Call-Out for Freedom Alliance Candidates!

The attack on women continues, the vaccine injured are now too numerous to ignore and 15 minute ghettos are coming your way! In the English Local Authority elections on 4th May 2023 you have the opportunity to stand for freedom!

Recently the UK Freedom Alliance party has diversified with some current and former members standing as independents and some former members forming a new party emphasising direct democracy in contrast to our emphasis on representative democracy. Our concern about that new party is that direct democracy is vulnerable to populism (undue influence by an unelected and unaccountable spokesperson) and in any case, as their Electoral Commission registration missed the advertised deadline, they may not be ready until after close of nominations.

Nevertheless, as a libertarian party we support all candidates genuinely standing for freedom. The difference is that—if you stand with us—you have the benefit of our experience and support.

Our key principles as a party are:

  • —We are a political party born out of the freedom movement as a direct response to government overreach into every aspect of our lives.
  • —We are the political wing of the freedom community.
  • —We are made up of people from all political backgrounds, moving the dialogue away from the left Vs right debate towards a right Vs wrong – what is right for the people not what is right for the elites and big corporations. We need politicians to start making decisions in the interests of the people. Our membership model supports us to be responsive to our members and speak up about what really matters to them.
  • —By standing up and questioning the narrative of the government and main political parties who have been captured and controlled, we provide an opportunity for open debate. There is currently no opposition to the government and we need this in order to restore a liberal democracy.
  • —We celebrate diversity and support equality for all; at the same time we recognise the valid and vociferous concerns over female safe space and robust child protection endangered by changes in devolved and UK legislation.
  • —It is time for the people to be powerful in politics. We need to demystify politics and make it accessible to everyone, show people how important it is we take back control of our country.
  • —We are radically different to any other political party. We are run entirely by volunteers, people passionate enough about making a difference to consider doing something unpopular (getting involved in the corrupt and dirty world of politics).
  • —We are more than just a party that opposes the governments infringements on our civil liberties. In bringing likeminded people together we have started to create a positive vision of how we would like our country to be governed. We need you to join us, to help develop this vision further and take back our country.
  • —We are sovereign beings. We care about humanity. We want a future for our children and grandchildren which is full of joy, hope and peace, one in which they can live freely and choose the life they want to live.

If you would like to stand for Freedom Alliance, please email info@freedomalliance.co.uk — providing this information:

— full name

— address & postcode

— local authority (council)

— preferred ward/ division

— social media usernames for vetting (we don’t need your passwords!)

You don’t need any political experience. You don’t need to be a lawyer or academic or business person. You do need to be awake, sensible, in harmony with our key principles and willing to engage civilly with opposing views—whether from other members or other parties.

You must be over 18 (there’s no upper age limit) and resident in the UK. There are further qualifications and disqualifications set by the Electoral Commission, and we require all of our candidates to respect election procedures and the rule of law. (That said, we are extremely concerned about possible vote suppression caused by voter ID.)

Accepted candidates may receive a link to a website supporting them through every step of the nomination process.

Crochet doll wearing black cap, black dress and suffragette shawl
Advertisement

Of States and Secrets

Studying Law when weighty questions are being asked in Scotland on (mostly misunderstood) matters of equality, human rights and the uncodified UK constitution is fascinating enough. Recently, I’ve also been preparing for legal action, quoting the Vento bands, setting damages for Injury to Feelings, down the phone to the ACAS mediator as my former employer seems to be running scared of the public humiliation of yet another Employment Tribunal case, preferring to settle out of court.

Fascinating though the 15th edition of Smith & Wood’s Employment Law is (I’d read about half of its 829 pages a few days after it was posted to me) it’s Stanton & Prescott’s 3rd edition of Public Law that’s more pertinent to the recent failed attempt by Holyrood to modify legislation passed by Westminster. I’ve observed previously the difference between the gracious restraint of legal discourse and uninformed party political rants on the (il)legality of the GRR Bill.

Brain whirling, I took time off my studies to watch J. Edgar, the Warner Bros biopic of the Hoover who headed the FBI for around half of the last century (not the previous and unrelated US president associated with the New Deal). Subtly directed by Clint Eastwood, its understated masculine gaze, verging at times on film noir, was enough to have critics calling it ‘controversial’ on release in 2011.

11 years on, One Nation Under Blackmail, Whitney Webb’s damning dossier of US politics, detailing and evidencing the ‘sordid union between Intelligence and Organised Crime that gave rise to Jeffrey Epstein’, is far less coy about Hoover’s rumoured homosexuality and transvestism.

Where Eastwood hints, with scenes of the devoted son so distraught by his mother’s death that he dons her clothes in front of the mirror, and of a touching and tragically frustrated bromance between Hoover and his second in command and longtime companion, Webb (ch. 2 & 4) quotes eyewitnesses to the scandal of this infamous inquisitor and blackmailer frequenting the blue suite of New York’s Plaza Hotel, known as ‘Mary’, in wig and dress, pleasuring Tolson and having sex with ‘blond boys’ and with Senator Joe McCarthy’s righthand man in his persecution of suspected communists and homosexuals.

J. Edgar is a difficult film to watch, its portrayal of the public derring do of his ‘G Men’ busting mobsters and his private stoic restraint in matters of the heart undermined by the evidence of Hoover’s hypocrisy hiding in plain sight: that he was soft on crime and unconcerned about being seen in flagrante as he was simultaneously being blackmailed to go easy on organised crime and blackmailing anyone who could publicise his sexual predilections.

Two decades before It’s Time, the Scottish Government-sponsored Equality Network’s moving 2013 video campaign for equal marriage (featuring several of my old friends) there was a scandal involving senior members of the justiciary being blackmailed by the pimps of rent boys. With associated concern over the autonomy of their judicial deliberations.

It seems to me that a secret of a public figure, however well-known, does not help a nation. It festers and starts a canker at the heart of public life. Catalyst for either compensatory action or reaction, it can lead to extreme decision-making in a state of schizophrenic politics where the truth is shouted in silence.

