Last week a 78-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after a suspected burglar was stabbed to death. The man, Richard Osborn-Brooks, discovered two intruders in his home South-East London in the early hours of the morning. One of the intruders was armed with a screwdriver and forced Mr Osborn Brooks into his kitchen where a struggle ensued and the intruder was stabbed. He was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead several hours later. The police, faced with a dead body and a man admitting to stabbing him, not surprisingly arrested Mr Osborn-Brooks on suspicion of murder.
This provoked a furious backlash in the tabloid press and some sections of the public. The Sun declared Mr Osborn-Brooks to be a hero and a GoFundMe page raising thousands of pounds for his legal defence was set up, one excited supporter on Facebook even declared that Mr Osborn-Brooks “deserves a medal” for his actions.
Within 48 hours, the police investigated the circumstances of the death and released a statement saying that Mr Osborn-Brooks would face no charges. You would think the tabloids would be happy with this turn of events as the police seemingly agreed with them that, given the circumstances of having his home invaded and being physically attacked, Mr Osborn-Brooks response was justified even if that caused the death of the intruder. However the tabloid press fury was undiminished declaring that Mr Osborn-Brooks should never have been arrested in the first place.
This was a tragic event, the elderly man and his wife suffered the trauma of having their home invaded and now he has to live with the guilt of having taken a life. We may not feel much sympathy for a man who sought to terrorise two pensioners but there will be a family mourning him.
The right wing press love to write stories about how the legal system and the courts are bias towards the criminal as part of their endless quest to terrify people, and by dropping the charges in this case the police undermined that narrative.
The legal position in these situations is that you can use reasonable force to protect yourself. As a general rule, the more extreme the circumstances and the fear felt, the more force you can lawfully use in self-defence. You are given greater protection under the law if force is used to protect yourself or others when dealing with a burglar. England’s Crown Prosecution Service says if you act in reasonable self-defence and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully. What is it that the right wing press find objectionable in that position? Do we really want to give free pass to someone who tortures an alleged burglar to death?
A crime was committed, a man lost his life, the police looked into the circumstances and found this elderly man was justified in using deadly force to protect himself. For once the system worked – don’t let the right wing press tell you otherwise.
No place like home – but where is home when you are on wheels?
The shows, the carnival, the fairground integral parts to a gala, the Highland games, a village fete and important part of Scottish communities; essential components to local economies. What are the shows?
The flashing lights and ringing bells, the stall holders calling out to come to their stall. “Hook a duck, every one’s a winner!”, “Can you ring the bell? “Have a go!” The smell of candy floss, toffee apples, donuts. Hotdogs? Hamburgers? You aren’t sure but the smell of fresh fried grub makes your stomach ache even though you already had your dinner.
You wait though because you haven’t been on the big rides or in my case the sticky wall yet. You stand in that circle drum, everybody laughing, knowing what is coming, it starts off so slow. Turning a wee bit, the young boys look determined, ready to perform acrobatics to impress whatever wee lassie they are winching. The speed picks up, the floor suddenly drops away and the boys flip upside down, everybody starts screaming and laughing. The force of the spin has pinned you to the wall, you are trying to look around, someone to your left looks awfy peely wally, are the gonna…? Aw naw!
Wean’s running about with plush toys, their bounty’s won at different attractions. From shooting galleries to hammers; small and large to test your strength. Hook a ducks; a children’s favourite. Can you knock over skittles with a throw of the ball? Can you throw a ring round some whisky?
The annual Glasgow holiday is even called the Glasgow Fair. Where for generations Glaswegians went doon the water to Ayr, Rothesay, Troon, Saltcoats and other seaside towns. And every year there was a carnival in the Glasgow Green. A summer celebration, I don’t think i ever missed as a child.
I even have a jigsaw of me and my niece as wee tots on a big green helicopter, on a roundabout. It was the winter carnival though at the Kelvin Hall. This has now moved to the SECC and is better known as the Irn Bru carnival. Where it is still tradition to go with the family between Christmas and New Year.
With fairgrounds being so popular in Glasgow and the West, it should be no surprise that…
“An estimated 80% of show people are Glaswegians, living in about 50 privately-owned or leased yards in pockets to the east, south and north of the city.”
The community of folk who travel and operate the fairgrounds all over Scotland are facing ever increasing difficulties. Show folk have intrinsic links to their yards, carnival sites and surrounding communities. Although the nature of business for the modern showman has drastically changed from 100yrs ago, many still travel with their wagons to various towns and villages often occupying the same routes at the same times for many years. These businessmen and women operate in all aspects of trade, diversifying and settling in communities, some have coffee shops and catering businesses, some have property portfolios and 9-5 jobs.
