A Divisive Issue for the Freedom Movement

I don’t choose to write about this issue on Halloween from any lack of concern about its seriousness, but the very different views on this traditional celebration are a good place to start. My hope is that, by observing this difference about one topic that’s not very emotive, we might be able to do the same about another that in my experience can sunder fast friends and close allies like no other.

While Neo-Pagans celebrate the old Celtic Quarter Feast of Samhain this evening, tracing a line of continuity with the customs and beliefs of an ancient community that—like all religious claims based on historical fact—is contentious, to most families in the UK, Halloween is a bit of fun for the kids, a bit of careful safeguarding for the adults and no more religious than St Valentine’s Day.

The reaction of the western liberal and even fairly traditional Church includes a similar sense of indulgence, while stressing the significance of the images of ghosts and goblins—similar to that of the gargoyles on the Cathedral of Notre Dame—and that of the name: the Eve of All Hallows, the evening before All Saints Day. More Evangelical/ Pentecostal communities, especially those whose members originate from Africa, take the light-hearted devilry of the day extremely seriously, as evidence of Satanism. What the congregants of the latter religion feel about folk dressing up as demons I have no idea. Finally, commercial interests clearly see it as yet another way to make money selling unhealthy snacks and non-biodegradable single-use tat.

So that’s Halloween; what about abortion?

Stop for a moment and observe your immediate reaction: anger? sadness? dismay and disbelief? dispassion? Only you know why you feel about this issue as you do, and only you know the reason for the strength of that feeling.

A thought experiment—what would what is sometimes described as “the Freedom Movement” be like if everyone felt the same way as you do about this most divisive issue? What if everyone felt the opposite?

Breathe. Is it vitally important to you that we all are unanimous in support of your opinion on this topic? Can you allow for freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression?

Would it be possible for you to work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who differs slightly, or even distinctly, from your stance? Could you accept their freedom to choose their own political path, even while utterly disagreeing with their ethical judgement?

Let’s break it down, because abortion means many things to many people but in terms of ethics the components are fairly clear: termination of a pregnancy (viable or not) by the action of an agent (self or other) with the intent to end the life in the womb (or at least begin that process inside and end it outside).

Ethics can seem like a cold calculation. It analyses according to categories, attempting to cut up the complexity of human experience to fit it into little conceptual boxes—but as the wonderful Professor Martha Nussbaum says,

…this is not how it feels to be in that situation. It does not feel like solving a puzzle

(The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Cambridge: University Press, 2001, p.32)

Before we continue let’s address a common reaction to any man venturing an opinion on this most female issue. Standpoint epistemology is a fancy name for “I know cos I am one/ cos I’ve done this/ cos I was there”. It’s a seductive stance and very popular these days, especially on social media but, if taken to its logical conclusion, it means accepting absurdities like “only cows have a say in their welfare”, “only astronauts can argue about footage of the moon landings” and “only the dead have a stake in their funeral arrangements”.

That said, anyone who could not possibly be faced with the choice of whether to continue with or terminate a pregnancy must at least acknowledge the moral gravity of the issue—as well as the deeply personal and emotional nature of that decision. So a basic respect for women in general and pregnant women (whatever the outcome) in particular would be a good start.

Abortion is ethically complex because pregnancy is ethically complex: one body inside another and utterly dependent; one mature and (otherwise) autonomous adult human being with a socially stable status, one developing human being whose status may change from one day to the next—from blastula to zygote to foetus to baby—or from one moment to the next—from wanted to unwanted, or vice-versa.

Immediately the reduction of complexity can be seen on both sides: pro-life attention to the baby, as if he or she is an astronaut in a space capsule instead of intimately involved in a particular woman’s body; pro-choice attention to “my body, myself”, ignoring the existence of another self, like and unlike, not-quite-identical.

At this point it has to be said that the “half my DNA” argument from the father, while factual, is overstated. Nature and nurture intertwine in gene expression so it’s very clear that the mother is not doing only half of the labour of pregnancy.

With all this in mind, the agency involved in abortion is similarly complex. Here are very different ethical categories:

  • I act, affecting my body
  • I act, affecting my body and another
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependent other
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependant other inside my body
  • I act to ask another to act…
  • I act to require another to act…
  • I act to coerce another to act…

This brings us to issues of rights and duties, and the ethical basis of both. “It’s gonna be my way cos I’m powerful enough to force you to comply” is not an ethical argument that commands widespread approval, yet both sides employ it and present it as such. “I know you don’t agree but if you’re a good person you’ll change your mind” is similarly manipulative and “this is too important for you to disagree with me” is also, at least, undemocratic.

