On this day a year ago
“Jack Monroe”, the “Bootstrap Cook”: an assessment
I have blogged (briefly) previously a few times about the person known as “Jack Monroe” (originally Melissa Hadjicostas, half-Greek Cypriot), whose rather clever nom de plume is “Bootstrap Cook”.
The name Jack Monroe is now her official name, it having been adopted by deed poll.
In the past, I was content to be at least neutral towards “Bootstrap Cook”, in that I felt that anyone putting almost anything into the public domain that might help the millions of financially-struggling people in the UK deserved at least a chance.
Incidentally, this blog is written in the English language, and therefore does not refer to a woman (whatever her views or proclivities) as “they” or “them”.
“Ideological” criticism of “Bootstrap Cook” has come mainly from two directions. The first group would be those connected to or supportive of the “Conservative” regimes of 2010-present. They tend to say that there is no justification for the campaigning of “Bootstrap Cook” to raise State benefits etc, and that any food poverty that exists exists because the individuals subject to it cannot “budget” properly, or do not know how to cook cheap wholesome food.
An ignorant point of view (though not without a small kernel of truth, as with many basically lying narratives), which infuriates many, especially when expressed by the likes of Iain Dunce Duncan Smith, the MP who has also been a huge expenses blodger and fraudster, and who claimed vast amounts on his Parliamentary expenses (even a £39 hotel breakfast) while —as Secretary of State for the DWP— taking money away from people living in real poverty.
The second group who tend to criticize “Bootstrap Cook” are those who agree with much of her campaigning on benefits etc, but who say that she actually “enables” attacks on benefit recipients by reason of her claims that a family of 4 can be fed well on £20 a week or less.
Now, however, a third group has joined the fray, being those who claim that they and/or others have been taken for a ride by “Bootstrap Cook”, and that she is a “grifter”, or even an outright fraud, who has sold goods and services which were never delivered. These critics also claim that much of the “Bootstrap Cook” back-story is untrue, or embellished.
For example, it is said that “Bootstrap Cook” was either never in poverty herself, or was so for no more than 18 months. It is said that at least part of her financial difficulties were caused by her own (apparently past) alcohol and/or drug abuse. It is said that she makes up implausible stories about her past financial predicament, such as “having to” sell her little son’s beloved dinosaur toy to raise money (really? How much money would that raise? £1? £2? And how cruel is that, assuming the story to be true?).
It is also said that her parents are not badly-off financially, that they own buy-to-let property, and that her paternal grandfather was a millionaire. In other words, that “Bootstrap Cook” always had a financial lifeline. I have no idea whether, or to what extent, that may be, or may have been, the case.
Recently, following a storm of criticism on Twitter, “Bootstrap Cook” deleted her Twitter account, though others claim that she is merely taking a 40-hour “rest” from Twitter, and will return. Why 40 hours and not (as with Jesus Christ) 40 days, or whatever, I have no idea.
One of my few blog posts which mentioned “Bootstrap Cook”: https://ianrobertmillard.org/2022/08/25/diary-blog-25-august-2022-with-a-few-thoughts-about-poverty-and-living-through-hard-times/.
One aspect that interested me, as a former barrister, was the tendency of “Bootstrap Cook” to threaten some of her critics with legal action. A few years ago, “Bootstrap Cook” sued Katie Hopkins in libel.
Ms. Hopkins had libelled “Bootstrap Cook” entirely mistakenly as to the facts, had no defence whatever, and should have backed down and got out with minimal damage when she could have but, like many maximalisti, found sorry the hardest word, and so was hammered: £24,000 in damages, and very large legal costs. Ms. Hopkins had to sell her house in St. Leonard’s (the best residential district in Exeter) in order to pay those legal costs.
“Bootstrap Cook” retained as her solicitor Mark Lewis, the Zionist Jew who now lives in Israel, though he has also a professional foothold in London. His no-win no-fee cases have often been controversial.
I have blogged about Lewis in previous years, most recently in 2019: https://ianrobertmillard.org/2019/01/11/update-re-mark-lewis-lawyer-questions-are-raised/.
I have to wonder how nice a person “Bootstrap Cook” is, if she is on friendly terms with someone such as Lewis.
As soon as people started suggesting, a month or two ago, that “Bootstrap Cook” was somewhere between “grifter” and fraudster, out came the Twitter threat that Mark Lewis and libel would be wheeled out (frankly, not so much of a threat— by no means have all of Lewis’s cases been brought to a successful conclusion, and when he was censured and fined by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority about 4 years ago, his Counsel said that his fine should be reduced because his only possessions were his clothes, a mobility scooter. and a private pension worth £70 a week).
