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Monday 4 December 2023

Jan 4, 2021: When Marxists Attacked Britain's Schoolchildren, Unopposed

The following is an excerpt from my latest book My Road to Freedom, in which I reveal how the media covered up the real causes of Britain’s Covid restrictions. The book is available from amazon.

Chapter 9

After I had finished my book on Wuhan, I spent the rest of 2022 refocusing on what happened in my own country. I began looking into the second lockdown, which I soon discovered was caused by another TUC-coordinated campaign of union unrest, with the NEU central to the campaign. I was now sure that the NEU had played a decisive role in all three lockdowns. My new findings grew into a 50,000-word essay called ‘Boris versus the NEU: The Second Lockdown Explained’. In the essay, I painstakingly recounted Johnson’s two-year long battle to keep schools open in the face of relentless opposition from the NEU. The essay, indeed the entire topic, has been almost completely ignored.

Recently I unearthed the most devastating piece of evidence yet, the holy grail: the full-length footage of the January 3 NEU zoom meeting, the meeting that precipitated the mass teaching walkout on January 4. I already knew that the NEU leadership had advised the union’s members that it would be unsafe for them to return to work, and I knew that the NEU had provided a model section 44 letter and advised the members to hand it in to their employers, but I was unprepared for the sheer zeal and persistence with which the message was delivered in the zoom call. Watching the call, I counted 16 times that the NEU leadership mentioned their advice about the schools being unsafe, and 24 times that they mentioned the section 44 letter. The impression I got from the meeting was of a communist struggle session, people being brainwashed. ‘Listen to the union’s advice. Make the right decision, based on the union’s advice’, Kevin Courtney intoned. Robin Bevan said the letter ‘needs to be sent’, and, when taking questions towards the end, he noted that the questions had been carefully chosen because he was ‘making sure that the key points of the message today are heard’. They were heard alright.

The footage makes clear that the events of January 4 were not just a token gesture by the NEU, not some sort of flailing protest with no object to it. The leadership knew exactly what they wanted to achieve, and they were determined to achieve it. Bevan said the purpose of the zoom call was ‘to explain the reasoning behind the decisions made by your National Executive’. Bousted said ‘We’ve called this meeting because we want to update you on the NEU’s position about members’ health and safety during the pandemic’. The explicit intention of the NEU leadership was to encourage school staff to defy government policy on January 4. Bevan explained:

We found ourselves in a position where the Secretary of State for Education... announced the reopening of schools to all pupils in our primary and early years settings into overcrowded classrooms with no additional protection. The view of the union is that it is time for each and every one of our members individually to say no. And to be quite honest, that is the reason why you have joined this call today. Because you know that it is in the best interests of the communities you serve, the children you teach, to say ‘we are not proceeding in the way the government has recommended’.

He reiterated: ‘Today is the day to say “no” to the proposals that the Secretary of State has put in front of us’. And again: ‘Now is the time to trust both your professional instincts and your professional ethics. It’s time to say “no”.’

The NEU leadership anticipated – and hoped – that encouraging the membership to submit section 44 letters would cause a change in government policy, that is, a reversal of the decision to reopen the schools. Bousted used the phrase ‘if the government does U-turn…’. Courtney explained that ‘Because the government isn’t coming up with sensible definitions of what is safe, your union is coming up with a sensible definition’. He noted that ‘There’s an element of this where we have to persuade the government politically about it’. He left no doubt as to the leadership’s aim:

We believe that a snowball effect could be created. There are an enormous number of people on this call... [and] watching on social media. If those people agree with us that it is unsafe for schools to be open, and then if they take the step of sending the letter, which they can find in their email, or on our website, then there will be consequences of lots of people individually doing that, and we will turn quantity into quality.

That last phrase is extremely telling, and damning. When members of a union collectively refuse to attend the workplace with the intention of changing a government policy, most people would describe the action as a ‘strike’ – especially when the intended outcome is qualitatively different from anything the members could achieve by acting alone.