I’m writing about abortion on Halloween because if the Freedom Movement is manipulated into in-fighting it will be over this issue. Just now, because we’re so powerless (no, Donald Trump is not and never was fighting for freedom and neither BTW is Vladimir Putin or Volodymyr Zelensky) this clear division isn’t being highlighted. When we, hopefully, start getting elected, will it be the hairline crack that the clever masons of the new world order chisel apart?

I suggest a pragmatic, principled truce. Call it the All Hallows Eve Agreement if you will:

  1. We respect each other’s right to disagree and to campaign to maintain or change the law.
  2. We acknowledge the coherence of our opponents’ stance on abortion with their view of pregnancy.
  3. We commit to work together to improve the socio-economic status of vulnerable women so that they may have better choices.
Crow standing on skull silhouetted by full moon in graveyard.

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Halloween Background Poster Invite into the Public Domain.

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5 Parties Standing Up for Scottish Women

As my contract was illegally terminated by a Russell Group university recently, following over 2 years of victimisation for blowing the whistle on violation of disabled rights, I have even more respect for anyone willing to stand up for what’s right, no matter the consequences.

Although there are individuals in other parties, and some opposition to self-ID without clear commitment to female safe space (yes, Scots Libertarians I’m looking at you) there are only 5 parties that I know are unequivocally standing up for Scottish women. I want to provide a link to their policies so that voters can make an informed—and perhaps strategic—choice.

In alphabetical order:

AlbaManifesto—“Standing up for women and girls” starts at p.10. Unique relevant points are that the Scottish Government should pause GRA reform until views of women’s groups, the EHRC and the Court of Session ruling on sex and gender are all taken into consideration—and calls for a citizens assembly to consult over any future reforms. These points are reinforced in the Scotland’s Many People section under Women’s Rights.

With the very greatest respect for the elder statesman at the head of Alba, I’d love to read his political (not personal) memoirs and I think it’s time he retired, let Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh take over and so remove the block to victory that is the lingering taint of the court case that means many women won’t vote for the party—despite the not guilty/ not proven verdicts.

Freedom AllianceManifesto—(This is my party but I’ll try to be fair to all.) Under “Personal Freedom”, unique relevant points are: “Freedom Alliance will: Legislate specifically to protect individual’s right to body autonomy and to prevent the state from mandating any medical procedures.” and “Always oppose any form of discrimination based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race, nationality, disability, health or medical choices.” So, to be honest, the clear commitment isn’t here—however it is in the section in Latest News named YOUR SEX IS A FACT : YOUR GENDER IS A FEELING which states clearly:

“We will protect sex-based rights and single-sex spaces. We oppose the Scottish Government’s reforms to the Gender Recognition Act”

I feel the phrase “bodily autonomy” is unhelpfully unspecific as may confuse positive rights (entitlements) and negative rights (protections). I suspect it’s being used a bit vaguely to cover the fact that the party supports politicians who agree on other party policies but have opposing views on abortion. Unlike the SNP, Freedom Alliance does not agree with a party whip, especially on matters on conscience.

Independence for Scotland PartyManifesto—the only mentions here are: “ISP supports the Equality Act (2010) and the Gender Recognition Act (2004).” However there is explicit endorsement of Women Speak Scotland’s Manifesto for Women’s Rights in Scotland. I can’t find that exactly (however that website is amazing for gender-critical resources) but I’m guessing it refers to the Joint Statement by Scottish Woman’s Organisations which contains this:

The Scottish Government must therefore:

  • ensure single-sex spaces, facilities and other provisions are fully protected;
  • strengthen the rights of women to create and access them through clear guidance;
  • ensure in-depth and thorough Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments are carried out, especially in sectors and services where sex self-ID has been introduced by stealth ahead of legislation, so that public bodies in Scotland are not potentially in breach of their Public Sector Equality Duty.

Again I really respect the ISP, especially as they were so gracious in regard to not stepping on Alba’s toes, and my only personal concern is over their massive support for vaccines. I’m also not sure what differentiates them from Alba and I wonder (as my own party is exploring with ADF) whether a merger would be mutually beneficial.

