Category Archives: Politics

The dream lives on

37268_1456711093152_3792545_n

“For Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die” – Alex Salmond.

On Wednesday evening I joined 600 other YES supporters of all ages packed into the market square in Galashiels. There were speeches, songs, flag-waving, cheering and laughter. There was a carnival atmosphere – an excited eve-of-poll anticipation. None of us knew who would win, but we all hoped we would, and believed we could.

Similar scenes could be observed throughout Scotland. Tens of thousands gathered in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and other cities and towns. In George Square, Glasgow, there had been many such rallies. They gathered again late on Thursday after the polls had closed. Many of them were young, and had cast their first vote. Hardly any of them had ever been involved in politics before. But they had been caught up in a YES campaign which held out to them a vision of a better, independent Scotland.

Meanwhile the world’s media had gathered. News organisations from 120 countries were there, ready to broadcast the celebrations when Scotland became an independent country.

But as the results came in, it was apparent that hopes were about to be dashed; the dream turned into a nightmare. There were moments when hopes were revived – particularly when Glasgow voted YES – but these were short-lived.

The Scottish people had been sovereign for one day as they were asked the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country”. 45% – 1,600,000 of us – said YES. But 55% – 2 million – said NO.

So instead of dancing, cheering celebrating crowds, we saw slumped, sad people, many of them shedding tears.

On my Twitter timeline there was desolation. One tweeted: ”I’m 25 years old, but I can’t stop greeting”. Some said it was worse than a bereavement. ‘Scotland died tonight’ said more than one tweeter.

After just three hours sleep, I woke up. A moment later I came to with a jolt as the realisation of what had happened hit me. I was more upset than I expected to be. Although I’ve been sympathetic for years to the idea of Scottish independence, I only decided definitely to vote YES two or three months ago. But once I’d made the decision, I soon realised how strongly I felt about it. I was in no doubt. I was convinced it was right that Scotland, for the first time since 1707, should once again be an independent nation. So I was in post-poll blues on Friday, and I’m sure most of my fellow Yessers were, too.

Eventually I walked into town. The YES shop had already been evacuated. No blue signs and posters. No campaigners handing out leaflets and engaging in conversations with voters. Just a bare, empty shop.

And then it occurred to me what was missing: celebration. The polls showed that the NO vote was particularly high in the Borders so where were the Unionist revellers? Nowhere to be seen. Perhaps unsurprising though as there’d been hardly any evidence locally of their presence in the weeks and months leading up to the vote.

And did TV show any evidence of celebrations by the NO camp apart from cheering on the night from their hq? Nothing that I noticed – that is until I saw the footage of hardline ‘Loyalist’ thugs rampaging on Friday night in George Square, taunting YES voters.

But, apart from that, no celebrations by those who voted NO. They seemed joyless in their moment of victory. Indeed there were signs that some of them were having second thoughts. One shopkeeper told me he was already regretting his NO vote. Sadly, too late.

But Saturday was a new day. The despair had been short-lived. People on my Twitter feed were in better spirits. Some of them have been campaigning hard for two years or more, and they are not going to give up now.

MOST YES CAMPAIGNERS NOT ‘NATIONALISTS’

There’s a lot of misconceptions about the YES campaign. Gordon Brown referred to “narrow nationalists”. Even The Guardian, which should know better, described YES campaigners as nationalists.

Even the SNP is not an old-fashioned nationalist party. It has an outward-looking inclusive approach, often called ‘civic nationalism’. It stresses that Scotland welcomes people of all ethnic, national and religious backgrounds, believing that Scotland should be run by the people who live and work here.

The YES campaign is a broad-based movement. It includes not only the SNP, the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party but also a host of groups and individuals including the Radical Independence Campaign, the National Collective, the Common Weal, Women for Independence, Asians For YES, Business for Scotland and English For Yes. This is the largest ever grassroots campaign in the history of Scotland.