At the height of the US ‘Red Scare’, reticence about disclosure of sexuality would be understandable. Now, certainly in any liberal democracy, being so candid might be uncomfortable or even embarrassing if the game of Let’s Pretend has been played for some time (Hoover never married but the convenient strategy of the homosexual ‘beard’ is well-known) however the health of the body politic may depend on it. For the sake of the people, and government policy, a responsible state official may decide that it’s time.

Rusty padlock covered in cobwebs on a wooden gate

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his image Padlock into the Public Domain.

5 Ways to Kill the Bill – GRR in Scotland

This is a short, reader-friendly summary of legal possibilities available to the women of Scotland and their allies in the UK following the passage of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, on Thursday 22nd December 2022. For more legal details, please follow acknowledged experts such as the rebel leader Joanna Cherry KC (SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, King’s Counsel and Feminist), the Edinburgh-based policy analysis collective Murray, Blackburn & Mackenzie, and Michael Foran (Lecturer in Public Law at the University of Glasgow). In the Wimbledon of recent legal arguments, these are top umpires. I’m not even qualified to be the ball boy.

Firstly, to assume no legal knowledge at all, the GRR is a Bill that, although passed by Holyrood, has not yet received Royal Assent. No, that’s not a technicality, not in this case – more on that later. So it doesn’t come into force (it affects nothing) until the day after that happens – if it does. That means that people can’t already start acting as if the GRR is law. It’s not. At the moment it’s still a proposed law. (I’m not using legal jargon here.)

The relationship between Holyrood and Westminister is complicated. It really doesn’t matter what your opinion of that relationship is; what matters here is the legal reality. If you’re used to politicians spouting off their opinions and party policy all the time, the restrained language of cool logic of legal experts can strike you as odd. It’s also quite refreshing. Joanna Cherry is a feminist and Scottish Nationalist; Murray, Blackburn & Mackenzie are certainly feminist but I have no idea if they’re nationalist or unionist; exactly where Michael Foran stands personally in this debate I can’t tell for sure. That’s quite normal in legal circles.

Bills passed by devolved legislatures (Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, Northern Irish Assembly) have to stay within the powers that they are legally allowed to exercise. This is quite normal. Holyrood can’t pass a law outlawing kangaroos in South Australia, for example. That’s literally, and clearly, none of its business. Neither could it, for the same reason but closer to home, decide that all schoolkids in Kent will get free ice-cream. However, it’s also not free to decide everything and anything in terms of Scotland. Why? It’s our parliament, our country, why can’t we do whatever we want? That’s because there isn’t a straight line of succession between the ancient Scottish Parliament, which closed in 1707, and this new one that opened in 1999. In the meantime, Holyrood went to Westminster – and only some of it made it back over the border. This brings us to the first way to kill the bill:

  • Outwith legislative competence – some matters are reserved to the Westminster parliament and Equality (most aspects) is one of them. Employment is another. (You can find the full official list of reserved and devolved matters HERE.) That’s why the recent judgment (legal spelling) of Scotland’s highest court, the Court of Session, delivered by Lady Dorrian on that matter, in the petition of For Women Scotland, is so important. What that means is that any attempt by a devolved legislature to interfere with legislation that’s the business of the UK parliament will be smacked down. This Bill could be challenged immediately, by the Lord Advocate, for example, or it might be challenged in a Scottish court. The difference between those who make laws and those who interpret them is that the latter are legal experts. I’m not being nasty. Politicians don’t tend to have legal training and even those who do may, for some reason, choose to ignore tensions between legislation and legality.

The second way may strike residents in other parts of the UK as very odd:

  • Incompatible with Convention rights – what this refers to is the peculiarly Scottish situation that, despite Brexit, Holyrood legislation still has to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This is quite similar to the more famous UDHR (Universal Declaration). So there could be a challenge under Article 9: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion; or, more imaginatively, under Article 6:

3. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following
minimum rights:
(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he
understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the
accusation against him;

A woman could perhaps make the case that she doesn’t understand the language or the nature and cause of the accusation (of ‘misgendering’, for example) levelled against her. Repeating, “I don’t understand that, what does that mean?” to all occasions of the charge might be very interesting legally. And, putting the onus on the prosecution to explain, in language that she does understand, possibly an effective defence. If the Scottish Court Service is faced with the prospect of hordes of bemused women clogging up the Sheriff Courts while frantic court clerks phone round for academic doctors with a speciality in the metaphysics of transgender (I think I’m the only one, certainly in Scotland) then the pushback might be enough to find this legislation so incompatible and therefore illegal. The third way is more probable and has already been foreseen:

  • Section 35 order – this refers to the power (indeed the duty) of the Secretary of State for Scotland, according to the Scotland Act 1998, to stop the Bill being submitted for Royal Assent:

35 Power to intervene in certain cases.

(1) If a Bill contains provisions—

(b) which make modifications of the law as it applies to reserved matters and which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters,

he may make an order prohibiting the Presiding Officer from submitting the Bill for Royal Assent.

Which brings us to the fourth way: King Charles could decide not to sign it. Extraordinary as that action would be, the timing is interesting. The Heir Apparent is not yet crowned and in September 2022, after the Proclamation in Edinburgh, he swore a solemn oath before the Accession Council in London to uphold certain specific religious rights:

I, Charles III, by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of my other realms and territories, King, Defender of the Faith, do faithfully promise and swear that I should inviolably maintain and preserve the settlement of the true Protestant religion as established by the laws made in Scotland in prosecution of the Claim of Right and particularly by an act intituled an act for securing the Protestant religion and Presbyterian church government and by the acts passed in the Parliament of both kingdoms for union of the two kingdoms, together with the government, worship, discipline, rights and privileges, of the Church of Scotland.