Scottish Family PartyManifesto—basically they say everything about supporting women and children that everyone else says (at length but there’s a helpful electronic ToCs) with the difference that, although they explicitly condemn bullying of LGBT people, they are very clear that the heterosexual family is the basis of morality and stability in society, and that undermining it leads to a multitude of ills. Under “Supporting families”:

As well as being a great source of joy, family life underpins our society. In the family, care and love are embodied, and resources are shared freely. The state should not seek to supplant the fundamental role of the family in bringing up children and should refrain from interfering in family life. Instead, the state should be supporting families to enable them to provide for themselves, structure their family life according to their priorities, and bring up their children according to their values.

While I respect the honesty of the Scottish Family Party, I do feel that the tone and content of some of its messaging, especially on video clips, lacks the urbane respect for diversity that people in the 21st century expect from politicians. That said, there is absolutely no doubt that they oppose gender theory. Under “Values education”:

The philosophy of gender fluidity is dangerous to young people, leading to confusion and unhelpful experimentation.

Under “Policies”:

Currently children and young people are being harmed by the message that choosing a new gender identity is normal, natural and healthy. While we sympathise with those experiencing gender confusion, we do not believe that legal gender change should be possible.

Sovereignty (formerly Restore Scotland)—Manifesto—under “A Free Scotland”, unique relevant points are:

We oppose the SNP’s illiberal family policies. We believe in family autonomy and we will fight for parental rights, and the right of children to be raised in line with their parents’ beliefs.

We pledge to:
• Repeal the Hate Crime and Public Order Act.
• Ensure parents are not criminalised for using mild physical discipline.
• Outlaw Self ID as inimical to women and children’s rights and safety.
• Criminalise the purchase of sexual services and strengthen anti-voyeurism legislation.
• Mandate age verification on websites offering adult content.

Under “Investing in Education”:

  • Replace Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood education with politically neutral teaching.

Another party I deeply respect and my only concern is that the respect Sovereignty have (which I can testify to personally) for all persons covered by the Equality Act 2010 could be more explicit in their manifesto.

Other defining (for some) policy points are here:

Abortion—the SFP and Sovereignty are explicitly pro-life, the former (although pragmatic about an incremental legal reduction in time limits) quite militantly. None of the others mention this topic, clearly, in their manifestos.

Europe—whereas Sovereignty explicitly opposes rejoining the EU, Freedom Alliance doesn’t oppose the concept of free trade in Europe but supports decentralisation and opposes the technocratic bent of the EU; the SFP is neutral but respects the referendum result; both Alba and the ISP promote joining EFTA as a means, with the will of the people, to rejoin the EU.

LGBT—apart from the anti-bullying stance, the SFP is clearly against same sex relationships and trans identity. Sovereignty recognises gender dysphoria and the need for treatment but seems silent on LGB issues. Alba, the ISP and FA all are clearly supportive of same sex relationships and all seek to balance the rights of trans people with those of women—although this balanced respect is not always reflected in all the media content put out by all their members.

Scottish Independence—Alba, the ISP and Sovereignty are manifestly for independence; FA & the SFA are neutral, the latter explicitly so and for the former you’ll just have to take my word for it, however FA is explicitly for decentralisation of power, UK-wide, and both encourage more local engagement with political activity and decision-making.

This post is inadequate to convey the complexity and professionalism of the political stances of these 5 parties. If I have misrepresented a party, I apologise and please let me know on Twitter by post or DM. Please take the time to read all of their manifestos because there is much that is admirable in each of them.

Whoever you vote for, please make sure they will stand up for the beleaguered women of Scotland!

Vintage scrap of thoughtful young White woman with blue eyes and light-brown hair with a black butterfly clip wearing red tasseled jacket, colourful scarf and tartan-trimmed highland bonnet with 3 ptarmigan feathers.

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Woman Beautiful Art Portrait into the Public Domain.

A Season in Hell

I don’t blame you for booing and applauding the various actors in the Parliamentary panto currently being staged in the UK. I’ve blogged about the deadly consequences of distraction and missing the point already, and the leader of the Freedom Alliance party has reiterated that point: which particular World Economic Forum puppet is in power doesn’t matter—it’s the same hands pulling the strings.

In that Freedom Alliance video, Jonathan Tilt speaks out against the criminal WEF agenda of digital slavery and for the FA manifesto of peace, freedom and the rule of law. The vision he shares is one of small, decentralised, government with minimal interference in the lives of individuals and the democratic decisions of local communities. He also strongly upholds equality and inclusion—well aware that these buzzwords have been misused.