But the thing that unites them is their community, their inherent sense of belonging, their language and perceptions of self, they will remember the carnival differently from me. They might remember the smell of diesel and the “put put” of the generator, (lighting set for the well versed). Showfolk will remember the hard work, the long build ups and pull downs, gathering with their friends and attending dances, the weather when they had to get towed by a tractor and moving to the next town or village.
Imagine being able to go to work where you can meet up with all your family, your extended cousins and aunties, kids you used to go to school with. It would be such a privilege to work a wee kids Ferris wheel that your great grandad also operated, imagine having that connection and sense of belonging. It’s so beautiful and should be treasured.
As a punter going to the carnival means different things to me than it would a showman. But I can clearly see the deep and varied traditions, I can appreciate the art of the stalls and could endlessly stare at the vintage graphics on display. But i am surprised to find that this amazing culture has no official status or protection.
Even though a distinct and unique culture, showmen aren’t afforded the same status as Irish travellers or Romany Gypsies. Fairground sites where showmen can also park their wagons alongside their valuable machinery are rapidly disappearing. Static year round yards where showmen can be secure in the knowledge their children have a stable and consistent education are rapidly being eradicated.
Showfolk face discrimination like many minorities, one story I was told that broke my heart was of a young kid going for her first day at a new school, her classmates made her feel welcome so much so that they invited her “to come throw stones at the gypsies”. At her own home, her own people.
The lazy stereotyping of the general population also doesn’t help. An increasing amount of show children are doing well at school, attending university and of those who don’t continue in eduction have a hard working ethos instilled in them from being part of a family business from a young age.
The fairground community is a vibrant, hardworking, complex part of Scottish society. The skills, knowledge and history so connected to Glasgow that in the Museum of Transport there is a whole display dedicated to Showfolk, their vehicles, their homes and the history of the fairground.
What now is seen as a trendy lifestyle choice, living off grid in eco friendly homes, maximising space and storage, the showfolk of Scotland have been doing for centuries, such as conserving water, recycling and up cycling. Although a modern chalet is more akin to a modern semi detached new build than an off grid earthen shed, Amazing Spaces and George Clarke should check out some of the innovative chalet design in various Glasgow yards.
Showfolk take such pride in the appearance of their stalls at a carnival, imagine the pride they have in their homes? Showman’s yards are like many estates within Glasgow, some immaculate, well maintained, tidy properties others not so pristine. Rides, trailers and machinery vital to their livelihood, kept close by for security purposes. They are nice places, where everybody knows your name , would help out in any situation and somewhere I’d want to live. This is a throwback to traditional Scottish Communities where every neighbour knew everyone on the street. Everyone knows everyone. If they don’t know you they ask “Who do you belong to?” and quickly a connection is established.
So imagine living somewhere for 37 years, establishing roots, having a short term lease throughout that tenure precluding you from investing in it, you become more of a maintainer or caretaker than an owner of that place. Moving into it as a dump. A black site, unsuitable for anything else so the council lets you park on it. But you still have to pay rent, council tax and have a licence to occupy. Then out of the blue, just because that place you have lived for all this time, is now trendy, you have to move. What are your options here? Move your kids from School, depart from your friends in the local community? Will your neighbour you have parked next to for 37 years be beside you again? Your next site will not be in The West End, nor will it necessarily be in the South side where you are but most likely the alternative will be in another black site – ghettoised in 2018.
Why write these thoughts you may ask, well this injustice is happening now to people in Glasgow, because when it comes to it they are people, like you and me, being told to move because that bit of land is now worth more to the council with them off it. This has happened in Patrick, Vinegar Hill to name but a few and it is now happening in Govan. The two adjoining yards in Govan, the Stringfellow’s and Johnstone’s are being closed, the council not allowing their lease to be renewed. The papers heralded the new development without initially reporting the impact on the people. The occupants for nearly four decades are being evicted. With limited options of another location. To be geographically displaced is one thing but when you think about what their options are most likely to another black site, not desirable (at that time) and without their ties to the local community and possibly their established businesses in that area, not much of a choice really! Will this be owned or will this be leased? If they do get somewhere else is there really any certainty over the future of showfolk and their established roots in Glasgow…
Not everyone who identifies as showmen travels with the fairground. Elderly folk retire to these yards and continue to be protected and looked after by their community.
This also goes hand in hand with other economic influences affecting showmen such as inconsistent licensing regimes across Scotland, all of which threaten their economic well being and way of life.
Recently the Scotland in Union organisation hit the headlines with a major information leak to independence bloggers such as Wings Scotland and Bellacaledonia and even the unionist These Islands got a little press coverage when a member of its advisory council, Professor Nigel Biggar, got into a row about his defence of the British Empire but More United forms the third leg of the unionist triumvirate and even though it has proved to be the most dangerous so far, not many people know what it did and what it does.