Now, unlike the Free Kirks and the Free Presbyterians, the Church of Scotland is pretty woke, in terms of homosexuality (and I’m proud to say I played a small part in that endeavour to change hearts and minds), however the extent of rage about male rapists (there isn’t any other kind in law) in the Scottish female prison estate may have caused some worthy kirk sessions to consider that ‘inclusion’ isn’t quite as fluffy bunnies as it’s chalked up to be. So there could possibly be a challenge on religious grounds: there is a specific religious duty to protect the vulnerable, and this mercy extends to those in prison, so it could be argued that this legal change by the state, that threatens incarcerated women with rape, a religious injustice that cries out to God, unsettles ‘the true Protestant religion’. That’s not legal logic; it’s the language of symbolism. Charles depends on his Scottish subjects recognising that he has fulfilled that oath. If not, he is not lawfully our monarch and may be deposed. A particularly fiery and authoritative preacher might make the point. The last way is linked: the power of the people:

  • Sovereignty of the People of Scotland – on 26th January 2012, Nicola Sturgeon MSP (then) led a debate in Holyrood on the Claim of Right with the motion:

‘That the Parliament acknowledges the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs and declares and pledges that in all its actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount.’

If the Scottish people demonstrate, en masse (it might take a general strike of women) that in the recent actions and deliberations of the Scottish Parliament their interests have not been paramount then, by the Claim of Right that was approved by the Scottish Parliament, in the following amended form, then they may force that Parliament to think again:

The Presiding Officer: The result of the division is: For 102, Against 14, Abstentions 0.
Motion, as amended, agreed to,
That the Parliament acknowledges the sovereign right of
the Scottish people to determine the form of government
best suited to their needs and declares and pledges that in
all its actions and deliberations their interests shall be
paramount, and asserts the right of the Scottish people to
make a clear, unambiguous and decisive choice on the
future of Scotland.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image A Very Angry Woman into the Public Domain.

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.

Sexism at Scottish Universities?

Anecdotal evidence led me to suspect gender bias in hiring practice at a Scottish university – and I wondered if that was:

  1. a suspicion supported by statistical evidence
  2. a finding generalisable to other Scottish universities

Let me immediately say that I wasn’t great at Maths in School and I’m honest with my doctoral and master’s students that stats isn’t my strong point – but I did do the required Ph.D. courses in both qualitative and quantitative data analysis and (to my surprise) I really enjoyed both.

METHODOLOGY

Remembering my lecturer’s admonition to “keep a moral distance from the data”, I determined to stick to what seemed to be a fair methodology first, before peeking at the results. In other words, I wanted to avoid the kind of cherry-picking that goes on with article after article bangs on about fewer women than men in (some) Science Technology Engineering Maths courses and totally ignores Education or Nursing (and just about everything else) where they dominate.

So I decided to use 1 website only: www.jobs.ac.uk and only to focus on Scotland’s 2 Russell Group universities: Edinburgh & Glasgow, simply as a convenient and fair way to work with a smaller number. Incidentally missing out my alma mater. Furthermore (a favourite word for international students) I would limit the results by only analysing data from academic jobs advertised as “Lecturer” (not “Tutor”, “Professor”, “Chair”, “Head”, “Associate”, “Reader”, “Technician”, etc.) and only those on the website on 8th August 2022. If I found over 30 of these, for each university, I would exclude all adverts dated before 1st August 2022.

So much for search criteria. What about evidence? What’s my definition of sexism in this situation? Simple: I would note all adverts in this selection which included a phrase identical or similar to “women/ men/ female candidates/ male candidates are especially encouraged to apply” and cross-reference that to the ratio of male/ female academic staff in the department – as shown by the official website of that university on 8th August 2022.

(If you suspect me of manically doing this every day until I got the desired result, try it for yourself!)

RESULTS

Edinburgh

First I put “Lecturer” in the Search field and “Edinburgh, UK” in Location and limited results to “within 10 miles”. 27 jobs were returned, 7 of them at institutions other than the University of Edinburgh. I entered the dates and job titles of the other 20:

Date postedUniversity of Edinburgh
2nd AugLecturer/Senior Lecturer in Accounting
2nd AugLecturer in Romanticism
27th JulyLecturer in Dyslexia
28th JulyLecturer in Epidemiology
27th JulyLecturer/Senior Lecturer in Sign Language Linguistics
25th JulyLecturer in Environmental History
25th JulyLecturer in Environmental History
13th JulyLecturer in Landscape and Wellbeing
26th JulyLecturer in Graphic Design
18th JulyLecturer in Clinical Psychology
19th JulyLecturer in Clinical Psychology
15th JulyLecturer/Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Dentistry and Maxillofacial Surgery
14th JulySenior Lecturer in Neurology/Neurosurgery
25th JulyLecturer in Financial Law and Regulation
20th JulyLecturer in South Asian Art History
27th JulyLecturer in Soft Robotics / Physical Computing
12th JulyLecturer in Interior, Architectural and Spatial Design
26th JulyLecturer in Small Animal Surgery (Orthopaedics and Soft Tissue, with Orthopaedic bias)
25th JulyTeaching Fellow in Iron Age and Theoretical Archaeology*
27th JulyLectureship/Readership in Technology Enhanced Mathematics Education
20 Lecturer job titles at University of Edinburgh & dates posted

*”Lecturer” in job description

Of these, only 3 had any mention that could be construed as encouraging a particular gender to apply:

Date postedUniversity of EdinburghGender encouraged to apply
25th JulyLecturer in Environmental HistoryAs an equal opportunities employer, we welcome applicants from all sections of the community, regardless of age, gender, race and ethnicity, disability, nationality and citizenship status, religion, sexual orientation or transgender status.  Our School is committed to Athena SWAN principles. All appointments will be made on merit.
25th JulyLecturer in Financial Law and RegulationThe School of Law strives to be a diverse and inclusive community.  We particularly welcome applications from candidates belonging to groups that have been traditionally under-represented in the subject.
12th JulyLecturer in Interior, Architectural and Spatial DesignThe University of Edinburgh holds a Silver Athena SWAN award in recognition of our commitment to advance gender equality in higher education.
3 jobs advert dates & titles at University of Edinburgh with mention of encouragement to apply (emphasis mine)

“Athena SWAN” refers to the Scientific Women’s Academic Network.