And the majority of those campaigning and voting YES are not nationalists. They are motivated by a burning desire for more equality, more social justice and a more caring society. And they think that the best way to achieve that is by having an independent Scotland so we can choose our own Governments instead of having a Government chosen for us by England.

The idea that we are anti-English is a ludicrous smear. I returned to Scotland last year after living most of my adult life in England and have many English friends so how could I be anti-English?

But I do want to disengage from the British state. As one English tweeter put it brilliantly: “I am not the British State, so if Scots leave the British State I won’t be offended. They aren’t leaving me. We still cool”.

POST-WAR CONSENSUS SHATTERED

I was born only three years after the second world war ended, and grew up feeling British as well as Scottish. The NHS was created in the year of my birth. The welfare state provided protection from cradle to grave. Essential industries were publicly owned. British values stressed fairness and a feeling we were genuinely “all in this together”.

But the post-war consensus was shattered by Margaret Thatcher. She closed down not only the mines but much of our manufacturing industry. She removed the rights of trade unionists. She used Scotland as a social laboratory, trying out the poll tax here first. Thatcherism was detested in Scotland and the Tories, who last won a majority north of the border in 1955, were gradually removed. In 1997 Scotland elected not one Conservative MP.

In 2010 just one of Scotland’s 59 Westminster MPs was a Tory. Yet Scotland had a Conservative-led Government imposed on it which proceeded to plunge many Scots into poverty. The hated bedroom tax was introduced. Food banks proliferated. ‘Austerity’ has resulted in cuts in public services and growing poverty for those who find their benefits cuts – while MPs continue to claim lavish expenses.

Meanwhile nuclear weapons, housed in Trident submarines, are based in Scotland. The British state continues to be run by politicians who seem to hanker after the days of Empire, revelling in their perception that Britain ‘punches above its weight’ and is a world ‘power’. Consequently we still spend far too much money on ‘defence’.

And what of the Labour Party? Can’t we just wait until they are re-elected? But Labour under Tony Blair embraced Conservative principles as well as plunging us into the disastrous and illegal war in Iraq. As for Ed Milliband’s Labour Party, even if it is elected, will it make much difference? Labour supports austerity and Trident.

The British state, at its peak as an Imperial power, has failed to adapt to modern times even retaining a wholly unelected second legislative chamber, which is an affront to democracy. The United Kingdom, which is not united and should not be a kingdom, is no longer fit for purpose.

The sort of society I want to see is far more likely to evolve in an independent country. Scotland should be a nation again, exercising our right to self-determination. At the same time, as an internationalist, I want to see us co-operate with other nations through our membership of such organisations as the EU and the UN.

REASONS FOR VOTING YES OR NO

Since Thursday’s vote, there have been claims that the Referendum provided a big margin of victory. Really? 45% of those voting (on an 85% turnout) voted for independence. They wanted to leave the Union. Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and the third most populous in the whole of the UK, voted YES.

And, of those who voted NO, did they really vote because they wanted to ‘save the Union’, as has been claimed? Not according to the polling evidence of Ashcroft who interviewed 2000 people after they’d voted in the Referendum. Only 27% said their main reason for voting NO was “a strong attachment to the UK”. 47% – almost twice as many – said they’d voted NO because of the ‘risks’ of becoming independent. A further 27% agreed that their main reason was that a Scottish Parliament would have extra powers “together with the security of remaining part of the UK, giving the best of both worlds”.

So Ashcroft’s poll reveals scant evidence to support a claim that many people voted NO because of their pro-Union views. More wanted extra powers for the Scottish Parliament, and had presumably been convinced by the last-minute ‘timetable’ announced by Gordon Brown that they did not have to vote YES to get such powers but a NO vote would do the trick. And almost twice as many were concerned by the perceived ‘risks’ – including some pensioners who’d been blatantly lied to by NO campaigners who claimed their pensions were at risk despite the fact a UK Government Minister had stated categorically that pensions were secure.

