The events are chronicled by Philip Ross who was one of the founder members of the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) and its first Director of External Affairs. As such he is uniquely positioned to tell the story from the inside - with the highs and the lows, the successes and failures, the conflicts and the characters.
In the book, he draws parallels with other revolutions throughout history, from its brave and bold beginnings to the final stages when the revolution turned on the revolutionaries.
In the early stages, contractors banded together against a common enemy, IR35. This story dates from 1999, when discussion forums were in their infancy and technology as a means of communication was the domain of geeks and IT experts - the very people who the Government had chosen to target with IR35. Many of these contractors were at the cutting edge of technology and their communication method of choice was the internet. Their campaign and mode of operation pushed back the barriers for the innovative use of technology on an almost daily basis.
Philip tells the story of the birth of the Professional Contractors Group, (the PCG), Britain’s first online trade association, which would use the internet to mobilise thousands of contractors in a battle with the Inland Revenue over IR35 and then the Home Office over the issue of Work Permits.
- win over the House of Lords who controversially reject the IR35 proposals,
- raise money for the group from the internet, in one of the first examples of crowdfinancing
- it would organise the first ever 'flash mob' to lobby Parliament
- and then be the first to present an e-petition to Parliament,
- the group would pressure the BBC’s flagship political programme Newsnight into transmitting an apology on air for getting its facts wrong,
- they would take the Government all the way to the High Court and the Court of Appeal,
- and grow their organisation from zero to thousands in a matter of weeks.
Philip explores the online revolution and the figures who had the vision to lead it and pursue it. As is often the case with revolutions, the group turned on itself - and those leading figures were ultimately replaced by more establishment characters as attempts were made at rewriting history.
Philip Ross said: "It is a great story that needs to be told, it is not just about the fight against IR35, but it is a story of an on-line revolution.
"It is as much a human drama as it is about anything else.
"That is part of my motivation, the other part is to put the record straight about what happened and how it happened. The founders and the early days of the PCG seemed to have been air brushed out of the history and I wanted to paint them back in again. Given all the recent news about IR35, it is interesting to note the complaint about the PCG then was that we fought too hard."
Philip Ross was one of the founding members of the Professional Contractors Group and played a leading role in the fight against IR35. He was elected as their first external affairs director. He left the Group to stand for Parliament later returning in an executive capacity running their external affairs function. He led the PCG’s successful campaign against Fast Track Visas.
After leaving the PCG he went to run the Parliamentary office of Tony McWalter MP. He decided to return to IT contracting only to discover that he had forgotten much of his technical knowledge. In the meantime he took a part job on the tills at John Lewis. He made it back into IT as a permanent employee in Dunstable and then returned to work in London in 2006.
On the political front he became Mayor of Letchworth Garden City from 2007-9. He continues to write political articles on freelancing and small business for Progress and Shout99. He has also become an international speaker on the topic of Garden Cities.
He now works for a consultancy in London in which he is a shareholder. Though no longer a contractor he is still committed to the cause.
Philip is a member of and regular contributor to Shout99.
To order a copy
The book will be of interest to anyone in the freelancing industry; to those who continue to campaign and lobby; to IT and media students who want to know how 'it was done' first time round; to those who now lead the technological revolution to see who and how paved the way; - and maybe also to those thousands of contractors who took the first step all those years ago to join the online revolution for their 'Freedom to Freelance'.
Copies are available, price £22.50 online here
There is also a blogspot with further information about the book.
There is a short youtube trailer.
Preview a copy of the opening pages (you may need to click preview) here
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2012