More United is a brainchild of Lord (Paddy) Ashdown. Its stated aim seems laudable enough, it’s there to create a new model of politics, making it less extreme, less tribal and giving the electorate more power to make an impact and although it’s not explicitly unionist a quick glance at its “Team” shows strong unionist make up to its management.
The original More United company was formed by Austin Rathe, Paddy Ashdown, Maurice Biriotti and Elizabeth (Bess) Mayhew on the 18th of June 2016 and the current directors are Austin Rathe, Paddy Ashdown, Maurice Biriotti, Corinne Sawers and Dan Snow.
On the More United website information on the “The Team” page is split into two sections.
The first section is simply called “The Team” and comprises, Bess Mayhew, Austin Rathe, Corinne Sawers, Maurice Biriotti and Paddy Ashdown.
The second section are the “Convenors” (and it has some cross-over with the aforementioned Team).
Anne-Marie Imafidon, Social Tech Entrepreneur
Clare Gerada, Medical Practitioner
Dan Snow, Broadcaster
Gia Milinovich, Writer and Presenter
Janet Smith, Former High Court Judge
Jeremy Bliss, Lawyer and Entrepreneur
Jonathon Porritt, Environmentalist and Green Party Member
Josh Babarinde, Social Entrepreneur and Youth Worker
Luke Pritchard, Entertainer
Maajid Nawaz, Author, Activist and Columnist
Martha Lane Fox, Entrepreneur
Maurice Biriotti, Businessman and Academic
Paddy Ashdown, Politician
Rumi Verjee, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Simon Schama, Writer, Broadcaster and Professor
Sunny Hundal, Columnist and Lecturer
There are some interesting snippets of information about those Team members and Convenors which can be found on the web.
Corinne Sawers’ father Sir Robert John Sawers used to run MI6.
There are three members of the House of Lords in there, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, Lord Verjee and Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho.
There’s a strong Lib-Dem influence. Paddy Ashdown of course, the ex-leader of the Lib-Dems and a Lib-Dem Lord. Bess Mayhew and Austin Rathe are both ex-Lib-Dem staffers, Clare Gerada is a Lib-Dem, Josh Babarinde used to work as a parliamentary assistant for Lib-Dem MP Stephen Lloyd, Maajid Nawaz was the Lib-Dem candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in 2015 and Rumi Verjee is a Lib-Dem Lord.
Team members and convenors who came out against Scottish independence are Clare Gerada, Martha Lane Fox and Jonathon Porritt on twitter, Paddy Ashdown on Question Time, Simon Schama as a signatory to the “Let’s Stay Together” open letter and Sunny Hundal on his blog and of course, last but not least Dan Snow who was heavily involved in the Electoral Commission registered “Let’s stay together” campaign and the Trafalgar Square rally.
If Scotland in Union, These Islands and More United form the three legs of a unionist triumvirate in Scotland then Dan Snow forms the apex of the three which links them all together. He’s an enthusiastic promoter of Scotland in Union, appearing at dinners and doing videos for them, he’s on the Advisory Council for These Islands and he’s a director and convenor of More United.
So what does More United actually do? Very simply, it fundraises and uses the cash to support candidates in a General Election who support its values.
The problem for the SNP, quite apart from the unionist Dan Snow as a director, is that one of More United’s values is:
“Openness: we welcome immigration, but understand it must work for everyone, and believe in bringing down international barriers, not raising them.”,
which makes it very difficult for them to endorse an SNP candidate even if by some odd stroke of fate they wanted to. The unionist make up of the More United team includes Dan Snow, Paddy Ashdown and Simon Schama so it’s probably no accident that “bringing down international barriers, not raising them” was written into their values. Whatever happens in the rest of the UK, in Scotland More United will be a unionist organisation which will always support candidates against the SNP.
The following twitter exchange is instructive:
Replying to @MoreUnitedUK
Why are we attempting to deseat SNP mps?
10:10 PM – 5 May 2017
More United @MoreUnitedUK
Replying to @minkpill
Hey! MU is firmly supportive of maintaining the union of England and Scotland (and the rest of the UK!)
10:59 AM – 8 May 2017
So what did More United do in Scotland in the 2017 General Election? In 2017 More United supported and endorsed six candidates in Scotland of whom the majority were not surprisingly Lib-Dems and where their nearest opponent in each case was an SNP candidate. They were:
Alistair Carmichael (LD) Orkney and Shetland against Miriam Brett (SNP)
Christine Jardine (LD) Edinburgh West against Toni Giugliano (SNP)
Jamie Stone (LD) Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross against Paul Monaghan (SNP)
Ian Murray (Lab) Edinburgh South against Jim Eadie (SNP)
Jo Swinson (LD) East Dunbartonshire against John Nicolson (SNP)
Elizabeth Riches (LD) North East Fife against Stephen Gethins (SNP)
From Electoral Commission data More United donated:
£5,000 to Christine Jardine in Edinburgh West
£3,000 to Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire
£5,000 to Elizabeth Riches in North East and Central Fife
£2,000 to Jamie Stone in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.