MEDIA BIAS

Research during the campaign showed that the more informed people were, the likelier they were to vote YES. Many rely on the media to inform them. But the media was hopelessly biased in favour of a NO vote. Apart from the Sunday Herald, no Scottish or English national newspaper supported independence.

And, although the broadcast media have a legal obligation to be impartial, apart from Channel 4 News, they failed to be so. Indeed, although there were some exceptions, such as the BBC’s Robert Peston, many broadcasters shamelessly acted as cheerleaders for the NO campaign. Even NO supporters I have spoken to concede that. In my lifetime I have never seen the BBC, ITV and Sky so biased in their coverage. This was noticed by some media professionals. Paul Mason, for example, now working for Channel 4 News, told his Facebook friends: “Not since Iraq have I seen BBC News working at propaganda strength like this. So glad I’m out of there”. And Stuart Cosgrove, Channel 4’s Director of Creative Diversity, described the BBC reporting of the Referendum as “an outrage”.

The London-based media had not paid that much attention to the Referendum, assuming it was in the bag for the NO camp. Then on Sunday 7th September a YouGov poll gave YES a 51-49 lead, the first time they’d been ahead in the entire campaign. It was a remarkable turnround given that YouGov had shown a 22% lead for NO just a month earlier, on August 7th. A superb YES campaign seemed to have had all the momentum since the second Leaders’ debate which Alax Salmond had comfortably won. And all the while the YES activists, far more numerous than their NO counterparts, were knocking on doors, persuading people that their message of Hope provided a positive vision for Scotland’s future in contrast to the negative NO campaign dubbed Project Fear by their own leaders.

Westminster went into panic mode, fearing that the ‘Union’ was in serious danger of ending. Prime Minister’s Questions was suspended as a dramatic stunt, enabling all the party leaders to go to Scotland – although David Cameron only addressed gatherings of the faithful, never venturing out to face undecided voters. A hundred Labour MPs made a day trip to Scotland. And Gordon Brown was unleashed. Suddenly the man whose Premiership had been undermined by the press, became a media darling. The ‘great clunking fist’, as Blair had once dubbed him, in effect took over the NO campaign from the hapless Alistair Darling. Although now only a backbencher, the BBC and Sky News showed his speeches live, and he was the one interviewed for the NO camp by David Dimbleby on the Tuesday before polling Day.

On the Sunday of the YouGov poll George Osborne had announced on the BBC’s Marr Show that all parties had reached an agreement about new powers for Scotland which would be announced later. It turned out that there were no new powers – just the ones that had already been announced by the 3 UK parties. And they disagreed, making different offers. But what was new was a timetable for action announced by Gordon Brown. This was followed by a ‘vow’, signed by all three party leaders and published in the Daily Record, which pledged action in the event of a NO vote.

The broadcast media lapped this all up, failing to scrutinise exactly what was involved. It was constantly referred to as devo-max, which implies all powers being devolved except foreign affairs and ‘defence’. But even the best offer – from the Tories – was nothing like devo-max, and it soon became clear that the timetable was hopelessly optimistic and that backbenchers might well refuse to support whatever was proposed even if the leaders eventually agreed.

In the last 11 days of the campaign, the media coverage was non-stop. But it was hopelesly slanted in favour of the NO camp. Any scare story about the alleged risks of independence was highlighted, often without being properly checked. For example, following contact from the Treasury, the BBC falsely claimed that the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds were planning to move their headquarters to London with an ensuing loss of jobs in Scotland. RBS then issued a statement saying that no jobs or banking operations would be affected. They were merely making contingency plans to move their registered office if there was no agreement on a currency union. And, as for the Lloyds headquarters, that was already in London, and had been there for a hundred years. Again, the only thing being contemplated was moving the registered office – the ‘brass plate’ as Alex Salmond put it.

Then after a meeting with the Prime Minister, Asda, John Lewis and some other large stores said prices might be raised in an independent Scotland. Morrisons and Tesco’s said this would not happen but their comments got little attention. The media seemed to want only stories that would damage the YES campaign.

