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150215sanctioncentre

What do you do if you’re a Job Centre manager and a benefit claimant who’s ripe for sanction turns up with someone else as their “representative”?

If you’re in charge of Arbroath Job Centre, you have the man arrested, that’s what!

Yes, you read that correctly. Tony Cox, an activist with the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, had accompanied a female claimant who suffers from severe dyxlexia and reading problems.

She was having several severe panic attacks every day, caused by the stress of filling five Universal Jobmatch applications every day. Cox was there to represent her.

The jobcentre refused to consider reducing the numbers of applications she should make, and insisted that signing up to UJM is compulsory. It is not. Officials objected to Cox’s presence, and he was arrested when he left the building.

He has been charged with “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”.

Imagine the consternation at Caxton House when news filtered through that this had happened. “What? The people are still sympathetic to the unemployed? What do we have to do? We’ve fed them a constant stream of anti-claimant propaganda via our newspapers, supplemented with nightly doses of My obese chainsmoking druggie criminal unemployed neighbour on Benefits Street takes home more money than I do on the telly! There’s nothing else for it – it’s time to open the brainwashing camps!”

Don’t think he wouldn’t, either.

Boycott Workfare wants us to get our retaliation in first – and has organised a day of action across the United Kingdom, to take place on Wednesday (February 25) – the same day Mr Cox will appear in court in Forfar to answer charges against him.

About those charges: ‘Threatening behaviour’ is a catch-all offence in the Public Order Act that is often used by police to cart off people who are a nuisance to authority figures. Back in October 2012, this blog quoted a speech by Rowan Atkinson, calling for its reform.

“I suspect [I am] highly unlikely to be arrested for whatever laws exist to contain free expression because of the undoubtedly privileged position that is afforded to those of a high public profile,” said Mr Atkinson.

“My concerns are… more for those who are more vulnerable because of their lower profile – like the man arrested in Oxford for calling a police horse ‘gay’.”

He said: “Even for actions that were withdrawn, people were arrested, questioned, taken to court… and then released. That isn’t a law working properly. That is censoriousness of the most intimidating kind, guaranteed to have… a ‘chilling effect’ on free expression and free protest.”

Well, this time it will have the opposite effect. People are red-hot with anger about this behaviour, arranged by cowards and bullies who think they can play God with people’s lives.

Boycott Workfare is urging everybody (who can manage it) “to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews”.

So, please, print up some literature and turn up outside your local jobcentre to make your feelings known.

Will you do that?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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