Pantomimes follow a script and, although some ad-libs are expected, they’re very formulaic. There’s the man playing the Dame, the couple of clowns playing the Dafties, the young woman playing the Principle Boy singing duets with the young woman playing the Principle Girl, the older man as the Villain, and of course there’s everybody else playing the Villagers.

The scenes are also generic. Most pantos include some version of the following: Happy Village Life; Mysterious Stranger with an Offer; Kidnapped; Finding Courage; Journey to the Villain’s Lair; Slapstick…and right before the Finale there’s Community Singing.

This scene is usually performed in front of the closed curtains to give the stage crew time to set the stage for the Finale and for some principles to change costume. It involves the actors splitting themselves and the audience into two factions for a sing-off. In any good panto, the actors will start singing merrily, then halt, then complain to the audience that they’re not joining in. This unfair complaint will hopefully prompt some child to shout back that they don’t know the words. (If this doesn’t happen the adults, in the know after years of panto-going, will do this and if the audience is too posh to shout things out then the Prompt will.) At this point, the actors will stand amazed at this lack of provision by the theatre company (that they’re part of) and start to stir up the audience by getting them to repeatedly shout BRING OUT THE WORDS!!!

To the children in the audience, this seems like the pantomime characters solving a problem—especially as the words are then trundled out or lowered onstage. However all this is part of the cheerful fakery of the performance. In pantomime that’s fine. It’s all good fun and nobody gets hurt. If you know what’s going on, you pretend you don’t. The kids love it, and so do the adults. I go every year, whether I’m onstage or not.

Political pantomime has all of these characteristics: it’s distracting, it’s entertaining and it’s fake. However it’s not played out in a theatre. When it’s performed in Parliament or on TV it’s bad enough but the real danger is when it takes the form of promenade theatre—in other words it hits the streets. With massive audience participation.

Stop and think: did the doors open political pantomime of the invasion of the Capitol building in Washington DC on 6th January last year further in any way the aims of the protestors? The media may have focussed on the magnificent manly torso and horned helmet of one of the participants but people died in that incident and the outcome was to discredit the protest—despite the clear evidence that it was a set up.

Now in the UK, a Twitter account only set up in January 2022 named @PoIitics4You is demanding a mass protest in front of Parliament on 5th November:

Poster: Remember the 5th of November. Demand a General Election Now, etc.

At the bottom of the poster are these words:

Vote and be heard – MET Police are notified

So an anonymous citizen sets up an account in January of this year, and waits till July to start expressing opinions (before that it’s only public information and retweets of news stories) which are pro-Covid narrative, anti-Brexit, anti-Tory, pro-Monarchy and, from September, calling for a General Election. In October the account starts tagging the Met Police. At the moment the account has 5K followers.

Here’s my question: why does an account apparently set up by a rather obsessive and opinionated individual wait 6 months before expressing those opinions then, having claimed a vaguely crowd-pleasing identity, wait a further 3 months to call for a mass protest—encouraging others to keep notifying the police?

The 6th January protest at the US Capitol was clearly staged and was subsequently used to justify repression of anti-lockdown protest and social media dissent. This proposed protest is attempting to exploit the sympathy in the freedom movement for the repressed citizens portrayed in the film V for Vendetta yet the organiser is unknown, the pattern of posting odd and the immediate involvement of the police suspect.

For all the reasons that Jonathan Tilt has explained, in consideration of the repression after the protest at the Capitol and of the general Problem-Reaction-Solution dynamic that Spiro Skouras often warns us of, I advise anyone truly committed to freedom to stay indoors on Guy Fawkes’ Night and soothe their pets—there are already too many firecrackers going off on the 5th November—otherwise this political theatre vendetta will only result in a season in Hell.

“V for Vendetta” Guy Fawkes mask in monochrome on black background

Thanks to Piotr Siedlecki for releasing his image Guy Fawkes mask into the Public Domain.

Blue Murder

There’s a word used in Brazil to describe the convenient chaos that thieves and muggers create to distract their victims: confusão. Right now in the UK—distracted by the scuffles, reshuffles and broadcast outrage emanating from the ‘mother of Parliaments’ (a phrase only lacking in colonial hubris in the American street sense)—who is paying attention to the blue NHS envelopes sliding through letterboxes in households where every adult is glued to their phone, computer or TV?

Are you?

