I remember the first time I read the Daily Mail. It was a Saturday afternoon. I was 16, in the middle of my first ever shift in our local supermarket, and I'd just walked into the staff canteen. There was, as is customary for staff canteens, a rack of newspapers on the wall. 'I'll read the paper', I thought. All grown up. 'But which one? Not The Sun, that's just a comic. The Times? Mmm, too big. Oh look, what's this? It looks important, like the Telegraph, but smaller. That'll do. From the moment I sat down I had this funny feeling that something was not quite right.
Sixteen years later I find my first major public art project, a crowd-funded campaign to manufacture 1,000 t-shirts emblazoned with Jeremy Corbyn's name in a Superman-style, is the catalyst for yet another smear campaign against the very person the project was intended to celebrate. I'm angry, I'm embarrassed, and I need to get a few things straight.
Firstly, the emotive images of the two Bangladeshi women holding my shirts clearly imply that Jeremy Corbyn branded items are coming directly off a production line in Bangladesh. I would expect every person who saw them has assumed as much, however, this is not true. In reality, the shirts have only ever been printed right here in London. If the photos were taken in Dhaka, then the photographer must have purchased them here and travelled out with them.
Secondly, the initial decision to use Gildan shirts was made by me and me alone. Jeremy Corbyn had, contrary to the implication of the headline, absolutely nothing to do with it. Why did I chose Gildan? I've designed t-shirts in the past, for my music and other projects, and I always used them simply because that's what every other band used. They are, by far, the most popular brand of t-shirt for this type of activity in the UK. When I realised this project would be on a much bigger scale than my previous, I did some more research and saw they were accredited by the Fair Labor Association as a socially responsible employer. I suppose at the time I felt like that was good enough for me, which in hindsight was a mistake. Momentum's decision to order Gildan from the same London-based printer is likely to have been simply a matter of them following my lead. I would suggest, if the conditions really are as described in the Mail on Sunday's article, then the Fair Labor Association, who are supposedly a reputable authority, should seriously reconsider Gildan's stamp of approval.
It infuriates me that the Mail can and will continue to use Corbyn's admirable position on absolutely anything as constant fodder for accusations of hypocrisy. It's a sad fact that products made with cheap labour are everywhere. Anyone who has ever bought anything from Apple, H&M, GAP, Primark, Nestle, Nike, Adidas or any one of the long list of retailers and brands that use cheap labour is complicit. This is clearly not the result of Jeremy Corbyn, or Momentum, or my stupid t-shirts, but is indicative of and perpetuated by this mutant form of capitalism that we are so enthusiastically encouraged to embrace under economic neoliberalism - the ideology behind privatisation, deregulation and austerity. Ironically, these are precisely the same ideals that drive the agenda of the Mail. Surely that's the very definition of hypocrisy.
Angry Dan is an artist, musician and poet
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