Glasgow

The same search, but with “Glasgow, UK” in Location, yielded 29 results. Of these, 10 were excluded as relating to institutions other than the University of Glasgow. I entered the dates and job titles of the other 19 – all of which contained wording that could be construed as encouraging a particular sex to apply:

Date postedUniversity of GlasgowGender encouraged to apply
5th AugLecturer – School of Computing ScienceWe strongly endorse the principles of Athena SWAN, including a supportive and flexible working environment, with commitment from all levels of the organisation in promoting gender equity.*
26th JulyLecturer/Senior Lecturer/Reader in Statistics and Data AnalyticsWe offer an inclusive environment that particularly encourages applications from those within under-represented groups in our discipline […]   (ATHENA SWAN)
25th JulySenior Lecturer/Lecturer in Marketing (Research & Teaching Track)The Adam Smith Business School is triple accredited and is a research-informed and professionally-focused business school. The School has achieved the Athena SWAN Bronze award and actively encourages an inclusive culture promoting gender equality and welcomes applications from underrepresented groups.   (ATHENA SWAN)
13th JulyLecturer in Race and Education(ATHENA SWAN)
13th JulyLecturer in Curriculum and Assessment(ATHENA SWAN)
27th JulySenior Lecturer/Lecturer in Human Resource Management (Research & Teaching Track)The Adam Smith Business School is triple accredited and is a research-informed and professionally-focused business school. The School has achieved the Athena SWAN Bronze award and actively encourages an inclusive culture promoting gender equality and welcomes applications from underrepresented groups.   (ATHENA SWAN)
5th AugLecturer (LTS) in Medieval History(ATHENA SWAN)
5th AugLecturer (LTS) in Medieval History(ATHENA SWAN)
29th JulyLecturer (Research & Teaching Track)(ATHENA SWAN)
29th JulyLecturer in Early Medieval History(ATHENA SWAN)
22nd JulyLecturer in Music [LTS Track]We also strongly endorse the principles of Athena SWAN, including a supportive and flexible working environment, with commitment from all levels of the organisation to promoting [inclusion, diversity and] gender equity. Applications are particularly welcome from women, ethnic minorities and other under-represented groups.
27th JulyLecturer (Learning, Teaching & Scholarship)(ATHENA SWAN)
2nd AugLecturer in International Relations (LTS Track)We value diversity and especially encourage applications from women, disabled and ethnic minority candidates.   (ATHENA SWAN)
26th JulyLecturer (Small Animal Hospital Rotations)(ATHENA SWAN)
8th JulyLecturer in Contemporary Economic History (LTS)We value diversity and especially encourage applications from women, disabled and ethnic minority candidates.   (ATHENA SWAN)
2nd AugMultiple Lecturer Positions in Statistics & Data AnalyticsWe offer an inclusive environment that particularly encourages applications from those within under-represented groups in our discipline […]   (ATHENA SWAN)** (ATHENA SWAN)
2nd AugLecturer (LTS Track) in Screen Production & PracticeWe also strongly endorse the principles of Athena SWAN, including a supportive and flexible working environment, with commitment from all levels of the organisation to promoting [inclusion, diversity and] gender equity. Applications are particularly welcome from women, ethnic minorities and other under-represented groups.
13th JulyLecturer in Teacher Education (Primary with specialism focus in Technologies(ATHENA SWAN)
19 job advert dates & titles at University of Glasgow with mention of encouragement to apply (emphasis mine, link original)

The ambiguity about the effect of Athena SWAN charter, articulated HERE by Dr Suzanne Madgwick, Research Fellow at Newcastle University, is felt even by those whom it benefits:

Yes, there is evidence to suggest that women are sometimes a little more risk averse, less likely to put themselves forward for promotion, but this is by no means exclusive. If we have a mechanism in place to champion and support the different needs of all people, each and every time they need it, is this not equality without the need to keep using the word “women”? I can’t help thinking that there is a good dose of hypocrisy in all the ‘positive actions’ and events which are seen to be just for women. In the short term it’s generating friction and in the long term it certainly doesn’t seem like the best strategy when preaching fair play.

Not Athena SWAN again! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (2015)

Perhaps because of this perception, the Charter is now not supposed to have women as its only focus:

The Athena Swan Charter is a framework which is used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education (HE) and research. Established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment, the Charter is now being used across the globe to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women.

Athena Swan Charter (2020)

Given that supposed change, let’s ignore for now all the (slightly) ambiguous encouragement of women to apply for academic jobs in Russel Group universities in Scotland (3/20 or 15% in the University of Edinburgh selection of job adverts and 19/19 or 100% in those of the University of Glasgow) and focus only on the 4, all from the University of Glasgow, out of the 39 selections from both institutions (just over 10%) that explicitly do this:

Date postedUniversity of GlasgowGender encouraged to apply
22nd JulyLecturer in Music [LTS Track]Applications are particularly welcome from women, ethnic minorities and other under-represented groups.
2nd AugLecturer in International Relations (LTS Track)We value diversity and especially encourage applications from women, disabled and ethnic minority candidates.
8th JulyLecturer in Contemporary Economic History (LTS)We value diversity and especially encourage applications from women, disabled and ethnic minority candidates.
2nd AugLecturer (LTS Track) in Screen Production & PracticeApplications are particularly welcome from women, ethnic minorities and other under-represented groups.
4 job advert dates & titles at University of Glasgow with mention of encouragement to women to apply (emphasis in bold/italics mine)

Let’s look at the ratio of male/ female academic staff in the relevant department. The first has this information:

For further information on the College of Arts, School of Culture and Creative Arts please visit https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/cca/

With a link to “Music” and “Staff A-Z” where there are 14 names under Research and Teaching (the other category is Professional, Administrative and Support). Of the 4 Professors, 3 names are male and 1 female; of the 10 Doctors, 8 are male and 2 female. So with a M:F ratio of 11:3 (just over 21% are female) there is justification to describe women as under-represented in this department.

