Who doesn’t like sticking it to the Tories? If you do, then a rebirth of a successful 2015 campaign may be right up your street. Because it’s back and you can get involved.
Sticking it for years
The “Stick It To The Tories” campaign first launched in 2015. It was founded by local members of the People’s Assembly in Pembrokeshire, Wales in response to the difficulty of rural campaigning. The idea was delicious in its simplicity: a series of provocative, agitative stickers based around certain campaigns. The stickers were ones that people outside of the major towns and cities could actively use in their communities. So, Stick It To The Tories was born.
It was a success. Over 100,000 people got their hands on its stickers. One of its first and most well-known campaigns, was Choose the Tories or the NHS. You can’t have both:
Then Stick It To The Tories focused on the 2017 general election:
Now, the campaign is back after a hiatus. And it’s ready to fight the current Tory incumbents. So, The Canary caught-up with co-founder Jim Scott to find out what’s happened since the 2017 election – and what this new campaign has got in store.
Scott explained that he and his colleagues had wanted to relaunch the campaign for a while. But as with a lot of activism, nothing is ever straightforward:
We have actually been trying to relaunch Stick it to the Tories since we took what we hoped would just be a ‘short break’ after the 2017 General Election. We struggled to find a new web person. Also, juggling unpaid activism with self employed work is always hard too. So it just didn’t happen. During the pandemic, I’ve been getting stuck in helping the People’s Assembly much more. So when it was suggested that we relaunch via the People’s Assembly shop it all just kinda fell into place. Stick it to the Tories always was very closely affiliated with People’s Assembly.
Many individuals and organisations we’ve worked with have often asked if we are going to get up and running again soon. They’ve told us that they are desperate to get out there stickering again. And I’ve noticed that during the pandemic, many people are talking about how important it is that we employ more innovative and creative ways to agitate right now. I think Stick it to the Tories will play an important role in doing exactly that:
Changing political tides
A lot’s changed since Stick It To The Tories’ successful 2017 campaign. Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have both left the spotlight. The Tories themselves have arguably gone further to the right. Meanwhile, the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has changed a lot. And Labour is – well, a bit of a mess. Reflecting on this, Scott told The Canary that in some respects the shift in both parties has increased the need and desire for activism:
During the 2017 campaign, there was an amazing feeling of hope in the air. Obviously this was all bound up in the Corbyn project. And therefore, also the prospect of some kind of parliamentary route out of the Tory hell hole we were in then, and are in now.
Then, there was a very raw feeling of despondency following the 2019 general election. But in some ways, I think the dismal and ineffectual state that Labour is now in has actually helped some of us. We’ve found focus. And we’ve redirected our energies very squarely back towards movement politics instead.
In parliamentary terms things have got a whole lot worse. But without that distraction I think people’s energies have shifted toward working with organisations like the People’s Assembly. It’s there where we actually have a much stronger chance of destabilising the establishment at a core level. We can also harness that very real energy which is out there right now to demand and fight for a new normal following the pandemic.
Stick It To The Tories and People’s Assembly have made a launch video. It features none other than Canary editor-at-large Kerry-Anne Mendoza:
There is indeed the chance to fight for a new normal. But also, there are still a lot of specific causes to campaign and agitate for. As Scott explained:
Stick it to the Tories has always been and always will be very reactive to, and symbiotic with, current political events. The People’s Assembly is there to give a platform and a voice to current struggles faced across the movement. And likewise, we will be on hand to work with a range of trade unions, campaigns, workers and activists. We want to help to elevate their struggles when they most need it.
Covid has highlighted with an almost visceral clarity the hardwired inequalities within our system. We’ve all seen how the Tories have used the crisis as cover to do what they do best: syphon billions of public funds into the pockets of their wealthy mates. The 1% pay insult to the nurses who have kept this country afloat during the crisis shows exactly how much regard the Tories have for our NHS or its workers. So we felt it was very important to highlight this. 40% for nukes – 1% for nurses, it kinda says it all:
You can buy all the new stickers from the People’s Assembly shop here. Scott continued:
The Tories are also attempting to use the crisis to sneak through dangerously authoritarian legislation. Their ‘Police Bill’ would not just take away our rights to protest for our rights. But it would also effectively criminalise an entire way of life for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community. It also has many other disturbing erosions of our rights and liberties. So, we decided to produce a three sticker special on #KillTheBill. We expect it to be very popular, especially with the mounting protests we are seeing around the country right now:
Disabled people: bearing the brunt of Tory policy
DPAC have always been a huge inspiration to me personally. Following DPAC’s activism almost a decade ago ignited a fire in me to becoming more politically active again. Tory austerity kicked in. We saw disabled people literally blockading roads with their own bodies in protest against such brutal treatment from the Tories. It made me think to myself: if things are this bad then I need to get stuck in too.
Again, Covid has exposed these deep inequalities within our society. There is an inherent flaw to our system when six out of 10 Covid deaths have been disabled people. The Tory’s divisive policies and hostile environment against disabled people has also created a severe upsurge in discrimination and hate crimes. So I think it’s vital that we highlight this and work together across our campaigns to combat it:
A long and agitative past
Stickers have a long history of being used in political and activist campaigning for agitation and collective struggle. Scott recognises this – and believes it to be a crucial part of activism:
This is one of the aspects of the project that excites me the most. Throughout the history of struggle, from the Levellers, to the Chartists and the Suffragettes and other recent struggles like the Miners strikes and battles against Thatcher’s Poll tax, badges, stickering and flyers have always played a hugely important role in spreading our message. And they’ve always proved an effective way to inject our politics into the world around us.
The media won’t tell our story. So, we have to. I guess this is the underpinning principle of Stick it to the Tories. We take our message out onto the streets and into the psyches of everyday people.
Scott is also mindful of how, after years of activism, it can be hard to maintain positivity:
Sometimes on the left a despondency can set in. It can be easy to forget that we actually make history with our struggles. We are effective; we do push them back and we do force change. Sometimes it’s big. And sometimes it’s small. But it all makes a difference. It’s all making history, and we should rejoice in that.
He also likens our current struggles, and the Stick It To The Tories campaign, to another protest movement from over 100 years ago:
An Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) ‘Stickerette’ campaign in the US in 1917 distributed over four million stickers in total. And I think the mood is ripe right now for mass agitation in this country and beyond:
Changing the game?
Scott thinks stickers in 2021 could be part of a game-changing approach to activism:
I can see stickering and other new forms of civil disobedience creating a step-change in how we do our politics and becoming hugely effective too, especially when you consider that what the Tories are attempting with their Police Bill, such an erosion of our human rights would essentially take us several steps beyond authoritarianism and frighteningly far into the realms of fascism.
We know where that road leads, so as a collective movement, we’re not gonna let that happen right!? It’s time for us to put those ‘silent agitators’ to work so that they can play their part alongside the mass civil unrest that needs to come with it.
We can all stick it to the Tories
Speaking of civil unrest, the People’s Assembly has organised a demo on 26 June. Marching through London to parliament, it’s over the government’s handling of the pandemic. And of course, Stick It To The Tories has made a sticker for that, too:
Stickers have a long and proud history of playing a central role in activism. So, it’s wonderful to see Stick It To The Tories make a return. At a time when many aspects of our lives are under greater threat than any time in recent memory, the more ways to protest, the better. It seems Stick It To The Tories may become an integral part of this summer’s much-needed activism.
Featured image via Sky News – YouTube and Stick It To The Tories
- Buy Stick It To The Tories stickers from the People’s Assembly shop here.
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