And here’s the thing: if the NEU’s mass walkout on January 4 was a strike, then it was illegal, because, by law, unions must ballot their members before orchestrating a strike.

The NEU leaders were entering a legal minefield, and they knew it; they were anxiously trying to stay on the right side of the law. Bousted, slightly flustered, insisted: ‘This is emphatically not a strike… We have not held a ballot. We are not taking industrial action.’ Well, the part about the ballot was true. Courtney similarly declared ‘This isn’t strike action’. At one point, he clarified what was being proposed: ‘Right now, your union’s advice… is that schools are not currently safe. And so we’re urging you to act on that.’ He inserted into those words the following reassurance, perhaps to himself: ‘We are really confident that this would withstand all challenges.’ Clearly the NEU leadership had given some thought to the legal issues.

There were two bases on which the leadership believed that the January 4 action was not a strike. The first was the emphasis on individuals submitting section 44 letters (for instance Courtney talking about ‘lots of people individually doing that’, or Bevan saying ‘it is time for each and every one of our members individually to say no’). The idea, supposedly, was that the action on January 4 would be a bunch of individuals who just happened to be doing the same thing, whereas a strike involves collective action. The distinction was highly spurious. The whole point of the legal requirement for unions to ballot their members before striking is to ensure that a minority of radical union members acting in concert can’t take matters into their own hands and disable a workplace.

Moreover, the NEU leadership was very much open to the idea of teachers handing in section 44 letters collectively. ‘There is no reason why a school rep couldn’t gather a group of those letters together’, Courtney ventured. He even noted, manipulatively, that individuals may ‘worry’ about sending the letter, that they may experience a ‘feeling of isolation’, and that ‘there is a way of collecting them [the letters] together that will help to overcome that’. Courtney was cleverly trying to parlay the contribution of individuals into a collective act, but at the same time he was emphasising that ‘it doesn’t stray away from the fact that this is an individual right you have’. It was though he was saying: the responsibility for this action is on you as an individual, and if you’re concerned about that, we will even exploit your concern, by encouraging you to coordinate your action with others. Bousted went further, noting that group letters could be submitted, but, like Courtney, she caveated the point by insisting that individuals must make the decision to sign the letter. Bevan agreed: ‘[it’s] an individual right we’re exercising here but of course it can be done by a group of people who all individually agree’. You can see that the NEU leaders were tying themselves in knots here. I am no lawyer, but surely ‘a group of people who all individually agree’ is the same as a group agreement. And, by law, there can only be a group agreement for a union to do a walkout if there is a ballot first.

The second way in which the NEU leaders were trying to avoid the charge of illegality was even more iffy. Supposedly the action on January 4 wasn’t a strike because – in Bousted’s words – ‘You are not withdrawing your labour. You are saying that you will work differently’. She clarified the point: ‘You are not withdrawing your labour, because you are saying… that you will work from home, and you will go into school... to look after and care for and teach the children of key workers and vulnerable children.’ The idea of ‘working differently’ was farcical. Any teacher who insisted on working from home, or working in a near-empty classroom, was, in effect, withdrawing their labour. Imagine a football manager who suddenly insisted on working from home or working with only five players. The ‘labour’ that he is expected to provide involves interacting physically with a full squad of players. By refusing to do that, he withdraws his labour. Likewise, the government explicitly expected teachers to turn up to work on January 4 in full classrooms, as per the job description of a school teacher. Any school teacher who suddenly announced that they would work ‘differently’ was literally refusing to perform the labour they were being paid to do and, instead, trying to do something else, something that the government didn’t want them to do. If you pay me to mow your lawn but, halfway through, I start performing a song for you on my acoustic guitar, I have withdrawn my labour. Bousted told teachers on January 3: ‘What you’re not doing is saying that you’re not working. You are not, by sending in a section 44 letter, saying you are not working.’ Now imagine me insisting I was still ‘working’ as I strolled around serenading you in the long grass.

