Sunday, 4 September 2016

My letter of rejection by the Labour NEC, and my response.

In June, I applied to join the Labour party. I believed that as a result of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, the Party was at last starting to reflect the philosophy and policies which I feel a truly socialist party should. When a challenge was made to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, I thought it important that he should get all the support he could and I wanted to be in a position to vote for him. As the vindictive attacks continued against Corbyn I was, naively, bewildered by the attitude of the Parliamentary Party, and it has taken me some time to understand what is going on. It is now clear that his opponents don't fear that Labour cannot win an election under Corbyn, they fear that he can win. A victory for a left of centre Labour Party in a general election would jeopardise the comfortable wellbeing of a great many influential people, and the overwhelming power of the transnational corporations in the UK but also in Europe would be threatened.

That is why I applied to join the Labour Party, and that is why my application has been refused!

Below I show the letter I received from the General Secretary, and below that, my response.

Labour Party Membership
The Labour Party
Head Office
Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QT
Labour Central, Kings Manor, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 6PA

0345 092 2299 |

1 September 2016

Dear Tim,
Thank you for your recent application to become a member of the Labour Party. 

The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society. However, for fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. They shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated, and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.

A panel of the National Executive Committee (NEC) has considered your application, and decided to invoke Appendix 2.1.B.x of the Labour Party’s rules, which states:

“At any time before the individual is accepted as a full member of the Party, the General Secretary may rule that the individual application for membership be rejected for any reason which s/he sees fit”

Under the procedures of the National Executive Committee (NEC), if a rejected applicant for membership has acted in a way, within the past two years which, had s/he been a member at the time, would have meant they were auto-excluded from membership, there is no appeal against the decision to reject the application. In your case, the reason for your application being rejected is as follows:

You publicly showed support for the Green party on social media on 12 October 2014.

The NEC will not normally consider a further application for membership until two years has elapsed, unless you write to us and we consider there are exceptional circumstances. 

Yours sincerely,

Iain McNicol
General Secretary of The Labour Party

I found the above letter deeply offensive. I am replying as shown below:

The Labour Party Head Office
105 Victoria Street
 5 September 2016

For attention of Mr Iain McNicol, General Secretary
 Dear Mr McNicol

I must thank you for your letter dated 1 September 2016 rejecting my application to join the Labour Party.

Firstly, I would like to take issue with the fact that it has taken this long for you to come to this conclusion, following my application in June, and subsequent confirmation of my membership, including issuing me with a membership number.

Secondly, on the issue of my showing support for the Green Party in social media one month under two years ago, my exclusion seems to me unnecessarily petty and vindictive, and gives the impression that your team have been desperately seeking an excuse to exclude me (and many others in similar circumstances) for reasons of your own.

Thirdly, although I have no recollection of this social media entry, I am quite sure that whatever I was supporting was entirely compatible with socialist values. My political beliefs haven’t changed, only the means to express them. At that time, the Green Party was the only credible left of centre party around, and it would have been surprising if I had not found something in their policies to support.

I have been in complete sympathy with your publicly declared zero tolerance for abuse in social media.  Your letter to me made much of your stand regarding abuse, intimidation and so on.  While I agree with and accept the stand you take, I strongly object to the implication in your letter that my ‘transgression’ somehow equates to the abuse and intimidation you refer to.

On the subject of abuse, I have noted with interest the apparent indifference in the NEC to instances of abusive or unacceptable language on the part of prominent Labour members, whether it is Mr Wayne David’s inexcusable racist remarks on BBC radio in Wales, Michael Foster’s characterisation of  Corbyn supporters as Nazi storm troopers, Mr Frank Field’s much publicised reference to an ‘execution squad’, and even Mr John McTernan’s reference to certain MPs as morons. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe all those mentioned here are still entitled to vote in the upcoming leadership election, and have retained their Party membership.

I noted some time ago that you declared your intention not to interfere in the leadership election.  However I suggest to you that outside observers (of which I am now one) could be forgiven for thinking that the treatment by the NEC of would be voters in the leadership election has been partisan.  I would also suggest to you that in the event of an Owen Smith victory later this month, the consequences for the Party and the NEC would be dire, as that result could only be achieved as a result of the disenfranchisement of thousands of Corbyn supporters.