Inside, the anonymous and impersonal sender invites the unsuspecting citizen to receive “a winter flu and Covid vaccination”—in full knowledge that Pfizer have recently (at last) acknowledged that there is no evidence supporting the claim that their particular pharmaceutical venom reduces transmission.

Readers of this blog may know that I started questioning the official Covid narrative back in March 2020, based on the investigations of the late and dearly missed David Crowe. Since then, we’ve had all the evils of disaster capitalism: the crony contracts, the suppression of civil liberties, the sabotage of small and medium businesses, the planned demolition of the economy. And we’ve had the deaths.

I won’t keep you long from the updates. Everyone wants to know which new World Economic Forum agent will be in 10 Downing Street next week. Even though it will make no difference.

Meanwhile, if you are able, gently but firmly share your knowledge of the widespread harms occasioned by those foolish enough to trust in the professional responsibility of an industry dedicated only to profit, not people.

I won’t tell you to stop watching the Parliamentary pantomime. I will ask you to stop the blue murder.

Blue NHS envelope

I Love the Law!

Silhouette of woman brandishing sword and holding scales

The phrase is from Psalm 119–and it’s not one I ever thought I’d agree with. Decades ago I volunteered at a youth centre and we used to play The Raft Game. Not the popular video game but the pragmatic, utilitarian thought experiment that’s the ethical equivalent of Musical Chairs – with no music and a succession of democratically agreed murders. Week in, week out, as supplies dwindled among the shipwrecked survivors crowded onto a rope-tied bundle of balsa wood, first in the water was the lawyer.

Why? Because we all agreed that they were useless parasites whose only purpose was to trick you. I’m not saying that some of them are not. (That’s the double negative version of some of them may well be.) I just understand now that trickiness is not really what the law is for.

Recent events, among them joining and standing for election on behalf of a political party, have changed my perspective. During Lockdown—most of which was illegal, and the rest just downright dangerous—the law was our best friend and, surprisingly, it still is.

Wielding my rights as a citizen, I empowered people to shop and study unmasked, accessing goods and services without let or hindrance. I got a Russell Group university to update its door policy, forced a (former?) spy to stop using her public platform to doxx me, saved the professional career of a promising young artist—who’d been banned even from his degree course Zoom classes for not wearing a mask – and generally got abusers to back off, [£√©≤] off, and get back in their box because I could prove they were breaking the law.

In this endeavour, I’ve been greatly helped in various ways. Firstly by paying attention to those compulsory HR courses that most professionals have to do these days when employed by any kind of company. Phrases like “anticipatory duty” may sound tedious but try flinging it in some lanky teen’s face next time they try to ask why you’re not wearing wear a mask at the door of a hardware store or a polling station, along with “you’re breaking 3 Acts of Parliament, 3!”, without breaking stride. It works like magic. Cos Pimpled Pete doesn’t know the law, and you do.

Secondly, by listening to friends. So many ordinary people have legal know-how. Tune in! Yes, I advise you to check what they tell you but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about the law it’s that it belongs to us. All of us. Not just the legal professionals.

Thirdly, by studying it at university. Don’t panic, you don’t need to do the LLB course, there are free online courses too, from the Open University. At the moment, I’m working my way through the OU course 12 Introductory Steps to Law and I produced the PDF below as a mnemonic (memory aid). It’s English law, and I have some questions about these categories of Public/ Private; Civil/ Criminal Law:

  1. Where does Equity fit into this scheme?
  2. What’s the relationship with Customary and Tribal Law? (I’m thinking of the Nollywood legal drama Castle & Castle, the Plaints of Welsh Law familiar to the readers of the mediaeval monk detective Cadfael, and also of Irish Brehon Law)
  3. I often read, elsewhere, that the English system is based on Common Law whereas the Scots is Civil. The OU courses specify that in Scotland we in fact have a mixed system, and that there is some fruitful cross-fertilisation both sides the Tweed. I don’t think that use of the term civil is the same as this one. Here I think it refers to law that isn’t about criminal matters but there I think it described a system of law.
  4. My intuition, and it’s only that, is that the difference between Scots and English law is that the former tends to be deductive whereas the latter tends to be inductive. In other words (despite Arthur Conan Doyle using the term to mean the opposite) the English system is all about evidence and working back from there towards theoretical positions whereas the Scots system starts with legal theory and attempts to apply that to particular cases. I could be quite wrong. What do you think?