My firm belief is that the NEU mass walkout on January 4 was illegal, and the people who orchestrated it should be in jail. Indeed, I think the NEU’s leaders know that what they did was illegal, because they never did it again.

There were several other revelations in the zoom meeting, each of which further demonstrates that the NEU’s intention was to scale up the impact of January 4 by involving as many people as possible in the mutiny. For example, the NEU leadership reported that the main headteachers unions were onside. Courtney explained: ‘We have also spoken to NAHT and ASCL and they are giving advice to their members that is sympathetic to the stand that we’re taking, not hostile to it’. Indeed, he said, the headteachers’ unions were cascading similar advice out to their members: ‘We know, from our conversations with NAHT and ASCL, that that’s what they’re telling their headteacher members as well. They are saying that if you say to them it’s not safe, that they don’t have a legal basis for telling you that it is safe.’ Bousted further disclosed: ‘We have written to every employer and headteacher, giving this same advice and asking them to make preparations for moving to remote learning instead.’ It’s important to note what was happening here: by making these ‘preparations’, headteachers would be setting the agenda, not the government. And that wasn’t the only way in which headteachers were setting the agenda. Incredibly, Courtney disclosed in the zoom call that ‘School leaders have done the work that should’ve been done by the public health service, to operate tracking for pupils, working throughout the weekend, late into the evening’. In other words: headteachers had been beavering away like detectives, ensuring that as many pupils as possible would be barred from attending classes due to contact with a Covid case; apparently the public health service was not doing the job. 

The zoom call also revealed that the NEU was encouraging ‘support staff’ to hand in the model section 44 letter on January 4, and noting that teachers who weren’t members of a union could do the same. Finally, towards the end of the call, there was a question about whether teachers in other schools, e.g. secondary schools, could use the letter. Courtney emphasized that the union was currently focused on primary schools but he noted that the letter ‘does have more general application’; ‘you can amend that letter’, he added, by way of confirmation. These comments were ominous, because the government was planning to reopen secondary schools over the coming weeks. All the indications were that the NEU January 4 mutiny was set to grow, engulfing the entire school sector. The government threw in the towel immediately. 

Kevin Courtney’s boast – which I mentioned earlier – that ‘hardly any’ primary schools opened on January 4 came in 2023, in a gloating Twitter thread which was one long smoking gun. In the thread, he recounted that Gavin Williamson ‘wanted schools open under all circumstances’ and that ‘Johnson supported Williamson’. He noted that ‘By Monday evening, Johnson changed tune and said schools were vectors of transmission and had to close’. The NEU ‘won the change in Govt policy’, Courtney insisted. He elaborated: ‘Our mass zoom meeting on Sun 3 Jan 2021 – 40k in the meeting, 400k watching, was possibly the biggest political meeting in UK history. Our advice to use Section 44 to refuse to attend work made the difference. Hardly any schools opened; Johnson was forced to make the choice.’ He concluded: ‘We should all be proud. I’m incredibly proud of the union’s actions over those days, and my role in them. We should all be proud of the stand we collectively took.’ (So it was a ‘collective’ stand. It wasn’t just a bunch of individuals who happened to be doing the same thing.)

Courtney is well aware that the NEU’s collective stand on January 4 triggered the third lockdown, which the government brought in solely to cover up the illegal teaching strike. Courtney has elsewhere spoken of ‘the lockdown… which the PM had to be forced into on January 4’, indicating that the NEU anticipated the consequences of the mass teaching walkout. Without schools supervising the children of working parents, the economic damage was such that, in the circumstances, the government was bound to manage the situation by issuing another stay home order. Of course, that’s not to say the government was right to do so, only that Courtney knew that the government would do so. Indeed, he’s not the only socialist who has bragged about the NEU driving the third lockdown. An article published on the World Socialist Website on January 7, 2022, noted: ‘Last January, the threat by tens of thousands of workers to utilise Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act to assert their right not to work in unsafe conditions forced the Johnson government into closing schools and imposing a lockdown.’ Actually, there was more than a ‘threat’; by the morning of January 4, some 6,000 teachers are known to have submitted section 44 letters. But, yes, the action brought the entire country to its knees.