Lastly, I see that recently an MP publicly stated that the objective in this leadership challenge was never to displace Jeremy Corbyn, but merely to cause trouble.  This leads me to question what has happened to this Party, which I support. You head the NEC and presumably aspire to being a man of integrity. It cannot be right that Members of Parliament, who claim to be democrats, refuse to accept a democratically elected leader.  The lack of integrity shown by some of those MPs comes very close to falling within the definition of corruption.  I would have hoped that you, as General Secretary, and therefore without bias in all this, could have used your very considerable influence to unite, not divide, the Party.

Yours sincerely

Tim Thomson

Friday, 12 August 2016

Labour Wars

Todays decision by the appeal court in favour of the NEC, to block some 130,000 Party members from voting in the Labour leadership election, left me, along with many others, angry and surprised. It seems to be an attack on the democratic process of the Labour Party.

But my next reaction has been to try to figure out what had been achieved, and indeed what the aim had been of the whole process.

From the point of view of the five new members who brought the case, I guess their motives were twofold; first, to establish their right (and the right of others) to vote in the leadership election, but second, to make a point of democratic principle.

On the first objective, unless they choose to take the case to a higher court, they have failed. On the second point, in the eyes of the world at large I believe they have succeeded.

Now, from the point of view of the NEC, what was their objective and what have they achieved?

Their objective had little to do with either Owen Smith or Jeremy Corbyn, but was about control of the Party, and in this respect, poor old Owen Smith is just a pawn! They are hoping, I believe, for an early election, before the leadership issue has been resolved, in the conviction that after a disastrous loss, Jeremy Corbyn would be forced to resign and all would ‘go back to normal’. The new leader would then be someone like Hilary Benn, and we would be able to settle back into the neoliberal narrative.

What have they achieved? Well, first a massive disillusionment among the Party membership, who are unlikely to trust any of the so-called rebels again, in particular, Tom Watson and the NEC members responsible for all this. Secondly, they have demonstrated to a very wide chunk of the electorate a degree of incompetence probably only equalled by Britain First, and which we would not wish to see in a Party of Government!

Should our brave five take this to a higher court? I don’t believe so. It costs money, which most of us are short of. If they won, there would be some satisfaction in the knowledge that democracy prevailed. However the evidence is strong that even if they lost there would be no difference in the result of the leadership election, which we are confident Jeremy Corbyn will win. The NEC in its present form is discredited beyond redemption, and their actions will not be forgotten. Those new members who will have been unable to cast a vote would and should feel slighted, but should also feel satisfied that a democratic result to the election will have been achieved, albeit with reduced eligible membership.

Where next, then? It is increasingly clear that there are elements in the PLP who would prefer a split to a Labour victory under Jeremy Corbyn, a sentiment already famously voiced by Tony Blair. Against this, there are many CLPs who clearly support Corbyn, against the inclination of their MPs. So even disregarding the prospect of mandatory reselection, which nobody is so far advocating as a policy, there are a number of MPs who may find themselves with these options; to back the leadership, unless they are to lose completely any support from their CLPs; to resign from the party, in which case they would be under considerable pressure to trigger a by-election, when a new candidate might well be selected; or to sit, disgruntled, on the back benches, just being a nuisance, and suffering discontent from all sides – not a good position from which to discharge the duties of a constituency MP.

I believe that, important though this court case has been in exposing the leanings and prejudices of the parties involved, it has now become an irrelevance. The process, organized by a group of incredibly incompetent rebels against the leadership and the membership, has immeasurably strengthened Corbyn’s position as well as enhancing his stature in the Labour movement. From here, when the dust has settled, I believe that a Labour Party united under Corbyn is very well set up to campaign for, and win, the opportunity to govern after the next general election. My feeling is that there will be no snap election – Teresa May perceives that she has too much to lose and little to gain (she too wants to leave a legacy!) and she, at least, does not underestimate the strength of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

My Letter to my MP George Eustice following the EU Referendum

Dear George

EU Referendum

I am aware that your preference for a referendum result on June 23rd was the one that was achieved. However it is important to me that you, my representative in Westminster, should be in a position to take my views into account in any debates on this subject.

