A polygraph machine. Photo: Dima Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images
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Suzanne Moore: I felt confident about taking a lie detector test. Then I remembered my Robin Hood past

“I just want to explain about the ham,” I said.

When I tell people that I have taken a lie detector test, they always seem to assume I’ve been involved in some major fraud. Or been on Jeremy Kyle. I am not a great liar but I’d always thought that . . . you know, I could front stuff out. Yet, when I found myself on the 35th floor of a Manhattan office block and was shown into a very small waiting room, I began to wonder about my ability to tell the truth.

All of this was happening because I’d applied for a job in a record shop. It sent me for a lie detector test, which it said was standard. Everyone knows that such tests are rubbish. I mean, what’s the science behind them? As I wasn’t a criminal mastermind, it would be no bother but waiting in an airless room made me anxious.

A very large man came out and called me in and said we would talk through “the procedure”.

“No need,” I said breezily. “I have seen it in films.”

“No. It’s important you understand what is about to happen.”

He explained where I would sit, how I would be wired up, how sensors would pick up my heartbeat. “And pulses and perspiration.”

Suddenly I felt very hot. Also, faint.

Then he read out the list of questions he was going to ask me. And I realised I was not prepared for this at all.

“Have you ever stolen anything from a workplace – by ‘anything’, it could be a pen, a drawing pin – or made a phone call for free?”

Jesus. Of course I had.

What about the Saturday job I had at a supermarket, in which I passed stuff through the till for some customers without ringing it up, as I felt that old people should not really have to pay? My personal redistribution of wealth started at 14. When they put me on the deli counter, I decided that anyone who looked a bit poor should get free ham. It never entered my head that this was actual stealing.

Should I say something now, or when I was wired up?

“I will also be asking you several questions about substance abuse. When I say ‘substance’, I am, of course, including alcohol.”

Anticipating your own lies makes you sweat.

He took me to the chair and put stuff around my head, my heart, my fingers.

“I gave out ham. I was really young,” I blurted out.

“Please stay silent and simply answer the questions.”

“It wasn’t ordinary stealing. It was for other people.”

“I have asked you to be quiet.”

“I just want to explain about the ham.”

“Do you understand anything about what is happening now?”

He was very annoyed.

“Yes, that’s why I am trying to be honest. It’s not like I have done an armed robbery.”

At this, the needles on the polygraph went berserk. 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 06 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, An empire that speaks English

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The House of Lords must give EU citizens the right to remain

The government has used more than 3m UK residents as pawns. But the Lords could put a stop to it. 

Theresa May, David Davies and Boris Johnson like playing games. They are well versed in moving around a board, measuring their opponents and using pawns to lure them in.

It is a great relief, then, that the House of Lords are expected to put an end to the game the government is so desperate to play, and stop it from using people as pieces in a negotiation. 

It is my hope the Lords will do this by tabling an amendment to unilaterally secure the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, forcing the House of Commons to think once again.

It will be a welcome move by the Lords, with the country once again relying on an extra level of scrutiny to make sure the government's reckless actions do not risk ruining the lives of people who have lived here for decades.

And if the Lords do so, it will be to support the will of the people: an ICM poll after the referendum found some 84 per cent of British people support letting EU migrants stay, including 77 per cent of Leave voters. And a more recent Opinium poll found that only five per cent of Britons think EU nationals currently living in the UK should be asked to leave.

But those who lead us into the biggest negotiations of our time have said they simply cannot guarantee the rights of more than 3m EU citizens living in the UK until the rights of the 1.2m British citizens in the EU are reciprocated.

Constituents tell me they fear a situation where the government sits contemplating the different ways it can implement its policy of mass deportations.

Indeed, millions of people who are active in our communities and play a vital role in the economy are now worried about exactly that. My own constituents - and those of my colleagues in Westminster - are scared their lives will be torn apart if the government is not given a reciprocal gesture of goodwill.

Migrants make up 10.9 per cent of the workforce. These are people who have added to the sciences, to innovation, to the NHS and social care. These are people, not collateral.

Not only immoral, this approach seems fundamentally flawed. Would it not, as our Prime Minister said, be a good thing to approach the negotiations as friends with our European neighbours? Would it, therefore, not be the greatest gesture of friendship to afford EU citizens their right to reside in the UK at the soonest possible opportunity?

Already a leaked document has indicated the government’s approach making it difficult for EU nationals in the UK to acquire permanent residence is likely to mean British nationals living on the continent can expect a backlash of their own.

So, as the government prepares to quash any amendments proposed by the Lords to its bill, the onus will shift onto MPs on all sides of the house to accept this crucial amendment. 

Before the next vote Democratic Unionist Party and Conservative politicians must all ask themselves, are they happy to use people as “negotiating capital”?

Catherine West is the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.