And here I am, over two years later, still frantically trying get to my fellow citizens to acknowledge what happened on January 4. As far as lockdown sceptics go, I remain the only public figure who has ever even mentioned the events of that day. Only a handful of my followers – who are regular members of the public – will openly discuss the subject with me.

It’s an extremely strange and disturbing situation. Recently I re-read George Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four. The book, a work of fiction, depicts life in England under a totalitarian socialist regime led by a tyrant named ‘Big Brother’. Orwell’s dystopia anticipated much that happened for real during the coronapanic debacle. In one passage, the book’s protagonist, a man called Winston Smith, who secretly yearns for freedom and truth, realises with horror that the regime could contradict its own pronouncements with complete impunity:

It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be REDUCED to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it.

Winston asks: ‘Was he, then, ALONE in the possession of a memory?’

I have asked myself the same question many times in the last few years, and not just about January 4, but about all the union unrest, and the herd immunity U-turn which was driven by union unrest. The virus was mild… and then we were all in lockdown. Masks were ineffective… and then they were mandatory. The schools were safe… and then they were closed 24 hours later, and we were back in lockdown. Why have all the union-driven U-turns been ignored? Why did people swallow the government’s lies? Like Winston, I too have felt like ‘a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear’. The predicament, I readily admit, has been disgusting, loathsome. At times, I have felt tormented on an existential level. The intellectual isolation has given me a sense of solipsism, like being in a mental cage – a cruel blow for someone like me, someone who had tried to escape from philosophical hypochondria, from all that unhealthy navel gazing. I tried to reassimilate to real life, to embrace my freedom, to stop fretting about being me. It turns out I couldn’t escape – not fully. The educated elites moved heaven and earth to keep me in the orbit of their lunacy. At their behest, the free society in which I had sought refuge reared up like a gigantic mechanical alien, locked me up, enslaved me, and then buried the truth about what happened, leaving me feeling like a glassed-in freak because I still insisted on facing reality.

I take solace in Winston Smith’s words: ‘Being in a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad’. I am not mad. And I have no intention of remaining in a minority. We need to talk about the mainstream media.

To read the rest of My Road to Freedom, and find out how much else you have been lied to about by the British media, please buy the book.

Friday 1 September 2023


There is a ‘culture war’ taking place, and I am on the side of the people who do not want to fight. Patiently, focusedly, resolutely, we will keep making the arguments in the face of a grotesque level of manipulation and intellectual bullying. Will we prevail? I do not know. But I do know that we are apt to be blamed whatever happens. I fear that a national meltdown is on its way. I fear that people like you and me will be caught up in a wildly aggressive showdown that we didn’t deserve, even though we ourselves provoked it by insisting on being reasonable. 

– Ben Irvine, ‘Intellectual Obesity’

When I wrote those words, in September 2019, I knew that a nightmare was brewing. I just didn’t know the exact form it would take. I had no idea that a new coronavirus was circulating in the Hubei region of China. And, more importantly, I had no idea that this mild virus, Covid-19, would soon trigger a demented global panic that would plunge almost the entire Western world, including my own country, into an economic and social catastrophe.

But I was right that I would be caught up in the showdown. Boy, I was right.

This book is a chronicle of the two-year period of Covid restrictions in Britain, seen from the perspective of someone who was on the ‘front lines’, in more ways than one. I am a writer who has spent the last 14 years working most evenings as a delivery driver, to fund my creative work. When Britain went into lockdown, I continued doing my delivery job. I also continued doing my job as an intellectual who believes in freedom and personal responsibility. As the lockdown approached, I warned of the folly of placing everyone under an arbitrary mass house arrest, an absurd quarantine of the fit and healthy, and I never stopped raging against all the Covid restrictions until every single one was abolished. Both my jobs were punishing and exhausting; they took their toll on me.