The second advert has this:

For further information on the College of Social Sciences, School of Social & Political Sciences, please visit https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/

With a link to “Politics and International Relations” and “Staff A-Z” where there are 60 names under Research and Teaching. Of the 11 Professors, 5 names I recognised as male and 4 female with 2 I couldn’t identify by name but with female photographs (on this website or another linking her to this position). So that’s 5 male and 6 female professors. Of the 45 Doctors, 30 I recognised as male, with 2 I couldn’t identify by name but with male photographs (on this website or another linking him to this position). So that’s 32 male and 13 female doctors. Of the other 4 staff in this category, 1 is Mr, 2 Ms and 1 Miss. So that’s 1 male and 3 female staff members without academic titles. Overall, that makes 38 male and 22 female staff so, as 22/60 (just under 37%) are female, there is justification to describe women as under-represented in this department.

The third advert has the same link as the second but the link to follow this time is Economic and Social History. There isn’t a link to staff so I had to go back and search for this subject and ended up on the departmental staff page:

https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/?filter=economicsocialhistory

There are 23 staff names listed under Research and Teaching. Of the 6 Professors, all have male names. Out of the 14 Doctors, I recognised 6 as male and another 1 was identified as male on another website linking him to this position. So that’s 7 male and 7 female doctors out of 14. Other staff are 2 Misters and 1 Miss. Overall that’s 15 male and 8 female staff under this category, which makes 8/23 (just under 35%) female staff in this department – therefore it is justified to describe women as under-represented here.

The last advert has the same link as the first but the link to follow then, this time, isn’t clear as the job refers to the College rather than a specific Department. However the contact person is listed as Theatre, Film and Television Studies – which comprises two different links:

https://www.gla.ac.uk/subjects/theatre/

https://www.gla.ac.uk/subjects/filmtelevision/

Clicking on Our Staff in the first department, I see 5 Professors, out of which 2 have male names and 3 female. Out of the 7 Doctors, it’s 4 male and 3 female, and there’s no-one else so overall that’s 6/12 female staff which is 50%. Women are not under-represented here.

In the second department, out of the 6 Professors, 3 are male and 3 female; out of the 11 Doctors, 5 appear to be male (by names of photographs on the website) and 6 female. Overall that’s 9/17 (just under 53%) female staff in this category. So women are not under-represented here either.

Lumping these two creative departments together, as the job advert does, that’s 6+8=14 male; 6+9=15 female, so that’s 15/29 (just under 52%) female staff.

As a final computation of all 4 jobs that explicitly mention women being encouraged to apply, the academic staff ratios for these University for Glasgow Departments are:

Dept.MaleFemaleStaffFemale percentage
Music11314just over 21%
Politics & Int. Rels382260just under 37%
Econ. & Soc. Hist.15823just under 35%
Theatre, Film & TV141529just under 52%
4 University of Glasgow Departments with male/ female ratios

FINDINGS

One possible finding of this hasty survey is that out of 39 selections of academic job adverts only 1 of them could be said to show explicit sexism (under my stated criteria) by encouraging the numerically – and academically – dominant gender to apply for a position. That must be qualified by the fact that the dominance is only 2% and, if it’s a woman who’s creating the vacancy, then another woman would simply keep the status quo.

Another possible finding is that 4 out of the 39 adverts explicitly encourage women to apply, and 22/ 39 (just over 56%) if we include the implicit encouragement, remembering that most of those are from one institution.

As I only looked at the explicit adverts’ staff ratios, it’s not clear whether the overall figure of around 56% (or 100% for the University of Glasgow) female-specific encouragement is justified. Just as a random outlier, let’s look at a department that we may expect to be female dominated (but maybe not as much as English Lit. or Nursing) – Education:

https://www.gla.ac.uk/subjects/education/staff/

Applying the same criteria, we have 26 Professors, 12 are male and 14 female; of the 74 Doctors, 23 are male and 51 female; of the other academic staff there are 16 Misters, 13 Ms, 9 Mrs, 3 Miss, 1 Fr, so 17 male and 25 female. Overall that makes 52 male and 90 female academic staff members. That makes 90/142 = just over 63% female.

There are 3 jobs currently being advertised for the School of Education of the University of Glasgow. All of them have the same Athena SWAN script. Not one of them, in this clearly female-dominated Department, encourages men to apply.

Looking back at the two points I began with, I haven’t provided any statistical evidence for gender bias in hiring practice at Scottish universities – but I have done (to a limited extent) for such bias in advertising academic jobs. I haven’t checked if all 19 degree providers in Scotland have endorsed this formerly gender-specific Charter but I strongly suspect that they have.

As a man, I rejoice in the equality of my female colleagues but – if we are to truly move past institutionalised sexism – we have to realise that simply swapping the slogan “jobs for the boys” for “jobs for the girls” isn’t going to change the dynamic of dominance rather than co-operation. With masculinity conveniently demonised as toxic (forever forgetting the wisdom of feminists such as Dorothy Dinnerstein) and confused wee boys being explicitly told that they can avoid becoming a man, then it’s time to take stock of the current situation.

Despite media portrayals, we’re not all mad, bad or sad. If we really believe in ending “the war of the sexes” then we have to be honest about recruitment.

Cartoon image of White man with black hair, white top and black trousers sitting on a black chair with his head on a black laptop resting on a mauve table with a white cup on top; teal background.

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Exhausted Employee into the Public Domain.

This Story Is True—“Medea” by Bard in the Botanics: a review

The classics scholar Martha Nussbaum titles a chapter in The Fragility of Goodness, her magisterial work on tragedy, “This story isn’t true”, a reference to the Palinode (recantation) of Stesichorus in Plato’s Phaedrus 243a.

Stunned this evening by the performance of the erstwhile lovers under Gordon Barr’s direction of Medea, this phrase came to mind but as affirmation not pious negation: this story is true.

Kathy McCain’s plain spoken version starts, as does Euripides’ lyrical original, with the Nurse as narrator—but rather than relating the back story of the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece, the devoted servant, played with forthright Scotch common sense by Isabelle Joss, states “this is not a love story”.

And yet, Nicole Cooper as Medea is (at first) so lovely. We feel this woman; those of us in the double rows of seats lining the link section of the Kibble Palace who know the story ken fine what she will be driven to do but, already, she has won our sympathy.

