Bone idol: the Shard provocateur is my kind of anarchist
This week the Qatari royal family is taking a pensioner who walks with a stick to court to stop him protesting outside the Shard. The Shard is owned by this family via funds held in Jersey. They also own Harrods, the Olympic village and half of One Hyde Park. They reportedly own more property in London than our own royal family.
At the top of the Shard are 10 flats with the price tag of £50m each, and they are currently empty. This is partly what has upset the protester, who lives on his pension of £154.56 a week. The Qatar royals are taking him and “persons unknown” to the high court on Thursday and also asking him to pay costs. He was served with an injunction because of his intention to protest. He had encouraged supporters to “ask at the door to see the £50m flats”, or “make a reservation at one of the Shard restaurants and ask if you can bring your own food”. If any made it inside he suggested shouting about the injustices and the empty flats. And Grenfell.
“We also want musicians to come down and play, sing, dance, rant,” he said. “Need yer own amps.”
He, however, needs no amps. For the pensioner is Ian Bone of Class War who has been protesting about gentrification and social cleansing since the 80s. I adore the man. To me he is the best tabloid journalist this country has ever produced. Provocative, hilarious, scathing.
His Class War slogans are full of bile and bite and angrily brilliant. Described by actual tabloids at times as a dangerous insurrectionary, Bone is full of life and fun, someone who monsters the pieties of the left and simply refuses to play any game that involves subservience to the right.
The injunction that was served against him contains a statement about him from the Shard’s head of security who had contacted the Metropolitan police. They are worried about the inherent security flaws of the Shard but they are clearly more worried about Bone and his anarchy. He is described in the statement as “belligerent and uncooperative when interacting with persons of authority, such as police officers and security officers”. Amazing investigative work there! Who would have thought that the founder of Class War was a little awkward? Bone has since pointed out that he has never hit anyone with his stick and has Parkinson’s.
Bone’s real stick is his words. His attitude. His joy at pointing to obvious wrongs and asking us which side we are on. “I hate dull lefties,” he tells me. “All the miserabilism.” He likes action and shock. And swearing. I loved all those posters that appalled all those who like to be appalled. “Eat the rich.” The one of Diana and Charles with baby William and “Another Fucking Royal Parasite”. He doesn’t do deference or respect. The banners on marches that referred to the Socialist Workers as Social Wankers. Bone’s stance has always been about having a laugh along the way to smashing it all up.
His father was a butler. His family grew up “in service”. “So I grew up bitter and resentful with a chip on my shoulder,” he tells me gleefully. When he was 15 he wrote off to an address that he found in Punch to find out more about anarchism. “I believed in chaos,” he said. “I then panicked for weeks. I though they might send round a bearded person.” Since then, of course, he has realised that anarchists are just not that efficient.
Underneath all the sloganeering though, Bone has been protesting about social cleansing all his life. He lived in Grenfell for two years. He knew people who were in the fire. He led “poor doors” protests in the East End in 2014. “If you grow up like I did, that gets you. The tradesman’s entrance.” He saw the developing ghost towers but he sees the working class being squeezed out everywhere. “Who wants another coffee shop or prep school?” he asks of Ladbroke Grove.
Statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett to be unveiled in April
Now that social housing is very much on the agenda, Bone as usual doesn’t want anything to do with Labour. He doesn’t see Corbyn as different to any other Labour leader. Everything for him is about people taking over and running things for themselves.
Whether this means inciting people to march on Boris Johnson’s house or setting up the South Norwood Tourist Board, Bone is a provocateur, incredibly funny and mostly right. If all this pardoning of suffragettes’ civil disobedience by the political class made you feel as nauseous as it did me, Bone is the antidote. If you value politeness and respectability then Class War may not be for you.
But on Thursday, I want this anarchist grandad to shake his stick at those Qatari billionaires. He wants, as always, to “push things further”. We should help him. All power to the inimitable Mr Bone.
• Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist