Butt, a former Muslim extremist arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences. Butt was later released without charge.
Mr Malik, who was writing a biography of Butt, won a High Court battle to keep the material confidential. In 2010, Mr Malik was caught up in violent student protests against tuition fees, and described being struck on the head by a police baton. He wrote: ‘I felt a big whacking thud and I heard it reverberating inside my head. There was blood everywhere.’
Mr Malik has posted dozens of messages on Twitter over the past week attacking Welfare-to-work.
Ironically, the Guardian has itself been accused of ‘exploiting’ unpaid work experience students.
The newspaper is currently advertising on its website: ‘A limited number of short work experience opportunities throughout the year to those dedicated to a career in journalism. Placements are unpaid and range in duration from a few days to a maximum of two weeks.’
Mumsnet appears to have been one of the main targets of the campaigners. Its mothers’ internet forum has been bombarded with postings critical of Tesco and the work experience, many aggressively militant in tone and language.
One ‘strand’, which was started on February 16 and now has more than 1,000 posts, is headlined: ‘Tesco should f***ing well PAY THEIR STAFF’ and includes lines such as ‘why the f***ing f*** should Tesco get their staff for free? Why?’ Another, left by someone calling themselves ‘Norman Tebbit’, reads: ‘Tesco are absolute f***ers.’ Mumsnet is run by Justine Roberts – the wife of Ian Katz, the Guardian’s deputy editor. Ms Roberts did not respond to calls. Right to Work started in 2009 as a campaign against public service cuts, with the Socialist Workers’ Party boasting that it had ‘initiated the campaign’.
An early rally in May 2010 was dominated by SWP members. Right to Work is currently led by bus driver Paul Brandon, a representative for the Left-wing Unite union, and its registered address is the home of SWP boss Charlie Kimber.
Right to Work’s spokesman, Mark Dunk, is an unemployed activist whose Facebook page has as its profile picture the slogan: ‘All out! Stay out!’
The BBC said: ‘It is impossible to respond to a complaint before it has been received, however we are comfortable that our coverage of this issue has been fair and impartial.’
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Land of the free speech !
Just a question, but does this deeply decisive government really think they are going to always be able to force the police to back them despite screwing over the police as well. I voted for them but have to say it’s just becoming rich boys sorting out there rich mates, tesco not paying workers calling stacking shelves experience, private health care being given a larger part of the NHS etc. How poor must they be to make Millifool an option to the voting public
Scrounged – get off your butts and work for the benefits I pay you!
What i would like to see are the figures. How many people have went on this scheme and how many have got a job at the end of it. That way we know if it is doing what it is meant to do and not being used by large companies as cheap labour.
Back to the days when the police were the paramilitary arm of the conservative party
what the problem here was that it was not VOLUNTARY….dwp were told to say to people on benefits that they would lose money if they didnt go there fore they were sayign it was mandatory when it was not..funnily enough the dwp have removed this info from their site…just before it properly hit the papers.IDS there again throwing his dummy out of the pram..like he did with spartacus report…prime example of power in the wrong hands this coalition.many companies took on this free labour and lowered hours or people that worked there before..wholly wrong ..argos for one. yes there should be schemes liek this but not underhanded and full of lies and deceit to get the unemployment figures down to make coalition gment look good.but leaving people living in poverty…same includes the disabled…targetting the most vulnerable the ones least likely to fight back.bullying…vote the coalition out!
Now here’s irony for you… most of these tree hugging left wing anti capitalists are benefit claimants who exist because of hard working tax payers….. What else do these bone idle troublesome fools actually do? They depend on the taxes of the people working for the very businesses they protest against… Politically immature set of people….
Oh dear…what a load of utter codswallop. I would elaborate, but I have faith that even Daily Mail readers can see through this one.
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