In fact, when “Bootstrap Cook” threatened libel action against Conservative Party MP Lee Anderson [Con, Ashfield] (in May of this year), nothing ever came of it, as far as I know:
“Food journalist and activist Jack Monroe hinted at legal action against Anderson after he commented in an interview that “She’s taking money off some of the most vulnerable people in society and making an absolute fortune on [sic] the back of people”. [Wikipedia].
It may be that Anderson will face legal action, but I have certainly not seen any news about an action having been launched. See https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/may/15/food-writer-jack-monroe-sues-tory-mp-claims-she-makes-fortune-poor-lee-anderson; and https://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/20141345.southends-jack-monroe-sue-lee-anderson/.
The Guardian says “sues“, but the Independent said “hints at suing“, and I have seen nothing on the Mark Lewis Twitter output to the effect that he ever was “instructed” (the Guardian, again) on the matter. He may have been, he may not have been. I might add that all the news reports are from 15-16 May 2022; nothing since then.
Was Anderson right, though? As I have said, I was willing to cut “Bootstrap Cook” some slack, because in recent years, the past ~15 years, the social security system has become inadequate, pay for work has also become generally inadequate, and millions are struggling both to eat and keep sheltered and warm. My view was that any useable advice was, well, useful.
I still think that (despite the fact that, to me, many of the recipes of “Bootstrap Cook” do look like a dog’s dinner, and despite the fact that many disagree with her costings etc).
More serious criticism is that she has actually been making a pretty good living out of Patreon donations, while never or rarely providing the extras offered in exchange.
When I last looked, “Bootstrap Cook” had at least 800 Patreon donors giving a minimum of £1 a month. £800 a month. In itself not bad. When you consider that the suggested minimum is £3 a head, the total increases to £2,400 a month (perhaps). I have seen a tweet where the tweeter claims, truthfully or otherwise, to have been donating £44 a month. Well, you see the point. “Bootstrap Cook” must have an income from Patreon alone of between £800 and (?) perhaps as much as £8,000 a month. Or more. That’s before one takes into account book sales, other donations, paid (?) TV appearances, other appearances etc. We do not know.
Not that “Bootstrap Cook” claims poverty, these days. No, she claims, as I understand it (and perhaps truthfully) a degree of “precariousness” in her life and finances, and she is certainly not alone in that. It is almost the norm in the Britain of 2022.
“Bootstrap Cook” has a number of defence mechanisms. One is to threaten defamation actions, but the more usual tactic is to claim the shield of disability, and she has about two dozen options there.
A further defence tactic is, I read, to set her fanatical fans (she apparently calls them “flying monkeys“) onto any critics, and I have certainly seen tweets where mentally-disturbed fans have come close to suggesting violence against anyone daring to utter critical words.
The problem here is that “Bootstrap Cook” has become a totem for a certain tribe of virtue-signallers. Not really “the poor” but more the sort of people who like to think that they are socially-progressive etc. Facts do not matter to those people, belonging to the “right” tribe does. cf. “Covid”, Ukraine, “Black Lives Matter” and, of course, “FBPE/Remain/Rejoin” etc.
When you consider that someone who claims to be able to feed a family of 4 for £20 a week might be said to be, arguably or in effect, saying that UK benefits are perfectly OK and need not be increased, is that really something positive or not?
Some tweets seen about the issues raised:
It is better to be a little naive than very cynical, but the world makes it hard…
As many have noted, this whole Bootstrap Cook thing is more like a creepy cult than anything. It’s as if a lot of fairly affluent or at least not poor people have decided that supporting “Bootstrap Cook” —right or wrong— validates their evenings of going out, their Netflix subscription, their holiday in Cuba or Costa Rica, their new cars, and in fact their whole comfortable existence.
In fact, it reminds me of the “indulgences” sold by the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation.
Not that that is necessarily the fault of the “Bootstrap Cook” herself.
Look at the loonies below, believing what they want to believe:
Well, if you can believe that the “royal” Mulatta is a sadly-abused “princess”, then believing that a poverty campaigner, who seems to be making “a nice little earner” out of it and naive followers, is a modern Joan of Arc, must be easy enough.
Well, that’s enough. There are hundreds of other tweets in similar vein.
As blogged previously, my view is that Bootstrap Cook’s stuff may well be of interest to many, though —as already said— much of it looks to me like carbohydrate-heavy food often presented like a dog’s dinner.