Although this last one is an odd one. He received his money a month after the election on 07/07/2017. Every other More United donation was before the poll.
So in Scotland they pumped a direct cash injection of £13,000 into three target Lib-Dem constituency campaigns before the election and £2,000 into a Lib-Dem seat after the election and of the six candidates they supported, five got elected and Elizabeth Riches just got pipped at the post by two votes by the SNP’s Stephen Gethins in North East Fife.
Support was not just limited to cash. Support can include formal endorsement, donations and voluntary support. Each supported constituency had a More United page and the call for support for each candidate on the the last day of the campaign is still up if you Google for it.
From the More United annual report:
“As well as donations, 1000 MU supporters around the UK were mobilised to volunteer around the country. Collectively they gave 3,000 hours over 5 weeks – the equivalent of a year and a half’s full time work.”
Now to be fair to More United they were not the sole donors to these constituencies. From the Electoral Commission data, only six Lib-Dem constituencies got direct donations between the announcement of the General Election on 18th of April 2017 and the poll on the 8th of June 2017 and the total figures are below. (It’s seven if you count Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross who got a donation from More United after the election.)
Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire got £35,000
Christine Jardine in Edinburgh West got £24,000
Elizabeth Riches who tried for North East and Central Fife got £20,000
Alistair Carmichael in Orkney & Shetland got £12,000
John Waddell in Aberdeenshire West got £5,000 (A single donation from Balmoral Comtec Limited based in Aberdeen.)
Martin Veart in Edinburgh North East and Leith got £2,000 (From a North East and Leith Lib-Dem donor)
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) got £2,000 from More United but not until a month after the election.
From the figures it’s easy to see the four target Lib-Dem seats where a lot of money was directed in from the outside to support the campaign. They must have been gutted not to get North East and Central Fife and it’s certainly clear why Jo Swinson had money to burn on undelivered leaflets.
More United were not the only donors or the only reason that the four Lib-Dem MPs and and Ian Murray got into Parliament but they certainly were significant donors of cash and organised help for campaign work in the target constituencies.
Scotland in Union is there to provide funding to the Unionist side in the next referendum, These Islands is there to give a veneer of academic respectability to their arguments and More United is committed to fighting against the SNP in elections.
As a unionist organisation More United is much more dangerous than Scotland in Union in elections because even though Scotland in Union spent £73,818.21 in Scotland in the 2017 General Election they spent it on their own literature and events while More United donated directly to four of their five Lib-Dem candidates and endorsed and organised help for Carmichael and Murray.
More United claim to have raised over £500,000 before the last General Election and from Electoral Commission data they donated £159,800 in the 2017 General Election to various candidates across the UK. Because they spent more than £250,000 their spending figures are not up on the Electoral Commission site yet and when that information goes live it will be interesting to see what they spent their money on and if there’s a way to find out what portion was spent in Scotland.
More United have their sights on Scottish Parliamentary elections,
“As we grow and raise more, we may begin to support candidates in other types of election, such as Scottish and Welsh or mayoral elections. “
And with over 94,000 supporters, including 14,000 paying members they have ambition:
“We aim to make More United the biggest source of people, money and power in British politics. If we do, the extreme forces that have taken over our democracy won’t stand a chance.”
When it comes to elections forget Scotland in Union, the real unionist danger comes from More United.
There were many more casualties resulting from the Twin Tower attacks than the 2,974 people who died in New York that day on 9/11. As well as those poor souls, there have been countless thousands killed in the resulting war on terror carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the fall out still continues, with victims continuing to be created in the wake of the chaos inflicted across the Middle East.
The latest iteration of this appeared in reports which came via CNN, who have recently published an investigation they have been carrying out in Libya following reports about slave auctions. Incredible as this is to believe in 2017, the evidence they have amassed looks pretty convincing. There are still thousands of people trying to reach the Mediterranean who cross Libya’s borders each year. This has contributed to the wave of boats trying to cross the Med, which is of itself a tragic tale of greed, need, prejudice and misery; figures complied on 24/10/17 show that more than 18,800 people had been intercepted so far this year, with over 111,000 successfully reaching Italy, the vast majority of whom travelled from Libya.
However, latterly Libyan coastguards (and militias) have been attempting to address this, and crossings have therefore dropped sharply since the summer. Nonetheless, migrants and refugees still continue to travel to Libya, which has led to a surplus of would-be passengers. People smuggling has become big business in the country, so the people behind it have done what any good capitalist would and diversified. If you believe people smuggling represents a good opportunity to make a profit, why would you baulk at extending this to slavery? What would be the difference to you between herding hundreds of people in a boat and sending them to an uncertain fate, and parading them as goods for sale at an auction?