I think I’ve got more studying to do and I intend to blog about my legal studies journey. (If that doesn’t diminish my followers nothing will!) I’ll open the comments on this post—I don’t usually do that as I have enough to answer on social media but I’m taking a break to get some writing done. So if you have answers to my questions please comment.

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Lady Justice Silhouette into the Public Domain.

The Spy Who Doxxed Me

Crack open a beer and start popping the corn. This is a saga.

In December 2019, I sent an email to a woman I shall call M who in the tedious and inexact language of modern bureaucracy (language from the factory floor inapplicable to education) is the line manager of my line managers. It contained four bullet points:

Following the lack of success in gaining an interview (for the position of Lecturer in […]) I’m concerned about the possibility of bias in HR recruitment for the following reasons:

  • I fulfil all essential and desirable criteria and exceed some (e.g. a doctorate is not essential)
  • I am disabled which, given the above, should grant me an interview
  • Gender equity can be a factor as that would work in my favour not against me—as I am a man and about 70/115 of School of […] Research & Teaching staff are women
  • On my Twitter account (personal but my posts are public and I use my full name) I am vocal about the legal rights of free association, freedom of expression and the need for EIAs. In universities across the UK those rights have been challenged and staff being sacked for proclaiming them

In this instance, I would be glad to know that there are simply a large number of highly qualified and experienced candidates and that I just didn’t make the shortlist. What concerns me is that HR staff may be filtering candidates in regard to an ideology (which we have discussed) which has not been officially adopted by the University executive or academic community.

([…] ellipsis mine)

Of course I was reassured that it was nothing of the sort. Nothing else happened in connection with this, till the next year. But that year was 2020. When the world went mad. In September 2020, I had occasion to complain to 3 sectors of the University where I worked that their recently-published disabled access policy was incompatible with that in the HR modules which all staff had to do every year or so (based on the Equality Act 2010 and Data Protection Act 2018). Their policy was also incompatible with the Coronavirus Act 2020. I’ve explained why this is so in a previous post about shopping in Scotland but it’s applicable to disabled access across the whole of the UK.

I won’t quote all the email ping-pong but 2 of the 3 sectors accepted what I said, changed their policy, thanked me—and one apologised and reassured me explicitly that anyone who entered campus without a mask would be assumed to be exempt and would not be interrogated but allowed to access the goods and services of the University without let or hindrance. (I paraphrase.)

The exception was M. Her reaction contained none of the above and instead berated me for causing distress to colleagues and attempted to carpet me. I resisted and persisted. Thus began a campaign of victimisation that has lasted over two years. Note that by this protected disclosure (unrecognised as such by HR) I was not only acting in the public interest, which is the definition of whistleblowing, but I was also warning my colleagues of their possible liability for legal action should they do any of the things recommended by senior management which included emotional blackmail of unmasked students, including many young international students; coercion of students to do the job of cleaners, unpaid and uninsured; and reporting anyone who complained to an anti-terrorist organisation. (I’m not making this up, you know.)

But that’s not the story. That’s just 2020. You know. You remember.

In April of that year, I had emailed M again and my two doctoral supervisors, both professors of the University. At this point I still had confidence in M. I certainly had confidence in them and I still do, they were quite simply a delight to work with—a combination of erudition, charm and the very rare ability to ask the right questions. That email was simply giving them a friendly heads up because I had responded to a university consultation on the pandemic response. Unsurprisingly, my questions were never put to the panel. But I was contacting them in case they were, and someone contacted them, asking about me. I explained that I’d been writing about the incoherence of the pandemic narrative and give them the link to my blog.

That’s not the story either.

In August of 2021, a tedious correspondence started after I was invited to speak that June at the Holyrood Faith Debates as part of a panel of RE teachers discussing LGBT issues – during which I mentioned the Maya Forstater judgment. Apparently I wasn’t PC enough for one of the participants because they tried to doxx me. The colleague who emailed me about this, whom I’ve known for decades, was wise enough to desist when I pointed out that intrusive surveillance of my social media posts by my employer was not provided for in law.

There followed more tedious correspondence about the honorarium (which I still don’t know if they’ve paid me) which M inserted herself into, in order to accuse me of bullying the person holding the purse strings (PS?) because I’d advised her not to write emails as if from the DVLA (underlined and bold) and not to violate the provisions of GDPR by attempting to coerce staff into providing necessary personal information. She (PS) apologised and I thanked her and explained that I was under great stress. Admittedly I didn’t apologise to her for pointing out robustly that she (PS) was not doing her job and breaking the law – a fact that M gleefully seized on months afterwards. To establish ‘a pattern of hostile and aggressive communication’. Like ‘obey the law’ and ‘leave me alone!’

