Why is Plan B wearing a neo-nazi band's T-shirt?

The rapper is pictured in a Skrewdriver shirt in Shortlist magazine.

The latest Shortlist magazine features an interview with rapper Plan B, in which he is dubbed "The Last Protest Singer". The cover features the rapper, looking moody against a smoky city skyline - but wait, look closer. 

That's a Skrewdriver t-shirt he's wearing. 

Skrewdriver were a "white power" band, with neo-Nazi overtones and links to the National Front. 

Here's an example of some of Skrewdriver's incredibly subtle imagery:

Why on earth would Plan B choose to wear the T-shirt of a band with such a history? And why would Shortlist let him?

As Brian Whelan writes on his blog on the subject:

Skrewdriver were a driving force behind the UK’s neo-Nazi skinhead scene in the 80s and early 90s. Their singer, Ian Stuart, launched the Blood and Honour movement with Nicky Crane, which to this day functions as an international network providing funds for the far-right.

It's hard to see how the "I was doing it ironically" defence will work on this one.

UPDATE: 22 July 2012, 21.00.

Plan B has issued a statement to The Quietus, explaining the provenance of the shirt - and adding that he was unaware of the band's unsavoury links. 

"I was ignorant to the existence of the band Skrewdriver. I don't listen to music like that so I wouldn't know the names of bands that make that music. I was wearing a t-shirt I created using a photograph from the photographer Gavin Watson's book Skins.


Gavin's photos are relevant to me because they represent the demonised youth of the past. Just like my generation of young people are demonised in the media to all be hoodie wearing thugs and chavs so were the skinheads in the 80's.


The minute I found out what the words on the t-shirt meant I was angry with myself for not questioning them. The t-shirt is not official nor is it on sale anywhere. It was of my own doing and therefore it is my mistake, but that is all it is."

You can read the full statement at The Quietus, which said that its writers did not think "that Plan B is a racist or supports any right wing ideology. We do however reserve our right to question any political choices musicians make as part of their public career."

Images of the cover have now been removed from the Shortlist website. 

Plan B wears a Skrewdriver T-shirt on the cover of Shortlist.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Show Hide image

On World Aids Day, let’s end the stigma around HIV for good

Advances in treatment mean that being HIV positive is no longer a death sentence, but attitudes still lag behind.

Stigma is a dangerous human construct, principally based on unfounded prejudices. None more so than the stigma surrounding HIV. The condition has been a recognised health issue in the UK for more than 30 years, and the advances in treatment have been staggering. Unfortunately attitudes seem to have remained in the 1980s.

A recent Terrence Higgins Trust poll asked people who are living with HIV for words that they have heard to describe their health condition. “AIDS”, “riddled”, “dirty”, “disgusting”, “promiscuous”, “dirty”, “deserved”, “unclean”, “diseased” – were the most cited.

Imagine turning to someone, who lets say has a long term health condition like high blood pressure, and branding them “lazy”, “fat”, “deserving”. Or someone who has just been diagnosed with diabetes being dismissed as “greed”. Of course, I’m not saying that these health conditions are without their own stigma. Rather I doubt that Charlie Sheen would have been subjected to such a vitriolic witch hunt, had it transpired he had either of those.

Once the nausea of that coverage subsided, it was telling to note the absent voices from most of the media debate around HIV and stigma. The thing that struck most was the total lack of understanding of the condition, the treatment, and the lack of representation of those who are living with HIV.

There was little written about the stigma women living with HIV face. That which those within the black African community, or the trans community, or the over 50s – the first generation of people living into old age with HIV – are subjected to.

Such is the stigma and the shame of HIV in black African communities that it can divide families. HIV positive people can be asked to leave home, resulting in separation from their family and isolation from their community. We know of a woman from the black African community who felt so stigmatised for not breastfeeding her baby – due to her HIV treatment – that she stopped her drug regime. She died unnecessarily of an Aids-related illness. After her death, her medication was found in the attic.

While living with HIV can be stressful for all ages, ageing with HIV can introduce challenges to mental health and quality of life. When compared to their peers, older people living with HIV are disadvantaged in a wide range of ways – from poorer health, to social care and financial security. We’ve found that older people fear that social care services will be prejudiced about their HIV diagnosis. One man shared that he feared hugely going into a home – the attitudes towards HIV that he might find, and ignorance from the staff. This fear is rooted in many people’s historic and continued experience of HIV-related discrimination.  

Often considered to be a lower risk group than gay men, women are sometimes forgotten in HIV discourse and yet women are stigmatised as much as any other with HIV. Women living with the condition face a unique stigma. Some are mothers and have been accused of being “irresponsible” and “putting children at risk”.

For the record, taking antiretroviral medication (ART) lowers the amount of virus in your blood to “undetectable” levels. When the level of HIV in your blood is so low that it can’t be picked-up in tests it is undetectable. This means there is an extremely low risk of passing on HIV.

Because of ART, undetectable women have a very low risk of passing on HIV to their babies. New-borns are given their own short course of ART to further reduce their risk of developing HIV, and undergo a series of tests during the first 18 months of life.

Many transgender people are on a difficult gender journey, which includes lots of access to GPs for onward referrals to specialists, and still they worry about HIV stigma. Some deny their HIV status in settings where possible, as they look at it as a barrier to achieving their goal. Gender specialist clinics are embedded in mental health departments, and some positive trans people worry that the stigma of diagnosis might be seen as an indicator of promiscuity, which they feel might work against their cases.

And what of stigma in the gay community? The poll mentioned earlier found that of 410 gay men living with HIV, 77 per cent experience stigma – with more than two thirds experiencing this most from within the gay community.

Those gay men who take the plunge and live openly with their status are often heckled, and sent abuse on dating apps like Grindr, even receiving messages that they shouldn’t be using it because “they’ll infect others”. It’s all too easy in the digital age for stigma to persist, and ignorance to remain faceless.

Stigma is best countered with fact. But there’s a clear lack of education amongst many – both positive and negative. Growing up with sex and relationship education lessons that only teach the reproduction cycle is not enough. Young people should be given clear and detailed information about the risks of HIV, but also how living with HIV in the UK has changed, and it is now an entirely manageable health condition.

Officially, stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. Let’s turn that around today, and use the red ribbon to stop stigma. Let’s use it a mark of solidarity, compassion and understanding.

Let’s start a conversation about how we speak and write about HIV. Let’s stand together, today of all days against HIV stigma. Start now – join the solidarity on social media by taking a selfie with your red ribbon and #StopStigma.