The reason we had a referendum
You may remember a recent email from me in which I expressed the view that the referendum should not take place; that such decisions should be taken by Parliament. I felt that the referendum was promised for reasons internal to the Conservative party, and thus our position in Europe and globally was being put at risk for relatively trivial reasons.

The legality of the referendum
At least two experts have questioned the legality of the referendum, and a legal challenge is not out of the question. (This gleaned from press reports.)

The Campaigns
I believe that the two official campaigns (both led by Conservatives) and the one led by Nigel Farage, were to a greater or lesser degree based on finding fault with others’ arguments, instilling uncertainty and fear, making exaggerated claims, and deliberate deceit. Many of the ‘promises’ made during the campaigns have subsequently been rowed back from. There was no real effort, on either side of these campaigns, to point out strong, positive, factual reasons, either for remaining in the EU or for leaving. The Leave campaigners in particular made increasingly bizarre claims about what we as a nation on our own could achieve, making light of the immense difficulties which complicated trade deals can encounter. Politicians of other countries have already called these claims into question.

Voting patterns
Different parts of the country showed wide variations in the results. For example, Cornish fishermen were voting to leave, because they believed they would be allowed to catch more fish (an assertion subsequently thrown into doubt). Voting patterns among different age groups were significant. Those in my age group (OAPs) predominantly voted to leave, while the younger voters – those who will be most affected by the result – voted to remain. It was unfortunate, in my view, that a minimum voting age of 16 was not introduced, as was the case for the Scottish referendum.

The reasons people voted as they did
It has become very clear, since June 23rd, that many people regret the choice they made. Recent reputable polls suggest that about 1.3 million people have come to believe that they made a mistake. I read of a woman in tears because she thought that by voting to leave, she was voting to give the NHS 350 million GBP per week. Another thought that voting ‘Leave’ simply meant that immigrants would leave. Many people whose interviews were reported on TV were making a protest gesture, believing it would have no effect. Google has reported a spike in enquiries for definitions of ‘EU’ and ‘Brexit’ after the polls had closed, suggesting that many people had no idea what they were voting about. This must be considered a failure on the part of the campaigners to explain the basis for their respective positions.

Where we are now
The negative effects of the vote are becoming clearer. Until now I have not detected any positive effects. Indeed, speaking personally, I have not yet heard a sound factual argument for the benefits of leaving! It seems entirely possible that the knock-on results may include a new Scottish referendum, which may well succeed this time. There is a possibility that a referendum in Northern Ireland could ultimately lead to a reunification of the two parts of that island. The unraveling and disintegration of the EU over time is a likely outcome, and that is surely something we should rather fear than welcome, particularly with the current Russian regime waiting in the wings. We are likely to be increasingly a puppet of the USA, a prospect some may welcome but I do not. Current indications are that our economy will suffer for many years to come.

What should happen next
The primary duty of Government is to protect the interests of the Nation. I believe that duty is incompatible with the invocation of Article 50. There is significant pressure for there to be a debate in Parliament on the matter, which could well halt the process. The House of Lords is overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU. There is a petition signed by over 4 million people asking for a second referendum. The three options are these: for the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50, with the consequent backlash and legal challenges; for there to be a debate and vote in Parliament at which time the referendum result could either be set aside, or acted upon, depending on the result; or there could be a second referendum which of course would have to be followed through with appropriate action. In a second referendum, claims and counter claims should be factual and informative and should be subjected to independent scrutiny, to avoid a recurrence of the current uncertainties. Any one of these options is likely to result in some kind of backlash – the inevitable result arising from the original decision by the Prime Minister to hold a referendum.

It's not just me!
Can I ask you to take the time to watch this video put out by Professor Michael Dougan of the University of Liverpool Law School, who echoes, from an expert standpoint all my concerns about the ‘Brexit’ referendum.