Of course, we know broadcasters have views but they are supposed to keep them private. Some failed to do so. Tom Bradby of ITV News bewailed on Twitter the fact that he might have to report on the “break-up of my country”. In a tweet exchange with me, he sided with the NO campaign, ridiculing the notion that an independent Scotland could be part of a currency union. He failed to mention the YES case that the three UK parties were bluffing and that they would agree to a currency union as it was in the best interests not only of Scotland but the rest of the UK. He then declined to answer my tweet questioning how he could be impartial when he clearly favoured the NO side. Later he claimed I hadn’t asked a question and I’d been abusive – totally untrue.

Nick Robinson of the BBC claimed Alex Salmond hadn’t answered his question about the banks but a YouTube video showed that Salmond’s reply had been edited out.

My feeling is that the vast majority of presenters felt passionately that Scotland should vote NO, and that because they felt so strongly they were unable to cover the story impartially. So claims by NO were not subject to sufficient critical analysis.

Given the media bias, the YES campaign did remarkably well to persuade 45% of us to vote YES.

THE FUTURE

So where do we go from here? I’m sure there will be another Referendum but it probably won’t be in the near future – maybe not for another 10-15 years. It would only come earlier if the UK party leaders reneged on their ‘vow’ to devolve substantial new powers to Scotland in the near future. The timetable, drawn up by Gordon Brown, has already been put at risk by the Prime Minister’s opportunistic insistence – after the vote, of course – that new powers for the Scottish Parliament should be linked to constitutional change in England.

Also if the UK votes to leave the UK – and the people of Scotland vote to stay – that could hasten another Referendum.

There will now be strong pressure from YES campaigners for genuine devo-max, ie Scottish control over everything except foreign affairs and ‘defence’. And some will want to go further, for example, calling for the removal of Trident for Scotland.

In the few days since the Referendum, the parties supporting YES – SNP, Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party – have gained thousands of new members. Many will never forgive the Labour Party – now dubbed ‘red Tories’ – for their collaboration with the Tories in the NO campaign. The Party may have been partly motivated by the desire to retain their 41 Scottish MPs at Westminster. But they may face an electoral payback both at the 2015 General Election and the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.

There is now a radical movement consisting of those who have been involved in the greatest grassroots political movement ever seen in this country. As Alex Salmond said: “The real guardians of progress are not the politicians at Westminster, or even at Holyrood, but the energised activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse meekly to go back into the political shadows”.

And younger people are much more likely to support independence. Ashcroft’s findings were that 54% of those aged 16-54 voted YES. NO secured victory because 66% of those aged 55 and older voted NO.

The 2014 Referendum was lost. But the hunger for radical change in Scotland will not go away. As much change as possible will be carried out within the confines of a devolved Scottish Parliament still in the UK. But ultimately I believe that will not be enough. The British state is on borrowed time. It has only postponed the inevitable. Sometime within the next 20 years – maybe much sooner than that – Scotland will become an independent nation

British Values – who abandoned them?

“We need to live in a fairer society. I’ve been a socialist all my life and I’ve never voted anything other than Labour. Historians will look back on this and say this is Thatcher’s legacy. Without her this wouldn’t have happened. She destroyed everything that made us British. She destroyed Ravenscraig when it was the most productive steel plant in Europe, she destroyed the coal mines, it was part of our identity and the whole sense of Britishness went out the window. We’ll never get it back..All these MPs who came up here, it’s desperate and patronising. Have they finally woken up to the fact that something is going on up here?”

– George Gray,65, from Paisley – quoted in Sunday Herald, 14 September 2014.