Although the 1926 Slavery Convention was ratified by Libya in 1957, slave auctions have resurfaced there partially because of the instability caused by the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. He was undoubtedly a brutal dictator, but his overthrow highlighted the dangers of creating a power vacuum, and over half a decade later, Libya is no closer to being stable. Although there were no shortage of Western countries willing to get involved in air strikes under the auspices of NATO in 2011, there doesn’t seem to be a similar impulse to help deal with the fall out. As a result, Libya has effectively two governments operating out of Tobruk and Tripoli, a shattered economy and its own internal refugee problem. Small wonder that there seems to be little resource or will around in the country to deal with slave auctions.
CNN casting an international spotlight on this may bring about change; certainly, several countries seem to have been galvanized into action. One headline reads ‘Burkina Faso recalls ambassador to Libya over ‘slave markets’ report’ while another says ‘France pushes U.N. to impose sanctions over Libya migrant crisis’. However, Donald Trump’s war of words with CNN has proved a gift to the Libyan media; as he had repeatedly denounced the network as peddlers of ‘fake news’, the Libyan broadcaster Libya 218 has used trump’s tweets on the subject to doubt the veracity of the slave auction story, saying;
“Here the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to secure an as yet hidden political objective.”
What a mess. An ill thought out ‘war on terror’ initiated by the US post 9/11 brought, as widely predicted, greater instability to an already frighteningly unstable part of the world. The knock-on effect of this enabled NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war and the instability resulting from that and other nearby conflicts created the conditions for the slave auctions. And now their reporting may well be hobbled by the current US president, who is ignorant of, and entirely careless about, the effect of his words abroad. While he rides up and down in his golden elevator and continues his privileged life by other, more lucrative means, the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free will just have to continue to yearn.
Reading Time: 9 minutesHow Victoria Pearson, a writer in Bedfordshire who works for Scottish Pro-Indy podcast Ungagged, ended up being trolled as a result of being caught in the crossfire of the twitter storm about all male panels.
I often think of twitter as a big noisy pub. Your mates are all in there, but so are loads of people you don’t know. You’ve got really interesting, passionate and important conversations going on in some corners, people snogging in others, people playing music or showing off what they had for tea, arguing over who would win in a fight between The Hulk and Mr Hyde. It’s a big pub, I’ll give you that, and it can be rough at times, despite the champagne guzzlers in the corner, trying to seem “authentic” and down with the crowd, but I’ve always felt very much at home there.
This weekend I learned that, much like in the pub, there are times when a snatch of conversation can be overheard, misinterpreted, and spread through Chinese whispers until it is totally divorced from any of its original meaning. Unlike the pub, where it can all be sorted with some yelling, a bit of shoving, an admission that I love you really and a kebab on the way home, twitter can quickly spill over into real life, and cause real and lasting damage.
By now anyone who is reading this has probably heard about the event in East Kilbride, that had an all male panel. They got a lot of flak for it, perhaps, to be fair, disproportionately so, given they had featured an all female panel not too long before. During the backlash though, the people running the EKsaysYES twitter account, who were running/promoting the event, decided to give a masterclass in how not to respond to critics, becoming increasingly irate and aggressive with women asking why they weren’t represented.
As anyone who runs a business or community group account knows, the best way to deal with any criticism – even if you personally disagree with it – is to thank your complainant for their input, take it on board, and say you’ll do better. It stops things running out of hand. But I digress.
My involvement in the furore was periphery at best, but the blowback was staggering, and is still ongoing. A dear friend, valued colleague and comrade was involved in the conversation, mentioning that she hadn’t seen a call by EK Yes for female speakers – that she was surprised by that since she is in many Indy groups and women’s groups online, as well as a follower of the group itself’s page. She said if she had seen the call, she would have rallied her friends and acquaintances and gotten them some female speakers.
Instead of replying with “Thanks for the offer, we’d love your help for next time” they – rather condescendingly, in my opinion — responded “But what groups or parties would they represent? Remember we are looking for independent media specialists.”
This is where I came in. No knowledge of the background or what’s going on at all, I’m responding purely to that tweet. I ask if they mean to imply there are no female independent media specialists? Because in my experience, they are the creative driving force behind the alt-media industry.
Someone else responded with “And you’d know this by virtue of the fact you’re a woman?” and the EKsaysYES account liked the response, which shocked me. It seemed unnecessarily aggressive, and an odd tweet for a professional to endorse. But I responded that no, my knowledge was based on being a woman in the independent media industry, and being lucky enough to work with hundreds of amazing women as a result. I went off to make a cuppa, thinking my part in it was done.
