A new political party was launched in London on Thursday by a group of activists from Extinction Rebellion, who marked the event by shoplifting a haul of supermarket goods to highlight the instability of global food distribution.
The stunt involved five members of the nascent Beyond Politics party walking out of Sainsbury’s in Camden with shopping trolleys filled with food but without paying.
They were not stopped by staff but two activists were involved in skirmishes with security guards after broadcasting over a loudspeaker that there was free food. While in the store they distributed stickers on various food items that read: “New lower price: free. Because poverty sucks.”
The shoplifting stunt aimed to draw attention to the instability of global food supplies due to the climate emergency and political failures.
The founders of Beyond Politics say the current political system is corrupt and failing. They want to hand power to ordinary people through citizens’ assemblies, and plan to field candidates across the country for future local, regional and national elections, starting with a north London activist, Valerie Brown, who is to stand for mayor of London at next year’s election.
“While the government gives billions to its corporate buddies, millions of families don’t have enough money just to feed their kids,” said a spokesperson for the new party.
“We want to establish a participatory democracy. We want to engage everyone and for people to be able to have their say. The current political system is incapable of making the structural changes necessary. We need a complete transformation of politics.”
Extinction Rebellion’s co-founder Roger Hallam is a driving force behind the party.
He told the Guardian: “We are seeing complete incompetence of the governing class. There have been 20,000 unnecessary deaths from Covid. The crowning glory is the inability of the political class to respond to the extinction of the human race.”
Hallam said that the new party was building on long and historic traditions of protest from many different quarters. Hallam generated controversy last year after arguing in an interview that the significance of the Holocaust had been overplayed, saying it was “just another fuckery in human history”.
“Extinction Rebellion do not have a monopoly on civil disobedience. It’s a broad church,” he said. “Going back to suffragettes, Chartists and others. There was already mass disillusionment with the political classes before XR came along. Nothing changes without disruption. We are looking at a fusion of participatory democracy with direct action.”
Thursday’s “supermarket sweep” is the first of a series of direct actions that will culminate in an event in central London on 25 July. With many of the primary colours already taken by other political parties as part of their branding, Beyond Politics has chosen shocking pink as their launch colour.
Party member Benedict McGorty said: “I’m not stealing food, I’m ‘gift-aiding’ it. We are changing the rules because the rules are plain wrong. This is not against Sainsbury’s but the profiteering of a basic human need.”
Brown said: “This action is symbolic of what we all need to do … It’s OK if politicians get things wrong a bit, but not for decades. They have been sitting back and watching the world fall apart. People are going hungry and homeless whilst others chuck tonnes of food in the bin because they’ve got too much money. Supermarkets continue to pollute and destroy with plastic waste and food importation.”
Although Extinction Rebellion also demands the creation of citizens’ assemblies, Beyond Politics is organisationally separate from them. Hallam says he is assisting with design and organisational work for the new political party.