In summary
I believe that the referendum result was won by deceit, exaggeration and some wishful thinking. I believe strongly that it should not be acted upon without, at the very least, a Parliamentary debate, in which the conduct of the campaigns, and the risks and benefits arising from a ‘Brexit’, are examined. I believe that the main reason for continuing unhappiness with the result of the campaign is the widely held belief that its legitimacy is open to question; I further believe that Parliament should act quickly to re-establish some legitimacy into the process.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Is bombing ever 'a good thing'?

How have we, the inhabitants of the supposedly civilized Western world, come to a position where it seems right to kill people for political expediency? Especially when to people like me, the unimportant ones, the ones who have no influence, it seems obvious that the more people we bomb and kill, the more chaos will ensue, the more hostility we will generate, the more refugees will flea to Europe. And furthermore, our position as bedfellows to some very nasty people will be consolidated.

I suppose it’s all part of the ‘big picture’. As a person I find all this aggression extremely hard to accept, but perhaps if I was a politician, particularly one of rank, my priorities would change, and my focus would be on expediency and keeping on the right side of allies. Must all politicians leave their humanity on the back burner?
Judging by the actions of the UK Government since May, this must be true of many of our politicians; but I believe that loss of humanity is only one half of what I perceive to be the problem. The other half is an almost complete lack of imagination — an inability to think outside the box (a fatal flaw, I believe, in any political leader). After all Isis have apparently unlimited access to fuel, to arms, (how many of these are British made I wonder!), to cash. If those supply lines were cut, the movement would surely crumble. An alternative, difficult action, but surely achievable and effective.

It became clear to me, in the recent aftermath of the tragic events in Paris, when I watched the newscasts showing our Prime Minister standing cliché to cliché with President Hollande, that contrary to what he claims, force is the preferred option. The similarities between the Cameron approach and the Blair approach before the Iraq invasion are inescapable. Can we trust the secret briefings? Can we trust the claim that there are 70,000 ‘good guys’ on the ground in Syria? On balance, should I believe that the world would be a better place if we increase the number of bombs by a small percentage? Can I seriously accept that the complicated scenario which exists between Syria’s Government, Syria’s rebels, Turkey, the Kurds, The Russians, Iran and the so-called coalition led by the USA will be enhanced by a few British bombs? Statements lead us to believe that we have a capacity for accurate targeting unavailable to our allies: I find that hard to believe, but if true, would that minimize civilian casualties or diminish the risk of retaliatory actions? Information on civilian casualty numbers arising from our recent drone strikes, and bombings in Iraq, do not appear in a press widely supportive of the aggressive approach.
So many questions, so few answers!

For sure those extra bombs would get a few brownie points with Messrs. Hollande and Obama, but only until the next time! After all, how much long-term damage was done to the ‘special relationship’ by Harold Wilson’s refusal to join in the Viet Nam debacle?

The narrative offered by the pro-bombing lobby seems to me to be incomplete, and that is being kind. It seems that rather than dealing in firm and unequivocal facts it leans towards emotional blackmail and some kind of pseudo-patriotism. It would be immoral to rely on the activities of other nations to protect us from the threatened horrors of Isis. (Surely this is an almost identical approach that Tony Blair took in the run up to the Iraq invasion.) David Cameron has stated in terms that we are entitled to attack in Syria in self-defence; but we would only be defending ourselves against the retaliatory actions of those we seek to bomb. He says that it would be illogical to continue striking in Iraq but not in Syria: I agree! We should not be bombing in Iraq, but in the words of some sage or other, ‘I wouldn’t have started from here’.

There are many wise people out there who believe that to launch air strikes in Syria would be a mistake. There are many MPs who feel the same. My hope is that, for the sake of humanity, they win the day.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Russell Brand Phenomenon

The other day Russell Brand got himself a prestigious slot with Jeremy Paxman, presumably on the back of being a guest editor on the New Statesman, with a theme of revolution.