When I returned to my keyboard 2 minutes later, I had 4 responses from EKsaysYes, each more aggressive in tone than the last, all demanding I go and speak for them in February.
I’m a professional writer, and I was utterly shocked at being approached in such an unprofessional manner. Not only was I being yelled at in a thread with over 15 other people tagged in, the person demanding I speak for them had clearly not even looked at my profile first. You see, I’m English, I live in South East England, I’ve never set foot in Scotland in my life. There were dozens of Scottish women – who have put far more hours into Independence than I have– literally in EK’s mentions saying they’d like to be heard, but instead they chose to demand that I speak, to a Scottish group about Scottish Independence, a round trip of over 600miles away. My professional information is not at all hidden, just googling my name would bring all of this info up instantly. I was staggered.
So I replied in a way that I thought was blatantly obviously sarcasm with “DM me and I’ll send you my fee list.”
From the reaction, you’d think I stripped off naked in the high street and started skinning puppies in the name of Nuggan.
EK responded along the lines that they doubt I even know what I’m talking about (they were asked later, by someone else, if they thought that due to my gender, my nationality, or simply because they didn’t like my attitude, but they declined to respond) and their friend from earlier in the thread started to go through my blog, ridiculing me because I once wrote a single article about menstrual cups as an alternative to tampons and sanitary towels for people who didn’t want to give money to prolife organisations through the tampon tax – all the while demanding to know who I thought I was, and who I worked for.
I told them Google is their friend, because honestly why should I trouble myself to present my credentials to people who can’t be bothered to look me up for themselves? Had they scrolled back through my timeline just a tiny bit, they’d have seen that a few days before I tweeted how much I love working on the Pro-Independence podcast and alt-media org Ungagged, tagging in many of the people who also work there, as well as the Ungagged twitter account itself.
I was laughing at the time, because, had they clicked on the ‘about me’ section on the blog they were trashing, they’d have seen my bio, where I clearly state that I will write, speak, or give social media advice for food and that my rates go up the ruder you are.
The other link on my twitter bio leads to my Amazon page, which states “Victoria Pearson lives behind a keyboard in rural Bedfordshire.” This information is not hard to find, and, as someone who has had to gather speakers for events myself, I think it’s pretty basic to click links in someone’s bio information before inviting them to speak.
The fury unleashed by my very much tongue in cheek comment (believe me, if I charged a pound for every hour I put into Scottish Independence in my role as Web Producer for Ungagged, I wouldn’t be in the bottom 6% of uk earners[listen from 1 hr 7min mark]) has been completely disproportionate, and quite frightening.
Another person in the thread – who had been on the panel – took my words as a personal attack on him (I still don’t understand why, as I wasn’t criticising the panel or event at all) and became infuriated with me – scarily so. He berated me for hours over it, saying that he would never charge to speak for independence, that he had had to give up his time, time with his partner, etc to speak.
I’m guessing he wouldn’t have had to find childcare for 4 children or have his partner lose 2 days wages to travel a 620 mile, 18 hour round trip and spend around £800 to get there and back either, but that really is beside the point.
He eventually accused me of bullying him. Somewhat ironic given he was helping to fan the flames of a witchhunt against me, but I still immediately told him it definitely wasn’t my intention to be unkind, that I had no issue with him and if he could please show me where I had been rude, I’d gladly apologise. He stopped replying, because I hadn’t been rude, unkind, or displayed bullying behaviour once.
I then went to bed early, ready to take my four children out the next day. I assumed my part in this melodrama was done. I came home the next evening , tired but happy from taking my youngest to see Santa for the very first time, to find all hell had broken loose on my timeline in my absence.
EK had deleted tweets, breaking the thread so that casual readers couldn’t see the many tweets I followed my fee tweet up with, clarifying that had I wanted to speak – which I do not- at best I would’ve asked for a sandwich and help crowdfunding my train fare. They then screenshotted what was left, making it seem like they had asked me to speak and I demanded a fee without any other interaction. They were telling people that I had asked to speak and then demanded money.
I want it made crystal clear that I did not and would not ask to speak to a Scottish audience about Independence. I’ve repeatedly said for the last two years that I refuse, point blank, to Britsplain Independence to Scottish people. The very last thing anyone in Scotland needs or wants is yet another English voice telling them what to do. I’ve been a writer for 15 years, and I’ve written about independence once, for Ungagged, entirely from an outsiders point of view. I very much see my role in the fight for Independence as providing a boost and a platform for voices within the movement who don’t usually get a chance to be heard – whether that’s because of class, race, gender, disability or sexuality or any other barrier. I work very hard to do that. I do not speak for people, I pass them the microphone.
What should have been no more than a twitter spat that should have blown over in a day at most had turned into huge accounts sharing that screenshot with demands to find out where I live, and who I work for. Screenshots of my account posted with the caption “A liar.”