By the time the strapping Johnny Panchaud playing Jason strides into the scene (could this man look any more like the perfection of masculine beauty?) we are not immune to his considerable charm—and, clearly, neither is his ex-wife Medea—but our hearts are already taken and as charm fades into smarm the chilling modernity of the version hits us.

This is not a love story, it’s a story about ambition, manipulation, rejection, and gaslighting.

Alan Steele does well as Creon and the Tutor, the former adding menace and the latter plot points, but anyone who has experienced the persuasive power of a master manipulator—either in domestic or workplace abuse—can understand why the physical threats of the King matter little to Medea: Creon may hold her life in his hand but Jason has crushed her heart.

90 minutes is a very long time to maintain almost constant emotional intensity. The few workaday props give the female characters some business and the sparse music and subtle lighting adds tension but Cooper is emoting onstage most of the time—and we simply cannot take our eyes off her. Nor she us. An extraordinary ability to elicit complicity. We feel we are her friends.

The Greek speech is so well done. Language in this version is a gift, not a barrier. “To ksero, I know”, Medea tells us, “den thelo tipota, I don’t want anything”. It adds to her exotic appeal and, shrieked offstage, indicates her raving madness.

This is a woman driven mad by a man everyone else thinks is a hero. The moments when they embrace are precisely such a mindfuck because that’s exactly what gaslighting is: attempted mental rape. This story is true because a myth observed with attention highlights the painful realities of our human experience (ancient or modern our nature doesn’t change) that we would rather ignore.

The poet recanted after being struck blind, for the impiety of blaming Helen, daughter of a God, for the destruction of Troy. Perhaps we should judge Medea with similar caution: diabolical and divine, mother and murderess, this stunning performance by Bard in the Botanics bids us ask ourselves—under such circumstances, life torn asunder by men, a cruel king and a callous hero, backed by an army, can we really blame her?

Advert for Medea running 23rd June – 9th July on https://www.bardinthebotanics.co.uk/

It’s a Fake

They get the music right, and there is some big hair, cardies and drainpipe trousers—though none of the boys have Wham! style haircuts. Russel T. Davies continues with his self-hatred: the positive portrayal of older White men is limited to those who support the pharmaceutical narrative and whose sexual desire is (presumably) domesticated by having a partner. Older Black men lose points if religious, as that is shown as at least comic if not sinister.

Women gain points for being secular, metropolitan and preferably ethnic as well as for dedicating their lives to the service of (young) gay men. Mothers are mostly monsters but redeemed if fat, disabled or married to ethnic males. Davies gives himself the opportunity to address female self-sacrifice but basically gets a monster mother to blame a young woman for being a fag hag—without the show narrative taking responsibility for that accusation or showing the least interest in her personal life—and leaves it at that.

Brian Mullin, writing for the Los Angeles Times, finds that It’s a Sin doesn’t even advance the portrayal of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I used to believe in that pharmaceutical narrative (I don’t now) but I take his point. Davies is very good at only one thing: the portrayal of young gay male jouissance. In this series he simply makes the equation that joy = death.

Davis also airbrushes drag queens, and their internecine war with m-f transsexuals, out of the 80s gay scene in which they literally played a starring role. Instead he’s opted for vaguely sketched cardboard cutouts of “trans” characters, dotted about the set, never centred and never defined. Lesbians are limited to sitting around tables agreeing with gay men and the main character (effeminate and never shown in the least attracted to women) is shown as ridiculous in pondering bisexuality—the only mention of that sexuality at the time of its major struggle for recognition in the lesbian & gay community.

The most grave sins of the series are those committed against Africans portrayed as backwards (with zero recognition of indigenous efforts to resist or even debate the social and biological harms done by corporate pharmaceutical interests from the global north) and, ironically, against young gay men.

This series continues the profitable trend of pushing drugs. Like all the other AIDS stories, It’s a Sin dismisses the proven connection of poppers (ubiquitous in gay discos then and widely used in gay sex) with Kaposi’s sarcoma and ignores the fact that 47 gay men didn’t just turn up coincidentally at a New York hospital all with the same cancer, Michael Gottlieb was studying low T-cell counts in two cities and actively recruited patients. All of whom were long term massive drug users.

The HIV/AIDS hypothesis (at least the Gallo version, there are others) has been the blueprint for all subsequent viral drug and test advertising campaigns—most successfully with “Covid”—and will be used again if the public are stupid and uninformed enough to swallow “Monkeypox”. Predictably, this latest series, like all the others, is being used to push for more public money for the pharmaceutical industry. So it can kill even more people. That’s not an act of charity. It’s a sin.

Cartoon graphic of two dark-haired men staring at an image of a pill bottle on a wall

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Medical Insurance into the Public Domain.

Ash Wednesday 2022

A university library is not one of the places I would associate with Ash Wednesday, but that’s where I am. I debated going to the “Vigil for Ukraine” down the road but I know me. At some point I might have found myself on my feet shouting WHEN’S THE VIGIL FOR YEMEN? Or the DRC. Or Canada, Australia and New Zealand for that matter. When’s the wake for all our school kids? For our elderly? For all those top sportsmen suddenly collapsing on the playing field?

I’m not going to comment on Ukraine other than to say:

  1. It’s been going on for 8 years. Do you really think the WEF-controlled media and Governments focussing on it right now is a coincidence?
  2. If you want a critical evaluation (including the above point) I recommend as your guide, because she says what she can evidence and distinguishes that clearly from what she can’t, Whitney Webb.

[Whitney & Ryan Cristián in discussion on this.]

Meanwhile this is the third year when my elderly mother hasn’t received the ashes and heard the words “dust you are and to dust you shall return”. Actually last year I did an impromptu ceremony for her myself, burning the Holy Week palms from last year. She bears it well. Unlike most of her contemporaries she doesn’t mask (unless manipulated into it) and isn’t vaccinated. It’s probably why, ages with the Queen, she’s still alive. That and her faith, her excellent nutrition and her positive outlook.

One of the reasons why I come to the university library is to read the student newspapers, to see what their concerns are. The issue in the plastic shelves is from September last year. Presumably “Cos of Covid” (CoC). What are their concerns?

