Yellow Conspiracists

While the gilets jaunes continue their protests in France, though little reported in our media, it’s perhaps surprising that there has been no real comparable movement here in the UK. What started out as an angry defiance against rises in fuel duties which would have severely hurt rural communities across France has morphed into a wider social movement against inequality, demanding reforms to the democratic system, an increase in the minimum wage, a wealth tax and higher corporate taxes. The movement has also tried hard to distance itself from both the organised extreme right and the extreme left.

Here in the UK virtually the only groups to have associated themselves with the yellow vests have been small groups of extreme right Brexiteers, particularly a group in London who have been coming to shout insults at the permanent pro-Europe protesters opposite parliament, aggressively questioning MPs as they go into and out of parliament, and wandering the streets of Westminster on Saturdays holding up traffic and being watched and occasionally harassed by a large number of police. Of course many of us agree with them that our mass media, controlled by a handfull of billionaires, fails to give us unbiased reporting, and that the BBC, at least in its reporting on the UK and in particular on political matters, has wandered from its charter to become too often the voice of the political establishment.

As well as Brexit they have also taken up a number of right-wing conspiracy theories. Of course some things which are derided as conspiracy theories turn out many years later to have been true. There are some very shady things that go on particularly in the name of national security here and in other countries and are only revealed when documents become available perhaps 30 or a hundred years later. And behind many of them there is perhaps some small nugget of fact.

So family courts do make some very strange decisions in their secret deliberations, some of which arise from middle-class failures to appreciate the lives of the working class. Children do sometimes get taken away from parents and grandparents who love them and would look after them because their lifestyles don’t match middle-class expectations. But to suggest it is some kind of organised process for forcible adoptions rather than well-meaning people making well-meaning mistakes is simply conspiracy theory.

There are people on the extreme right – including of course Tommy Robinson – who are happy to exploit situations for their own ends, including many allegations made by fantasists with mental health problems. Of course child abuse exists, and paedophilia, and there have been numerous convictions for such offences; of course there has been a great deal of corruption in many police forces, some exposed, but none of the causes espoused on the back of the protesters yellow vests stands up to any investigation.

One failure to which some of them do point is actually much wider than they suggest; an almost complete failure of our government, police and legal system to deal with fraud and tax evasion. While a little of this may at one time have involved companies registered at a particular address on Finchley Road it is much more deeply embedded in our political and financial systems, something which has made London the money-laundering capital of the world.

This group have taken on the high-viz vests, but not the ideas and aims of the gilet jaunes, nor the French approach to violence. While I’ve encountered a little suspicion when photographing them, there has been none of the threats and physical violence against journalists that have been a feature of the EDL and ‘Free Tommy’ protests.

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