The threads spawning from them were vile and filled with paranoid fantasies that would be more at home on conspiracy websites than coming out of the mouths of supposedly serious commentators. I’m mi5, I’m a “media agent from the BBC”, a Russian bot, a Unionist, Momentum, RISE. I’m deliberately harming the Independence movement. I should’ve been grateful to be asked. I should pay them for the privilege of speaking. I’m a liar. I’m trying to build a cosy career for myself off the back of Independence.
An actual article appeared in The Herald, conflating several points and muddying the waters still further, underlining the idea that I’m profiteering even more. The hornets nest, just starting to calm, was kicked again, starting the cycle afresh, leading a certain writer with a twitter following of over 12 thousand people to spend an entire day making snide comments about me without using my name, and retweeting nasty comments about my supposed motivations.
This has led me to feeling very unsafe. My twitter account is public, my profile picture is my face, my handle my full name. My full name appears several times in my cover photo. The fact I have 4 children is in my bio.
Being so open on twitter is a doubled edged sword. On the one hand, it has made the veiled threats of doxing and the threat that implies very frightening, not just from a perspective of my own personal safety, but that of my husband and children, and my other relatives and friends who may be caught up in crossfire by association. After all, the people attacking me clearly don’t value getting all of the facts before jumping in feet first.
On the other hand, the best of the Indy movement, who know me well online, have come out in my defence, knowing as they do that the picture painted of me is inaccurate, unfair and damaging. The Yes movement I know – the inclusive, outward looking, socially aware movement that wants an independent country in order to make it better for everyone – have been amazing, setting the record straight where they can and urging others to do their research. Unfortunately this has led to blowback for a lot of them and for that I’m truly sorry. Their solidarity should not cost them in that way.
So what can we learn from this? I’m not sure. I am certain this behaviour is not representative of the East Kilbride Yes community group. I refuse to believe people working so hard for the good of others would condone the harassment, abuse and stalking behaviour incited by the person behind their twitter account. This kind of bullying is not only bad for their group, but the movement as a whole. If they’d like to apologise, delete their defamatory tweets and ask their followers to stop attacking me, I’ll gladly accept and move forward for the sake of the movement I believe strongly in.
I know the people calling for my blood are not representative of this wonderful movement in any way. But something does have to be done about the toxicity of the narrative here. This kind of behaviour is not ok. And for the very first time in my 8 years on twitter, I’m considering taking legal action.
This report contains images some readers may find distressing.
The police watchdog, IPCC, is investigating after a 15 year old child was severely injured during an attempted arrest in South London on Tuesday night, needing hospital treatment.
The boy, Terrell Decosta Jones-Burton, was treated in a critical care unit in a south London hospital for a split lip, lost teeth, broken jawbone, bruising on the brain and abdominal pain. His condition is currently described as “stable”.
Police say they were contacted by a woman at around 9pm who reported that her phone had been stolen by a male Youth who had then fled on a bicycle. A short while later police attempted to detain Terrell. According to their statement;
“While being detained, [Terrell] came off his bicycle and was taken by the London Ambulance Service to a south London hospital where he remains in a stable condition with facial injuries.”
It’s not clear from the police’s statement exactly how he “came off his bicycle”, and they have not elaborated further at this point. His injuries – which potentially include internal bleeding – would appear to be extremely severe and extensive if they are the result of a simple fall.
Terrell’s mother Shereen Jones, who posted pictures of her son’s injuries to the hashtag #JusticeForTerrell, says that he was heading home from the shops when he was attacked by police.
‘He has no criminal record and no involvement with the police.’
Speaking on her facebook page, Terrell’s mother Shereen said:
“Was all of this necessary over a phone? Police brutality on young black boys has to stop.”
Statistics confirm her accusation of brutality, showing the UK’s largest police force do use force disproportionately against black suspects.
Rotherhithe, where Tuesday’s incident took place, has seen a recent spike in robberies of mobile phones snatched from pedestrians by muggers on mopeds, bicycles or on foot, and police are struggling to deal with a 13% rise in crime amid their budgets being squeezed, but nothing excuses this level of force used on anyone, much less a minor. Children deserve to feel safe on our streets, and they deserve to feel protected, not afraid, of police while going about their daily lives.
We will bring you more information as the story develops.
Anyone who may have witnessed the police interaction with Terrell Decosta Jones-Burton is asked to contact IPCC investigators on 0800 029 4687 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 30 year old Scottish man, Jagtar Singh Johan from West Dunbartonshire, has been arrested and denied legal representation while holidaying in Jalandha, Punjab, India.
Jagtar- Jaggi to his friends – was in the area for his wedding, and was shopping with his new wife when he had a sack thrown over his head and was bundled into a van by men in plain clothes, who the family found out later were policemen.