  • Accommodation (or lack of, CoC)
  • Administrative chaos, CoC
  • Online exams, CoC
  • Sexual violence (cause: toxic masculinity)
  • Impact of Texas Heartbeat Law on “women, BIPOC and transgender people” (sic.)
  • Phobophobia (sic.)
  • Terrorism
  • Mental health (lots of new counsellors)
  • Student stereotypes (not true)
  • Self-care
  • Lookism
  • The Arts
  • Covid tests
  • Mars
  • Women’s sports (no mention of biological males in them)
  • Paralympics

[Heartbeat Law]

I have great affection for the students in general and my own in particular. Sheep without a shepherd, mostly, they are trying to find their way in a world mostly out to confuse them. Because the confused are easier to control. So many have been vaccinated with these uncontrolled substances, experimental drugs used on an unsuspecting population in callous privileging of profits over people. They regularly miss class due to adverse reactions. So far, no-one has died.

But others have died in my extended family. Of course this is put down to coincidence. To compare the mortality of the vaxxed and unvaxxed is to be a conspiracy theorist – but only if your conclusions are not those sanctioned by the State. Likewise all the “sudden death”, CoC, of course. What else could it be?

So this Ash Wednesday I sit alone in a university library, wishing I was in a world where I had a symbolic mark of death on my forehead – wishing I wasn’t surrounded by a heartbreaking number of young people naive enough to have allowed death to be injected into their arms.

Dust you are and to dust you shall return.

Black and white drawing of skull and crossbones

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image Skull and Crossbones into the public domain.

International Men’s Day

In the late 80s/ early 90s I started some men’s groups. Nowadays, especially in the White liberal middle-class tertiary-educated post-industrial cultural groups that love to congratulate each other for their progressive values on social media, the received wisdom is that membership of a men’s group is evil on a par with joining the Ku Klux Klan. And at least the Klan are honest about it. And, apparently, had a female wing: the WKKK. (By now, they’re probably co-ed and insisting on everyone using inclusive pronouns.)

Despite the prejudice of the gender-obsessed youth born this century and the paranoia of many (not all) middle-aged White feminists, men’s groups in those days were not primarily about women. This may come as a shock. However, yes, on occasion, we men do like to talk to each other about subjects other than our relations with the opposite sex.

Although many men’s groups were self-consciously inspired by their feminist counterparts (more on that later) consciousness-raising was a widespread late 60s/ early 70s strategy of emancipation that by the late 80s was so standard in feminism that its more general application, and revolutionary origin, was often ignored.

Feminism was then (and is even more now) not so much a broad church as shifting and contested female sacred space seething with accusations of ideological heresy, strategic alliance, excommunication and schism – as well as a place of healing, of community and of miraculous resilience and solidarity. So, while my take on male-female relations was based on Dorothy Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the Minotaur and Jean Baker Miller’s Toward a new psychology of women, in said groups the topics of conversation tended to centre men’s self-understanding and relations with other men.

Rather pretentiously (it was that kind of Uni) I subtitled the group, “an experiment in self-conscious brotherhood” and, although there was some flirting, some macho bravado, some backstabbing and a lot of gossiping, that appeared to be the general experience.

We talked about gender stereotypes, about relations among and between gay and heterosexual men, about the possibility and difficulty of bisexuality, about our relations with our fathers, about loneliness and friendship, and a bit about group dynamics. We went for walks and road trips and sat round a fire in somebody’s cottage in the country. We shared meals (some shared beds) and some of those friendships have lasted decades.

Another inspiration was a book by Robert Bly named Iron John, which personally I found rather macho and extremely American (I’m Scottish) but also valuable if read in context: as a corrective to a certain feminist view, now almost universal, of masculinity as incurable toxic. It is precisely because Bly was speaking, rather bluntly, in that context that his work was used to demonise an entire movement.

A few years later, early in the new Millennium I think, a man trying to start a men’s group in Edinburgh, and announcing it on Facebook, was shouted down by feminists insisting on an approved woman chairing each event and policing the topics of conversation. This was at a time when the exclusion of men from female groups was non-controversial. The reason, plainly stated, was that men couldn’t be trusted to gather on our own as our only possible motivation would be to plot against women.

Several things had changed:

  • The Courage to Heal and other sacred texts of the Recovered Memory Movement had convinced a generation of (mostly) young White middle-class women that either they had been abused in early childhood by an older man or had suppressed the memory due to trauma.
  • Madonna’s postfeminist flaunting of feminine allure had won over Dworkin’s aversion of the male gaze.
  • A new generation of girls were being raised to see themselves, primarily, as victims and, automatically, as more worthy of praise for any achievement (due to having to overcome their victimhood) than boys.
  • The adjective “male” replaced the nouns “man” and “boy” whereas the noun “women” replaced the adjective “female”.
  • To address previous and continuing gender imbalance, countermeasures were applied – some of which confused affirmative action with positive discrimination.

So, for example, in university departments (including those overwhelmingly staffed by women) strategies of diversity & inclusion that were set up to balance gender by choosing a less represented demographic candidate over one equally qualified and experienced were popularly understood as a license to employ and promote good women candidates, still bleeding from deep wounds of the gender wars, over the ever-abusive male candidates who had caused them, simply by being born with a Y-chromosome. So basically White middle-class women replaced White middle/ upper-class men.

Meanwhile more and more boys were receiving primary care in exclusively female-led households and primary education from almost exclusively female teachers. In this process they got the message that men are inherently either mad, bad or sad whereas women as wise, good and in touch with their emotions.

So, is it any surprise that so many young men are attempting to “identify” out of being male? Here’s some homework (I’m a teacher, sorry) for you to verify the outrageous claim that there is prejudice against masculinity: look up the hashtag #InternationalMensDay on social media. Read the posts and comments. What percentage of them are positive about masculinity?

If we want young men to stop invading female space and attempting to appropriate female identity, we need to start valuing masculine men.

US Navy Poster of two fit young men wearing white navy caps riveting girders.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson who has released her image Vintage Navy Poster into the Public Domain.