There followed a pile-on from HR and senior staff. I have RSI in my hands and wrists. It’s a condition I manage and every University email has that information as part of my signature. So it was literally torture for me to have to answer this relentless flood of emails, especially as I no-longer had access to the voice recognition software I’d used for over a decade so all that human-machine mutual learning had gone and I was trying (and failing) to use a crappy Microsoft version that was clearly not designed for anyone with a manual disability—and shoved in punctuation and all caps according to the stress patterns in my voice.

Here’s the story:

On Saturday 26th March 2022, [let’s call her PG] (a middle-aged lecturer from Crewe and former BBC journo) was quoted in The Times newspaper. That article is behind a paywall but The Scottish Sun (26th March 2022, updated 28th March 2022) reported her libellous words as follows:

Dr McManus, an associate tutor in the School of […], is reportedly under investigation by the uni for spreading conspiracy theories about coronavirus and Ukraine, according to The Times.
[PG], a political communication lecturer, has called for McManus to be sacked.
She told The Times she believes the university should “no longer employ” him.
[PG, spelled wrongly] told the paper she would “would personally be quite concerned about someone who expresses those kind of views, conspiracy theories, and apparent indifference to the suffering of Ukrainians, holding a teaching role”.
The lecturer went on to say she feels McManus’ views do not reflect the values of [the University].

Please note “apparent indifference”. Mind-reading. Note also that there is no mention that the source of this misreading is from an article published on 14th March 2022 in The Ferret (an online Scottish magazine) by one Jasmine Andersson, a young woman from Hull, based in London, who usually writes for Vice, described on trendhunter.com in these terms:

VICE Magazine has developed an impressive penchant for its following of censored subject matter. Transsexual lifestyle, drug-abusing models, and just about anything sexually suggestive has been favored by the VICE team. What’s more is that the media conglomerate does not attempt to sugar coat their controversial slant. The images selected for the spreads are straight forward (sic.), and are often the only references needed to comprehend the message of the editorials.

My point is that a middle-aged native speaker of English and former BBC journalist now a lecturer in Political Communication should know better. If she wanted to know my thoughts on the suffering of Ukrainians (or of the forgotten Yemeni or the kids mining for mobile phone conflict minerals in the DRC) she doesn’t have to presume, she could be polite and professional enough to ask me. She knows my name, she can easily find my email address and the articles she is quoted in (with her permission) give my social media handle.

In all there were 8 smear articles, the source of each is in brackets: Ferret (Vice), Ferret (Vice), Times (Ferret), Times (Times), National (Ferret), National (National), Scottish Sun (whatever x2). The one I quoted goes on:

A University of […] spokesperson said: “The matter is now under investigation by the University. We can’t comment further at this time.”

The source of that last quote is from an unknown member of staff tweeting as @Uof[…]. I have several times asked the identity of that person and I have been stonewalled. The tweet, which breaks GDPR and is libellous (therefore not only against University policy but actionable) has since been deleted, as has a tweet from @[P_G] where she states that, as I am an Associate Tutor, I will have a rolling contract so that should simply not be renewed (I paraphrase from memory).

At the time that [PG] directed hate towards me, I was a standing candidate in a Scottish election. The period known as Purdah starts from the date of publication of notice of the election (14th March 2022) and runs till the day of election (5th May 2022). Harassing candidates at this time is a police matter. This is because the murder of Jo Cox (RIP) highlighted how few women were standing, out of fear. It does not matter that I am male. All candidates should be safe, by law. This applies especially to anyone from a Public Body. All these articles quoting her referenced her academic position and institution, as did her twitter account at that time (my social media accounts do not, as I write as a private citizen). The University of […] is considered a Public Body as it is “a formally established organisation that is, at least in part, publicly funded to deliver a public or government service, though not as a ministerial department.” (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-bodies-reform, accessed 15/09/22)

Therefore [PG] violated Purdah, endangered my reputation, my employment, my person and also the mental and physical health of my elderly mother—as I am her chief carer after her cancer operation and I was forced to publish my address as I acted as my own agent. This reckless endangerment, which could have easily resulted in some flag-wearing crazy throwing a brick through my window and causing my mother to have heart failure, based on the spicy speculation of gutter-press journalism, has led to almost 6 months of inquisitorial investigation by senior staff of the University of […]. I cannot believe that a person of her experience would not have foreseen this and I find this public abuse of a colleague (apparently for self-promotion aided by her media savvy) not only distasteful but contrary to the core values of the University and of the kind of democracy for which we pride ourselves in Scotland. It is also contrary to my inalienable rights, recognised in the ECHR and by both the UK and the Scottish Parliament: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion and Belief.