The Indian authorities have so far refused to give any information regarding Jagtar’s welfare or whereabouts to any UK MPs, or the British High Commission, although police have suggested in Indian media reports that his crime is that he had been “running a magazine” in the UK that outlines the atrocities of the 1984 Sikh genocide, and “influencing the youth through social media.”
As far as we are aware, running a magazine is not a crime in the UK, and it’s hard to see how India has jurisdiction to arrest a UK citizen for activity carried out in the UK even if it were. But since Jagtar has had no legal representation, is being held without charge, and has had no trial, he can’t even make his case.
His family has been in touch with several UK MPS, including his local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes, who has expressed concern for his constituent and offered full support to his family during this distressing time. He has also contacted The High Commission of India in London and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on their behalf. The UK foreign office is yet to comment.
Fears are growing that Jagtar is being mistreated. Bhai Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:
“We are deeply concerned for the mental and physical wellbeing of this young man who got married on 18th October and was spending time with his wife before returning to the UK.”
He went on to add that he was;
“disturbed by the lack of urgency and action taken by the British High Commission in both Delhi, the mission in Chandigarh, and the Foreign office in London. They have failed to make contact with senior police officers to ensure the safety and wellbeing of this young British man.”
This should be the happiest time of newly wed Jagtar “Jaggi” Singh Johan’s life. Instead, it has turned into a nightmare.
How to help
You can follow the story and help raise awareness by using the hashtag #FreeJaggiNow and copying in the UK Foreign Office, @foreignoffice.
Contact your MP or MSP (find them here) and put pressure on them to bring this Scottish man home. If you need it, the Sikh Federation (UK) has a template letter you can adapt.
But despite food bank usage soaring in areas where universal credit has been rolled out , the government have doggedly stuck to their disastrous policy.
The DWP has published new figures for the proportion of Universal Credit and ESA claimants who were under sanction at a point in time. For Universal Credit this proportion is stated to have varied between 3.0% and 5.4%. However the Benefit Sanctions Statistics Government Briefing states that the correct figures are approximately 6.7% to 12.0%.
New figures are also published for the duration of Universal Credit and ESA sanctions. The median Universal Credit sanction length is shown as 31 days, but, according to the briefing, after allowing for repayments of hardship payments, the true median would be about 52 days, or over 7 weeks.
Given that the group most likely to be sanctioned are those with mental health problems, and pregnant women, we are faced with the stomach churning reality of our most vulnerable members of society being left with no money, mounting rent and council tax arrears for weeks on end, with little to no support. It’s no wonder that benefit claimants feeling suicidal is so common that Iain Duncan Smith was forced to release training guidance to DWP staff on how to allow rejected claimants for Universal Credit to talk about their intention to kill themselves.
The Universal Credit regime has similar lengths of sanction to those of Job Seeker’s Allowance for the various ‘failures’, – 310,000 of which have proved to be baseless since may 2010 – but there are some critical differences.
Sanctions are lengthened by being made consecutive, not concurrent, pushing people deeper and deeper into debt. Hardship payments under Universal Credit are repayable, making people scared to take them up in case they can’t repay them, and pushing them further into debt if they do. We know that stress can be extremely damaging to pregnant women and their unborn child, so we have to ask; who exactly does this benefit? What social and economic benefit does endangering pregnant women give us, exactly?
Given that repayments are made at the rate of 40% of benefit – the same as the amount by which a hardship payment is lower than the benefit – this means that for claimants receiving hardship payments, Universal Credit sanctions are in effect 2½ times as long as their nominal length.
All sanctioned Universal Credit claimants must also demonstrate ‘compliance’ for 7 days before applying for hardship payments, and must reapply for each 4-week period. The 80% hardship rate for ‘vulnerable’ claimants is abolished. For a pregnant woman these conditions will mean skipping meals, being unable to travel to essential antenatal appointments, and being at higher risk of dangerous health conditions such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure leading to pre-eclampsia, low birth weight and even miscarriage.
Official statistics – which have been described by the Benefits Sanctions Statistics Briefing as “far short of compliance with the requirements of the UKSA” – released on 14 September show that the take-up of income-based JSA has fallen from 69% in 2009/10 to 56% in 2015/16; the sanctions policy has been successful in driving people off benefit, and also out of the reach of government programs designed to help them, such as training and education schemes.
Perhaps the Tories feel proud of that. But when the crushing weight of evidence has, for years now, proven that the Universal Credit system is unjust, dangerous and not fit for purpose, that it punishes the vulnerable with no net benefit whatsoever, you have to wonder what is stopping Theresa May from performing one of her famous u-turns. One can only conclude that punishing the most vulnerable is the aim.
You can read the full text of the briefing here (reproduced with kind permission from the author)