Like most people, I found myself glued to the internet in March 2020. Reduced to communicating electronically, we were like astronauts orbiting our old lives. I was already a regular user of a social media platform called Twitter, using it to promote my books. As the coronapanic debacle unfolded, I increasingly relied on Twitter – for contraband information, for connecting with likeminded people, and for disseminating my own ideas. I started out tweeting my objections to the lockdown, but soon I was also sharing anecdotes about my delivery driving. The two topics were intertwined, because the job brought me face to face with the dismal reality of the lockdowns; day after day, I saw scores of people languishing in their houses. Not to mention the dismal reality of my own enslavement. Apparently, I wasn’t deemed worth protecting; I was being worked to the bone, to protect others. With all the resentment in my soul, my delivery driving anecdotes were often scathing and mocking; many, I am told, were quite funny. These moments of humour were all blended in with my earnest campaigning against the lockdown; we were all trying to keep our spirits up. When the ordeal was over, I realised that the various observations that I had shared on Twitter comprised a sort of diary of the entire debacle. I figured that publishing this diary might be worthwhile; perhaps some insights could be gleaned from it in future.

The prospect appealed to me on a personal level too. Anyone who has spent a lot of time on Twitter will know the sinking feeling you get when suddenly you fear that you have been wasting your time, screaming into the void. The feeling is even worse when your own country actually has been turned into a void! I wanted something positive to come from my Twitter usage, especially given everything I had personally gone through. So, yes, the diary is basically a bunch of tweets. But my dignity, maybe even my salvation, is bound up in these pages.

Reading my tweets back now, I get a sense of someone peering out of a little porthole onto a mad, mad world. Sometimes the scenes that I could see through the porthole weren’t fully captured in the tweets; there were things that we could all see at the time, and I was commenting with this shared knowledge in the background. When I was compiling my tweets, I added in a few comments in brackets, explaining the context – known facts and events that were implicit in my words.

However, since this diary is being presented in retrospect, I figured that the content could also be enhanced by including some information that no one, including me, could see at the time. There was much that was not visible through our little portholes. For long periods, we were in the dark about what the hell was going on. The media were useless and corrupt, so we had to do the investigating ourselves. We knew that the restrictions were not in the slightest bit ‘scientific’, but we didn’t know why they were being imposed on us. Gradually I started to figure it out, with the help of a handful of my Twitter followers. I did a lot of thinking out loud on the platform, groping towards the truth. Now that I can reflect on what I didn’t know then, another dimension can be added to the pages that follow.

In this long introduction, which comprises seventeen chapters, I will reveal the hidden context that surrounded my tweets, including the reason we locked down in the first place, the reason we were subjected to the other Covid mandates such as masks, the reason the media were so useless, and the reason the entire debacle dragged on for so long. In the process, I will look to myself, identifying the mistakes I made when trying to come to terms with what was happening. I didn’t make many mistakes, but I was always telling other people to learn from theirs, so it is only fair that I try to learn from mine. In turn, I will reflect on why I was able get things right where others didn’t, and I will discuss the unbelievable amount of abuse I took for telling the truth. You cannot see the abuse amid my tweets, but the barrage of hate was unrelenting. Finally, I will also reveal something else that was hidden: what it was like for me, standing behind my little porthole. Although many of the tweets in this book are quite personal, I was fundamentally talking about the situation I was in, rather than me being in that situation, including how I came to be in it, and how I felt about being in it. Truths that are hidden are often the most painful. For me, the coronapanic debacle was the last straw. I carried on anyway.      


If you want to continue reading 'Deliverance', the whole essay is part of Ben's new book 'My Road to Freedom', which is available from amazon