18 months ago, I challenged Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for the Department of Work & Pensions, to publicly debate £18 billion of welfare cuts.
These cuts have since devastated the lives of millions of the poorest people.
The debate challenge to IDS was part of a Dundee-based campaign against unemployment. We were backed by national leaders of trade unions: the STUC, RMT, PCS, and FBU. Disability rights champions Black Triangle, who went on to lead the fight against notorious private company Atos, also backed us. Others who gave support included the National Shop Stewards Network, student groups, and Hollywood actor Brian Cox.
Despite our widespread support, and raising the debate challenge on STV news, on radio and in the press, IDS ran scared. To this day, he has refused to publicly debate the human cost of his benefit cuts with any campaigner. He, and others in government, have preferred the safety of the columns of the Daily Mail and the Sun where they launch regular, unsubstantiated attacks on ‘benefits scroungers’. Yet, these brave politicians refuse to publicly face a single ordinary representative of the millions of people they tell lies about.
During those hectic weeks of trying to shame IDS or Chris Grayling or some other member of government into debating welfare reform, I was approached by a man claiming to be a documentary filmmaker. He phoned me and said he thought the idea of the debate challenge would make an interesting programme, and he was very keen to involve Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT, who had publicly backed us. The man on the phone claimed to know IDS personally. He sent myself and the RMT an e-mail with his proposal. The only problem, I later discovered -the filmmaker is a fraud, a spy.
From scraps of information in books, articles, company records, and later – from trips around the country to talk to people who know about this underworld of shadows and lies, I began to piece together a story. A true story about anti-democratic spies – in a book, which will be called The Network. This article is an appeal – for anyone who knows about this world to share their experiences with me, and help with the final stage of the story.
Sometimes, the kind of spies I am looking into pretend to be environmentalists, or journalists, or socialists. Their job is to act on behalf of large companies and Right wing organisations. They have an anti trade union agenda and they do more than just gather information – they plant smear stories in the media, and they they find ways to divide and discredit their targets: that’s you and me! You may have read about police spy Mark Kennedy in articles by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis in The Guardian, or perhaps the pioneering investigations of Eveline Lubbers (I’m reading her new book ‘Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark’ which I thoroughly reccommend), or you may have come across older books, articles, and documentaries which look at this field. However,for most people, the facts about anti-democratic espionage are like something from a movie with a particularly unbelievable script. Imagine a plot-line about a miners trade union leader who gets set up by a press baron, a Prime Minister, and Mi5 agents using lies about dodgy money from Colonel Gaddafi. Very unlikely! Yet, of course – these were also the real elements within a plot against NUM leader Arthur Scargill, exposed by Seamus Milne in The Enemy Within. One of my aims is to contribute to the de-mystification of these bizarre but dangerous anti-democratic operations.
I have already had great assistance in putting together the story of today’s anti-democratic spies from many people: they include Tommy Sheridan, former UNITE national officer Graham Stevenson, investigative reporter Laurie Flynn (co-author of The Untouchables. – dirty cops, bent justice, and racism in Scotland Yard), Tom Watson MP -who has played a key role in exposing the phone-hacking scandal, Professor David Miller, and many others.
I am currently completing the writing by asking individuals who may know something of the spy network if they would care to comment. Those asked include five leading Conservative MPs – Ian Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Andrew Mitchell, James Gray, and Zac Goldsmith. So far, none have replied directly to my simple questions. DWP national officials have replied on behalf of IDS and Grayling – in both replies they talk about benefits and welfare reform – something I did not ask about. Instead, I asked IDS: does he know the spy who claims to know him? The last reply I received said that IDS and Grayling had ‘noted’ my remarks! They really need to think of a smarter evasion than that.
If you have ever come across spies acting against the democratic rights of trade unionists, socialists, environmentalists or other protesters, please get in touch. You can e-mail or phone me. Whilst the book is mainly about current events, I am also interested in the history of anti-democratic activities – so, experiences which are from decades ago are also useful.
It may be that this appeal for information, which has also been included in various websites, somehow reaches out through the expanses of the internet and into the minds of some former spooks. Perhaps, individuals who now have doubts about being used to undermine fundamental human rights. If so, I want to hear from you.
In the gigantic battles which lie ahead against austerity and cuts, it is vital that trade unionists, socialists and anti-cuts protesters expose the links between governments, big business, and the shadow-world of real spooks.