His somewhat wild rant to Paxman ‘went viral’, with a massive amount of support in the social media, but I found myself deeply critical of what he said – or more precisely what he didn’t say. I briefly expressed my concerns a couple of times in said social media, and found myself strongly challenged.

I decided to defend my position (which by the way I share with a few people a good deal more distinguished than I will ever be!).

One point that has been made to me was that at least he started a debate. True, but it was the wrong debate. The debate that Brand started, and which has become so popular, became all about what is wrong with the system, the crookedness and deceit of MPs, the pointlessness of voting and how the system looks after big business at the expense of us poor mortals.

My difficulty lies in what might be considered to be Mr Brand’s lack of ambition. Although he is claiming to be looking for a revolution, he is actually talking about protest, which is a much less powerful beast. In my mind, Brand’s protestations are a bit like the wailing of a child in a cot – he is unhappy, even distressed, but he doesn’t know why, he just wants someone else to come along and fix it!

He is right in one respect at least, which is that we do indeed need a revolution. But the point he misses is that a revolution always has a specific goal in mind. I am no historian, but there have been revolutions in Russia, Cuba, several South American countries, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and even South Africa, and in every case the revolutionaries, whether successful or not, knew what they wanted to achieve, unlike Mr Brand, who only knows what he wants to destroy.

People who complain that their vote doesn’t count have it wrong – it always counts. To start with a candidate can gauge his level of support and plan for the next occasion. But in truth, a single voter cannot expect to see his or her personal wishes reflected in the National Parliament unless those wishes are shared by a majority of voters, because we have a representative democracy which doesn’t work like that.

Russell Brand has never voted and doesn’t see the point in doing so because he doesn’t like the system – and this view seems to be shared by millions of people. But where were all those people, Mr Brand included, when we were given a referendum on changing the voting system? I presume he didn’t vote then either!

I would like Mr Brand to know that he is not the first to despair of our current system. He is not the first to find fault with our financial services, or the support by Government for large and powerful organisations, or our broken agricultural and food supply chain models and much more. But if Mr Brand wants to use his celebrity status to change things, there are many organisations he could lend his support to with good effect. Here are some:

New Economic Foundation
Positive Money
Campaign for Real Farming
GM Freeze
Good Energy
The Green Party
Friends of the Earth

And of course there are many more out there – you only have to look.

So wake up Mr Brand. The revolution has already started, and all these organisations are making it happen. I’m sorry if it isn’t happening quickly enough for you, but unlike protests, revolutions take time.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

I Dined At Fifteen Cornwall Last Night…

I was being treated. It was my first time. I was collected at 7pm and driven (at nerve wracking speed!) through a pitch black gale-riven rain-drenched night; weather which would not allow me to experience the much praised view from the huge length of glass panelling overlooking the bay.

I had little idea what to expect, and my first impression was one of bright space. Lots of tables, but not crammed together; large tear-drop pendant lights, with, I am sure, energy efficient bulbs; and welcoming smiles. The atmosphere was one of friendly cheerfulness, without any of that pseudo-subservience found in so many ‘posh’ restaurants. There is mutual respect between staff and customers. And my goodness, those guys know their stuff!

James, the young man taking our orders, who had been working there for a couple of months, talked us through an extensive menu, explaining in fine detail how each dish was put together and how the components worked with each other to achieve an effect. His command of it was stunningly impressive, and someone soon will need to pay him very good money indeed to employ him!

Gordon is a world-class sommelier. I was not going to be asked to choose the wine I would drink – I was going to be told, not only what wine would be served with each course, but why, with an explanation of how the grape was grown, where it was grown, why it was different from wines from neighbouring vineyards, and something about the people who make the wine. Pretentious? Not on your life. Gordon knows his stuff to a daunting degree (I have never been that expert at anything) and wanted to impart as much of that knowledge as possible in the short time available. None of that ‘A suspicion of gorse in the breeze’ crap but pure unadulterated expertise in a language anyone could feel comfortable with. He even suggested to me that after experiencing the Soave he produced, I should keep the taste in mind and try a supermarket Soave the next day to see the difference! My response – I would rather not, as the next Soave I would drink would almost certainly come from a Supermarket, because of budgetary constraints.