I could forgive such behaviour from an inexperienced young student, but this mature professional woman obviously knows full well what that libel would do. Indeed not only did these articles lose my campaign support (former supporters told me this) but her actual words regarding my precarious employment have been repeated by a senior member of staff in an ongoing abusive HR process started by further malicious accusations—which (at one point) also included those of this self-promoting lecturer.

Democracy must be protected and Purdah is in place to do just that and it is a legal wrongdoing to break it. The University of […] should not be sheltering someone guilty of such an affront to Scottish democracy. This libellous lecturer is not fit for post.

  • The University has refused to reveal the identity of the staff member who tweeted about me as @Uof[…], revealing personal information and bringing the University into disrepute.
  • Neither the University nor [PG] have publicly, or even privately, apologised to me using the same media by which I was slandered by the University—which is vicariously liable.
  • I have demanded that [PG] (who is teaching Political Communication to students) be sacked. Given the effect on my campaign, my mental health, and the potential life-threatening risk to my extremely vulnerable mother, I think it fitting that both I and my party receive a public apology from both members of staff and the University and that we are recompensed for their complicity (and vicariously that of the University of […]) with slander and reckless endangerment.

PG, ‘an old Antonian’, who was in her youth quite pretty, has odd gaps in her online CV and ever since she graduated with a First in Modern Languages has been the recipient of various grants and fellowships. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation of the location of her first job—2004 to 2011 on the CV—(Senior Monitoring Journalist, BBC) as: “Moscow (Russia) / Caversham (UK)”. Let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s true that Caversham, near Reading, is the location of BBC Monitoring:

For nearly 75 years BBC staff at a sprawling stately home on the outskirts of Reading have been listening in to some of the world’s most seismic events, from Nazi Germany’s occupation of Europe to the death of Stalin and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Since 1943 Caversham Park has been the home of BBC Monitoring, whose offices still summarise news from 150 countries in 100 different languages for the BBC.

Caversham Park: End of an era for BBC listening station
Published 7th July 2016

It’s true that St Anthony’s College, Oxford, where PG went next, is informally known as ‘spy school’ but not everyone was involved, as another alumna points out:

I myself was not a spy, even though the place I was doing my Soviet history doctorate, St Antony’s in Oxford, was notorious in both the British and Soviet press as a “spy college”, having been founded after the war by ex-intelligence people.

It’s also true that PG, from criticising Ukrainian state crackdowns on journalism (by beating up journalists) in 2014 changed her tune when the 8-year conflict started to be reported by the BBC, claiming that most people there understood why the media and the opposition parties has been repressed.

Caversham also has a rather nice golf club. And there were plenty of other Oxford language and politics graduates involved in espionage who attended other colleges. Finally, the person posting as Zanon, in the 22nd comment on the Moon of Alabama 2018 article “British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns” who lists her name next to that of Ian Bond, is probably just making it up.

So, a middle-aged Englishwoman, lecturing in Political Communication at one of Scotland’s Russell Group universities—who moved from Crewe to Caversham and Moscow, with a Modern Language degree then a Master’s in Russian & East European Studies at a notorious Oxford college—despite her doctorate in Politics and a respectable body of academic work (such as the Bad News series from the Glasgow University Media Group) on critical engagement with propaganda, disrespected democracy by using her public platform to uncritically push UK Government policy and to take great virtue-signalling umbrage at my suggestion that the current stage-managed theatre of war in the media is a pantomime of politics.

As “monitoring” seems to signify espionage, my question is: what critical distance from her assigned teaching subject of the political communication in general and in particular of various governments, including that of the UK, Russia and the Ukraine, can PG claim to employ as a lecturer…if she is, or was, a spy?

A once-beautiful bejewelled hard-faced woman has window blind shadow across her face with a mystery man, drinking with his shirt unbuttoned in the background of a darkened room.

Thanks to Hal Harrison for releasing his image Film Noir into the public domain.