“The No camp tell us that we are the separatists, that we’re splitting the Union, divorcing, breaking up Britain, ripping things up, abandoning Britain and its common British values.
The irony is that it’s not Scotland that’s abandoning the British values that have bound us on both sides of the Border. It’s Westminster, the London City state and its rich elites who have abandoned the British values my father and millions of others fought for in the Second World War.
The ideology that threw away the values of the post-war consensus and sold them off to the highest bidder, the values that my parents and grandparents believed in – they did believe that we were “all in it together” ..the values that created the welfare state, the health service, that believed the state had a moral, as well as a social responsibility, to care for the sick, the poor, the disabled, the dispossessed..a society that would do its best to make people’s lives better”

– extract from an article by Eliane C Smith in Sunday Herald, 14 September 2014.
Like

My grandfather, the First World War and peace.

100 years ago today Britain declared war on Germany and entered the First World War. By the time it ended in 1918, 16 million people had died.

My grandfather, George Scott, served as a soldier in this horrific war. He died when I was six, and I have only one recollection of him – in the passenger seat of my father’s car as he was dropped off outside his Edinburgh home before we returned to Dundee. I was in the back of the car.

Nearly every family in this country knows of at least one relative who served in the ‘Great War’. Many died or were badly wounded. Many were traumatised by their awful experiences. Those who returned home to their families had given up years of their lives to fighting in a war.

They did what they thought was right. As did our allies. As did those fighting for our ‘enemies’. Let’s remember today all those who were involved in the First World War, whatever their nationality.

Today there is no place for triumphalism of one particular country or group of nations. Today is a day for reflection on the horrors of war.

We need to learn from the past. War is rarely, if ever, justified. We need to find peaceful solutions to problems.

As we think of the 1914-18 war, we see daily on our television screens the death and destruction still being meted out in 2014. And all too often children and other civilians are the victims.

When will we ever learn?

Is Britain a modern democracy or a Disney Theme Park?

The royal family is, frankly, a national embarrassment. Throughout the world Britain is most famous for this feudal monarchy. We are seen as a land of fairy tales, a fantasy Disney World of medieval pageantry.

We are internationally celebrated for one glorious spectacle after another – last year the royal wedding; this year the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Our Parliament cannot even start its business each year without a lavish state opening.

This is Britain in 2012 – a country which has lost an empire but found a new role as ‘Ye Olde England’ theme park.

None of this makes me proud to be British.

No wonder I am sometimes asked, when abroad, if Britain is a democracy. And the reality, of course, is that monarchy and democracy are incompatible.

We have a Head of State who was not elected but simply became Queen because she was the daughter of the previous monarch, George VI. A hereditary monarchy is an anachronism in a 21st century democracy.

And incidentally if the Queen had had a younger brother, he would have been crowned, not she. It is only in the last year that it has been decided that if the eldest child of Prince William and Kate is a girl she would succeed her father as monarch.

But the royal family remains resolutely anti-Catholic. No Roman Catholic can succeed to the throne.

The monarchy legitimises a class-stratified society based on the accident of birth. It encourages us to respect people not because of their achievements or their qualities as people, but simply because of their inherited titles.

And in recent weeks the deference and royal toadying has been excessively nauseating. It seems, for example, that the broadcasters, led by the BBC, see themselves as a free PR service for the royal family. The unctuous fawn-fest has been an insult to a free society. And the royalist trivia that has been covered must surely embarrass the genuine professionals working in those news organisations.

This adulation of the royal family by the broadcasters means that there is far less scrutiny of their activities than there should be.  And there will be even less in future as the Government has scandalously removed the royal family from the scope of the Freedom of Information Act – following lobbying by Prince Charles.

And the lobbying activities of the Prince – who is unpopular even amongst supporters of the royal family – are extensive. He is notorious for firing off letters and demanding meetings with Government Ministers, so that he can bend their ears about his pet causes and his personal interests. And it takes a very strong minded Minister to resist this princely lobbying. The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne readily acceded to the royal demands for a new ‘pay’ deal, giving them a percentage of the income from the Crown estates, which has greatly increased their annual income.

And, incidentally, in the Mother of Parliaments, MPs are not allowed to criticise members of the royal family. And the Queen and Prince Charles must be asked – in private and without our knowledge – for consent before Parliament can debate any legislation that affects their private interests.