A Fairytale

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was a very purple potato and an exceedingly twisted paperclip.

The potato was very vain and he wasn’t content to stay underground, like all the humble spuds. Instead, he threw his weight about and levered himself up through the soil until he managed to get a place in the sun. There he lazed, belly up in the back garden, and occasionally flopped over and lazed some more. As the sun grew warmer, the potato grew lazier until his flip-flops from lying on his frontside to lying on his backside got longer and longer apart…and his potato skin got more and more purple!

Meanwhile, upstairs in the office space at the front of the house, the paperclip was busy at the computer — tapping out a poison pen letter to herself. (She hadn’t always been a paperclip and had actually started out as a long straight crocodile clip. However she hadn’t liked just being in a box with all the other small stationary items as she felt herself destined for greater things. So she’d started to cry crocodile tears, to get attention, but all that had happened was that they’d rusted her snapping jaws…until they’d broken right off! All she’d been left with was her long steel stalk and, when she’d thought about how unjust her fate was, she’d started twisting sideways and had bent herself so much out of shape that she’d become a paperclip!)

Just as the exceedingly twisted paperclip finished the email to herself, and tapped “SEND”, a movement outside the window caught her eye. She twisted around and looked out.

There she saw a beautiful snow white songbird, with wings flecked with vivid green and purple. The paperclip saw how the songbird soared and swooped around the house and sang — and she envied and hated her. She had to find a way to bring that beautiful free bird down!

As she twisted herself off the desk and out of the door, along the landing and down the stairs, a plan started to form in her twisted steel brain. Twisting into the kitchen and out the back door (picking locks was very easy for a clip of her talents) she headed right up the garden path, ignoring all the lovely green and white and purple flowers around her, until she arrived at the potato patch.

The fat potato, presently sunning his big purple belly, was very surprised indeed to see a mangled item of office stationary twisting up the garden path. “Not In My Potato Patch!” he thought, starchly. He was even more surprised when she ignored him completely and instead bent back to peer up at the netting covering the strawberries in the wooden cold frame. “Well!” thought the purple potato, “what about ME?” And he flipped and flopped his big belly and his backside until he was balanced, precariously, on top of the wee wooden posts that made up the low fence around the vegetable patch. “She’ll have to see me NOW!”

But the exceedingly twisted paperclip had a plan and she was sticking to it. Twisting herself past the potato patch and up one side of the cold frame, she poked and twisted and tore…and pulled the netting right off the strawberries! Twisting back down the side, pulling the netting behind her, she paused when she got back to the potato patch.

A huge, discoloured, fleshy potato was lounging on top of the low wooden fence, obviously trying to pretend he was comfortable and that he wasn’t looking for attention! She eyed him for a moment and then stared down at the netting. A gleam came into her eye. She twisted round to glance up at the songbird, still flying freely and singing sweetly, then twisted right round again.

“Hello spud! Want to help me bring down that bird?”

The fat potato opened one eye, and then shut it. Not pleased at all at this blatant lack of respect for a potato in his position! However, suddenly he realised that she might go away and he’d get no attention at all — and that was the worst thing ever! So he tried to sit himself up, but potatoes of that age and size aren’t very flexible so all he succeeded in doing was to fall off his perch. Right on top of the paperclip!!!

“Je suis pomme de terre!” He said, in what he hoped was a passable French accent. Then added. “I will help with your scheme. That bird has been annoying me all morning! Flapping about and squawking! I hate attention seekers!” But the paperclip, deciding on action rather than talk, stabbed her steel point up into his abundant flesh, scuttled sideways to entangle his bulk in the netting then twisted as she had never twisted before and threw the purple potato up, up into the air towards the songbird, with the netting trailing behind like the tail of a comet!

The potato was horrified at the thought of being stabbed through the heart but, fortunately, he didn’t have one so it was only a flesh wound. Hurtling through the air he looked below to see if the flowers were looking up at him. But they weren’t. They were giving all their attention to the bees and the butterflies.

Then, the potato struck the side of the guttering, flopped over and rolled in, just as the netting flipped over the songbird, who had just alighted on the roof to sing from there.

Startled, the songbird suddenly found herself entangled, her wings pinned to her side and her feet caught in the netting! She let out a trill of terror…and all the green and white and purple flowers lifted up their pretty heads and saw her plight!

“Help me! Help me!” sang out the songbird. “This could happen to any of us! Flower fairies come to my aid!” The songbird was a great friend of the flower fairies, and she often sang songs for them while they danced in the sun or the dew or the moonlight.

The potato couldn’t understand the language of birds and flowers because he only understood selfishness and cruelty. Beauty and compassion were beyond his ken. So, while he was huffing and puffing and humpfing his great discoloured bulk along the gutter to try and see what was going on, he didn’t know that three great bands of flower fairies had risen up from the green and white and purple flowers to fly to the aid of their friend.

Suddenly he saw them all! The sky full of whirring wings and colour as the clever fairies, used to helping each other, lifted the netting right off the struggling songbird — and flew it back down to the cold frame. But then they saw that it wouldn’t stay in place as it had been ripped away from the little tacks that held it. One sharp-eyed fairy spotted the paperclip and joyfully caught it up in her agile hands, using it to lever up the tacks so that the netting could once again be stretched over the strawberries. There was only one place left where the net was too torn, so the fairy drove the point of the paperclip deep into the wood and that pinned down the netting safely.

Meanwhile, up on the roof, the fat potato was outraged that once again he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved! Rolling over in indignation, he almost went over the edge of the guttering and flopped sideways to save himself from falling off the roof! But, so intent on the beautiful songbird and her helpful friends, he didn’t see the downpipe beside him and fell right into it! Down and down and…right down into the drain below than washed down into the sewer!

The exceedingly twisted paperclip is still stuck in place, finally doing something useful, but what became of the fat vain purple potato no-one knows. (Or cares.)

However, the songbird is free to fly and to delight the flower fairies with her songs as they do her with their dancing. After all, they sport the same three colours — and they know that, with love and freedom and mutual aid, good fairy magic will always triumph over the evil plans of the envious…and beautiful songbirds will keep singing!