As the food was served, discreetly without fuss, there was none of that ‘OK, who’s having the crab?’! Everyone, including Gordon, knew which of us had ordered what. Each course turned up exactly when we were ready, together with fresh glasses for the next wine. Used plates and cutlery were cleared equally discreetly. And all the while there were cheerful smiles.

Without wishing to get too sugary, I am bound to say that in a very literal sense the whole thing worked like a symphony. The food, the wine, the service, the cheerful respect, nothing either overdone or underdone (I don’t mean just the food) contrived to produce a dining experience you would need to go a long way to match.

And consider where this experience comes from. Jamie Oliver set up a charity called Cornwall Food Foundation, which is funded largely from the restaurant, and whose purpose in a nutshell is to give young men and women from less than ideal backgrounds the chance to learn to become top class chefs. With expert teaching and support these young people, working side by side with skilled professionals, produce meals such as the one that I enjoyed.

Is it worth the money? That question cannot be answered. The menu prices are by my standards eye-watering.

Is a £500,000 house worth the money? Or a £50,000 car? Not to me! I don’t need it and wouldn’t be interested even if I could afford it. But to other people with different standards and priorities? Presumably yes.

Is it worth spending that kind of money to support this extremely effective charity? Without question, if you can afford it.

If I had to pay next time, would I go again? If the credit card would stand it, if the occasion or the company called for it, then absolutely without question!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Just What Is It With The BBC?

Last May in the USA a brave lady called Tami Canal started a movement called March Against Monsanto, because it had proved impossible to have food containing genetically modified ingredients labelled as such in California. Initially she hoped for support from perhaps 3000 people. In the event, on the Saturday in question it was estimated that two million people in 436 cities in 52 countries turned out with banners to express their support, first of all for the principle that GM food should be so labelled, but also for the campaign against the use of GMOs in our food chain.

I would have thought that was a pretty major event! But try as I might, I was unable to find any reference to it in any of the BBC’s news coverage anywhere!

The event is being planned again for October 12th. I wonder if it will make the news this time.

Like most disappointments, I allowed this one to fade from my thoughts.

In June Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, (an avowed climate change sceptic, by the way) gave a memorable speech to Rothamsted Research Centre in which he expressed enthusiastic support for GM crops, basing his enthusiasm on a selection of ‘facts’ which even his most loyal supporters would have had difficulty swallowing. This speech, however, received copious BBC coverage; as did the Prime Minister’s endorsement of the process.

In August, Dara O Briain’s Science Club programme went out with a ‘fun’ piece about using genetic modification to combat malaria. Now whatever you may think about the principle, this particular process is not without pitfalls and is far, far from fool-proof. And yet the programme was screened in such a way as to leave the viewer with the impression that genetic modification was ‘it’, ‘the answer’, problem solved. No room for doubt!

On September 18th, the BBC ran the first episode of Science Britannica with Professor Brian Cox, who is a particle physicist (O Briain studied maths and physics) as well as being a rather ubiquitous media star. I was watching it idly with half an eye, it not being on my list of things I must not miss, when Prof. Cox started talking about GM crops. By the time I was fully awake, the 5 minute section was long gone. I was away from home at the time, so my feeling of unease at the spin being put on GMOs by Cox was put on hold until I got home.

Then I was trawling through iPlayer and decided to run the programme again. This time the spin made me not just uneasy but angry!

Here is the letter I have written to the BBC.

BBC Complaints
PO Box 1922

Dear Sirs

Science Britannica episode 1
Broadcast on 18th September at 9 pm

I have recently watched, for the second time, the first episode of Science Britannica, and was very concerned at the evident bias of the programme regarding GM crops, about 40 minutes in to the programme. It was probably the most prejudicial five minutes of television I have seen in many years. This bias has appeared before in a previous program, Dara O Briain’s Science Club. It is becoming clear that the BBC, along with certain politicians, is keen to portray the anti GMO lobby as either nonexistent, or ignorant, fearful, and anti-science.