Each year the PR department of the Monarchy publishes accounts full of massaged figures, purporting to show that the royal family costs us only a matter of pence each per year. The reality is that we have a very expensive monarchy which costs us at least £200 million a year. Prince Charles has a property empire valued at more than £700 million. The Royal Art Collection is valued at £10 billion. And how many palaces and stately homes do they have? Some are privately owned; others officially belong to the state but are for the use of the royals. Just think – Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham House, Balmoral Castle, Hollyrood House Palace. These are the ones that immediately occurred to me but I’ve probably forgotten a few!

I’d like to see Britain become a grown-up country. It’s time to “put away childish things”. And that includes getting rid of a self-serving unelected Head of State.

Time for a Republic.

How Child-Beating Teachers Were STOPPed

Twenty five years ago today – on Tuesday 22nd July 1986 – the House of Commons voted to end child beating in schools. The victory for the abolitionist cause – by a single vote – came the evening before Prince Andrew’s marriage to Sarah Ferguson. The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, an ardent ‘hanger and flogger’, ironically played her part in securing the abolitionist victory. She was entertaining Nancy Reagan at number 10, and did not vote.

But abolition had been inevitable since the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 1982 that parental objections to their children being beaten must be respected. The Government proposed that parents should be able to opt their children out of school beatings, but teachers would be free to beat the children of those who didn’t object. The House of Lords threw out this daft proposal, and later amended a wide-ranging Education Bill to include a clause banning child beating.

When this came back to the Commons, 37 Tories, led by Robert Key, a sponsor of the Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment (STOPP), voted for abolition along with most Labour and Liberal MPs.

In 1979, when I became STOPP’s first full-time campaigner, the prospects for abolition seemed bleak. Margaret Thatcher had just become Prime Minister. Many of her MPs were looking for harsher punishments such as the return of the death penalty and judicial birching. It was not a good time to be advocating a liberal reform.

The teaching unions were universally in favour of teachers exercising their ‘in loco parentis’ role, arguing that teachers should have the same right as parents to beat children. The biggest teachers’ union, the NUT, was at the forefront of those wanting to retain child beating.  But they tried to persuade the public that it was rarely inflicted.

The truth was very different. 32 local authorities published beating statistics, showing that more than 80% of secondary schools were beating children, and that getting on for a quarter of a million beatings were being meted out annually. This worked out at one beating every 19 seconds throughout the school year. Far from being used as a ‘last resort’, beatings were often inflicted for the most trivial reasons.

Every year STOPP published a dossier of incidents. Here are just a few examples of the legalised brutality that was being meted out to children in the 1980s:

* A 9-year-old epileptic girl was publicly beaten by her headmaster for whispering in class.  As her classmates watched, she was struck three times across her knuckles with a three-foot long ruler.

* a 14-year-old boy killed himself with a shotgun because he feared being caned by his headmaster.

* A 15-year-old girl was caned seven times in one term for truancy.

* A 14-year-old boy came home from school after a caning with his blood-stained underpants sticking to his bottom

  • A few days after his father died, a 9-year-old boy was caned for going to his father’s grave during school hours.

* A headmaster was convicted of indecent assault on three girls, aged 5,8 & 9. The prosecution said he “made up feeble excuses for smacking the children on their bare bottoms”.

The last case – and many others brought to STOPP’s attention – illustrate the chilling reality that some teachers were sadists who got sexual gratification from beating the children entrusted to their care.

The abolition of child-beating in schools was one of the most important social reforms of the twentieth century.  A vile evil was expunged from our schools.

You can read a longer version of this article at http://blogminster.com/blogs/tomscott/

Labour MP’s offensive tweet

I have been on the receiving end of an unpleasant experience on Twitter. A Labour MP sent me an offensive tweet which, in effect, insinuated that I was indifferent to the plight of women who are raped or sexually assaulted.