I do not think that “Bootstrap Cook” set out to defraud anyone, and it may be that she has no such intention now, but it does seem that legitimate questions about her fundraising have been asked by a number of donors, but not answered by her.
If people think that they are somehow accomplishing something by subsidizing the not-uncomfortable lifestyle of that person, then that is their business, in a sense, but it is legitimate for others, arguably more clear-minded, to ask “where is the money going?“, “is any of this true?“, and “are people being tapped for money under false pretences?“.
I can also see that her fans seem to be, almost entirely, not the truly poor but more those who are not “poor” but who support her “non-binary” profile, the “gender bender” aspects, and the general “government must do more for the poor” activism aspect.
I think that it is legitimate to question, not only “where the money went” (or goes), but also whether, in reality, whether Bootstrap Cook has actually influenced government, or large enterprises such as ASDA (it seems that one or two supermarket chains were actually paying her for advice or consultancy or something).
Poverty is a huge problem in the UK now. Anyone claiming to be expert in it must expect searching inquiry.
Is this all really just a morning TV virtue-signal writ large? After all, at the end of the day, the decisive question is what government does or fails to do.
I personally have no animus against “Bootstrap Cook”, but my view of her has certainly become far less positive over the years since I first heard of her.
I do think, also, that if you claim that a person can feed healthily on £5 a week, you are really playing into the hands of swine such as Dunce Duncan Smith, Esther McVey, Therese Coffey etc.
I think that anyone wanting to help “the poor” could probably do so more effectively via GoFundMe or local foodbanks than by subsidizing the lifestyle of “Bootstrap Cook”. Perhaps I am mistaken, but that is my firm view and opinion.
On a wider point, we have in the UK this msm thing whereby TV channels or shows like to have a “go-to” list. Brexit discussion? Call Farage. Free speech discussion? Call Toby Young. Poverty discussion? Call Jack Monroe. And so on.
Thus you get “activists” who are really just “famous for being famous activists”. The Caroline Criado-Perez phenomenon. A hundred thousand or a million Twitter followers but, outside Twitter etc, really unknown and without real influence.
Of course, the msm now like to feature (supposed) “experts” who are, if possible, young, female, and black. “Bootstrap Cook” is not black, but as “Meatloaf” once opined, “two out of three ain’t bad“…
Well, there it is. I prefer to concentrate on other and larger issues really, but felt that I should examine the above first, after the recent Twitter storm in a teacup.
[Update, same day: I happened to see an assessment by someone else. An investigative and/or opinion piece. https://katieroche.net/jack_monroe_investigation_main.html]
More tweets seen
All that the doomed “Conservative” Party had to do, to consign Labour to the bin, was select a leader to succeed “Boris”-idiot who was even slightly competent. It failed to do so. Endex.
The implications are clear: either the Con MPs get rid of Liz Truss as soon as they can, and put in someone who at least looks semi-competent, or the Con Party will be near-finished by next year. Same goes, of course, for Kwarteng, Cleverly, and Coffey.
Ha ha. Yes, that ghastly little bastard Schofield is one of the worst people on TV in the UK; and, yes, it is peak contemporary Britain, just like…well, there are just too many examples around…
TV detective drama
I, among others, including recently Peter Hitchens, have written about how NWO/ZOG propaganda is now embedded in TV dramas, “soaps”, ads etc. See https://ianrobertmillard.org/2018/12/10/tv-ads-and-soaps-are-the-propaganda-preferred-by-the-system-in-the-uk/.
A good example was seen the other night. A new detective drama called Karen Pirie.
Set partly a few decades ago, partly in the contemporary era, even the older setting, in St. Andrews, Scotland, decades ago, had a black character appear. In a small town in what seems to be a bleak part of Scotland (I have never been there). Then we are introduced to the two detectives now investigating the cold case. One a small Scottish woman, the other a black or half-caste…
I do not have a great deal of patience with films or TV shows. If they do not catch the interest after 15 mins, switch— OFF. I gave this one 20 mins. A bloody bore, poorly conceived and worse-acted.
This evening, I saw an old episode of Wycliffe [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wycliffe_(TV_series)]. All characters more or less credible, and what I like best about Wycliffe is that it manages to catch the atmosphere of Cornwall well, from what I recall from when I lived there. It does not rely on cliche (most of the time, at least).
One or two white children, out of over 30. Scotland’s future? In the centre of the photo, Scotland’s supposedly “nationalist” leader…