It is certainly the case that on the subject of climate change, the BBC have been criticised for giving disproportionate air time and credibility to climate change ‘deniers’ and I would echo that criticism, because there is no longer a scientific rationale for their position. But to imply, as Brian Cox does, that there is no scientific rationale for the position of the anti GMO lobby is to misunderstand the situation completely, and I would expect a more balanced approach from him and from a BBC science-based programme.

As with the ‘Science Club’ programme before it, the case for GM crops was made in a way which suggested that no credible opposing view exists. Professor Cox appeared to regret that scientists ‘have not always been able to control the debate’, but these programmes make it clear that they are trying to do just that. Cox suggests that ‘public opinion has been led by a vigorous anti GM campaign that started in the 1990s, which left many people dead set against GM crops’. This statement was accompanied by a film of white-suited figures jumping up and down in a field. That was as close as we have come to hearing a view from anyone who is against GM food, although today’s concerns arise not from those 1990s protests but from substantial research into the effects of GM food on both agriculture and animals, not just in a laboratory, but also in the field.

Cox continues, ’There are fears that the crops may contaminate the environment or that they may be unsafe to eat, and underlying it all is a feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong about meddling with life at such a basic level.’ It is clear that Cox has not taken the time to listen to any of the premises which give rise to the opposition to GMOs. In the Americas the environment has already been irretrievably contaminated. Many ill patients in the USA have been prescribed an organic diet by their doctors, to escape the effect of the GM ingredients in almost all American food; this prescription proving successful.

Professor Cox’s interview with Professor Jones starts with an inane question about the label ‘Frankenfood’, inane because this was a journalist’s term, not one espoused by those concerned about the process, and Jones’ response was as predictable as it was banal. Cox raises the spectre of the ‘unnatural’ process, again prompting a predictable response from Jones – a response I might have used myself!

Jones rhetorically asks the obvious question, ‘What is the least bad way of protecting our crops from disease and pests, or reducing the losses caused by weeds?’ and the viewer is left to conclude that GMOs must be that least bad way.

Then Cox baldly states that Professor Jones’ view ‘is also backed up by a vast body of research that shows it to be safe and effective.’

I challenge Professor Cox to find any of that vast body of evidence. (Substantial Equivalence testing doesn’t prove anything!) I used to share Brian Cox’s willing acceptance of the GMO philosophy, until I discovered that there is no substantial research which shows that GM food is safe, and that there are many reputable and peer-reviewed scientists who say that it is not, with the evidence from tests on animals to substantiate their view. As to the effectiveness of the process, there is overwhelming evidence throughout the Americas and India which shows that the emerging disadvantages of GM crops outweigh the advantages, and that alternative less invasive science-based agricultural methods are more productive.

Professor Cox expresses himself baffled as he feels that simply presenting the evidence should be sufficient to convince us laymen. A more productive dialogue might emerge if he was to present all the evidence. He calls for effective public engagement. Does he mean that? There are plenty of scientists with credentials as worthy as his who would be happy to ‘engage’ with him and with Professor Jones.

I hope that you will be able to investigate the one-sided approach to this matter exemplified in this programme, with a view to re-establishing the reputation for fairness which used to be the hallmark of BBC programming.

I look forward to your early reply

In the past I have ignored suggestions that the BBC’s impartiality is a myth. But now I am beginning to wonder. It is crystal clear that the unscientific Mr Paterson has formed his views based on the scientific opinions he is given by his establishment advisers. It is certainly the case that those opinions are coloured by the GM industry, or at least their extremely well funded propaganda machine. It can be proved that as soon as a study emerges that finds fault with any aspect of GM crops, that propaganda machine will take steps to discredit it. The same tactics were used by the tobacco industry for years, and are still being used by the oil industry in respect of global warming. Happily both the politicians and the BBC have realised that the positions taken by those industries have been discredited some time ago.

All the same, when it is increasingly clear that the policies of this Government are guided by the demands of Big Business (just listen to David Cameron’s conference speech!) it is disconcerting to think that the policies of the BBC are increasingly influenced by the Government.