Yes even though she has now conceded that in making such an insinuation she may have been confusing me with someone else, Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East & a shadow Treasury Minister, has refused to withdraw the hurtful tweet, let alone apologise.

This is the email I sent her and her response:

Dear Kerry

I am appalled that you have still not withdrawn your offensive tweet which  stated:

“I’d feel happier if u were as interested in sticking up for women who are raped/ sexually assaulted + never see justice done.”

You made this comment, believing that I had “lobbied” you “persistently” on only two issues: anonymity for defendants and Julian Assange.

In the case of Assange, we had a tweet exchange on this for the first and only time yesterday. [ie Sunday 5th December.]

In the case of anonymity for defendants, I don’t recall tweeting at all about this, and you’ve now admitted that you were maybe confusing me with someone else, and have apologised for this mistake.

As I pointed out to you, we have exchanged tweets on a variety of topics over the last year or so.

That rather pulls the rug from under your assumption that I am somehow so obsessed with protecting men from charges of rape and sexual abuse that I must be indifferent to the plight of women.

Yet you still decline to withdraw a slur on my reputation made in a public forum.

I would remind you that this attack on me came in the context of a discussion which, until that point, had been conducted in a civil way.

One of the issues was whether Julian Assange was being charged with ‘rape’ in the way we understand the term.  You objected to a blog on LiberalConspiracy which contended that Assange had not actually raped either woman.

My final tweet to you before your offensive response was : “But if they weren’t alleging rape – or not in the way that we understand it – shouldn’t we be told?

A perfectly reasonably question surely. Maybe you found it difficult to answer my point. Certainly you made no attempt to do so, but simply responded with your unpleasant tweet.

I’m aware that this is the way politicians frequently conduct yourselves – especially in the House of Commons. Someone on the other side makes a good point and, instead of attempting to answer it, you indulge in a personal attack.

But Twitter is not the House of Commons, and I am not a politician, and I object to being treated in such a shabby way.

We hear a lot about the Labour Party having failed to listen to the electorate in recent years. Ed Miliband says there is now a blank sheet of paper, and the Party will be listening to people.   But in my experience you were unable to have a conversation with a member of the public on a matter you feel strongly about without resorting to insults.

This has frankly come as a huge disappointment to me.  Until now I have looked on you favourably as a competent politician who I agree with more often than I disagree. As recently as Saturday we exchanged friendly tweets on a non-political topic.

I’m not a member of the Labour Party – I’m too independent to be a member of any party – but I voted Labour at the last election, and have on most occasions in my life voted Labour at General Elections though in recent years I’ve tended to vote Green at European and local elections.

I have criticisms of Labour in recent years – particularly on civil liberty and defence issues.

I make these points just to make it clear that I’m someone on the liberal left who is hoping for a better and more radical Labour Party. I’m the sort of person whose vote you need if you are to get back into power again.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Tom Scott

Kerry McCarthy’s response: “I think in the circumstances the best solution is for neither of us to converse with each other on Twitter again”.  She then blocked me on Twitter.

What is Truth ?

‘Spin’ – a dangerous weapon in the hands of politicians and others who seek to manipulate our minds. That’s how they seek to convince us of their ‘truth’ which is often in fact a lie.

The camera may not lie, but photographic and video images can be manipulated so that a lie or a partial truth masquerades as reality.

The smoothest talker may well be the biggest liar. And just because someone speaks poor English or is comparatively inarticulate does not mean they are not speaking the truth.

An independent mind is essential to unravel the complexities of the modern world.

Some newspapers and TV ‘news’ channels are just purveyors of the propaganda of the rich, the powerful or the bigoted.

And even the best media outlets all too often focus on what makes the best ‘story’ – and remove their gaze from matters which are far more important but not so easy to illustrate.

Too many people are ripe for manipulation – a captive audience reading or watching not to find out the truth, but simply because they want to have their prejudices confirmed.

As we discuss the issues of the day with our friends and family, are we speaking the truth or just disseminating lies and half-truths ?