In this week’s New Statesman: Scotland unchained

A rare interview with SNP leader Alex Salmond. PLUS: Caitlin Moran – what makes us human?

Cover Story: “This is the phoney war. This is not the campaign”

In a rare print interview with NS editor Jason Cowley this week, First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond declares "the real game hasn’t even started" and reveals that a written Scottish constitution would guarantee every young person the right to a job or training.

The SNP leader says he aspired to introduce a written constitution for “every 16- and 19-year-old to have a training place or an opportunity of a job if they are not already in an apprenticeship or a job or full-time education . . . we should aspire to establish certain rights – the right to a free education, the right to youth employment”.

Elsewhere, Salmond insists his party will win the independence referendum, sets out a vision for an independent Scotland within the EU, rubbishes the “Better Together” campaign and declares the bedroom tax a political insanity.

Read exclusive extracts here.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE MAGAZINE

 

The Politics Column: Why both Labour and the Tories secretly think the 2015 election might be a good one to lose

“When an election looks hard to win, MPs sometimes seek solace in the myth that it might not, after all, be so bad to lose” writes Rafael Behr in the Politics Column this week. It’s a “virus” that infected the Labour ranks before the 2010 election. Now, the same malady has taken hold on the Conservative benches. Behr continues:

This attitude is not quite the same as defeatism, which is the fatalistic anticipation of loss. It is defeatophilia – a sadomasochistic faith in the purgative benefits of electoral spanking. The obvious rebuttal is that unity around a sharpened doctrine won’t be much use in opposition but the Tory defeatophiles have an answer. Labour’s inability to govern in austere times, they say, must be exposed. Let Ed Miliband flounder before the challenge of cutting budgets with his trade union paymasters in uproar. Only after a catastrophic single term of unstable Labour (or Lib-Lab) rule will the national appetite be whetted for authentic Conservatism; bring on another winter of discontent to augur the second coming of Thatcherism.

Read the Politics Column in full here.

 

Caitlin Moran: “What makes us human? Joy”

The Times columnist and author of How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran, writes the eighth piece in our “What Makes Us Human?” series, published in association with BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show.

“The ways in which we are – and no offence to any other animals reading – totally superior to the beasts are manifold,” she writes. “It’s not like I don’t respect the fauna. I really do. But we are the species that invented a machine that vends crisps to drunken, hungry, heartbroken people at deserted coach stations at two in the morning . . .”

What makes us uniquely human is “joy, and the joy we take in our joy”, says Moran, taking in everything from Friday nights (“one of mankind’s greatest inventions, up there with the pyramids and the moon shot . . . You can hear hiss of the fizzy wine calling”) to hot baths (“Consider the nearest that animals get to this kind of day-to-day euphoric experience: wallowing in a puddle that’s had a double-glazing flyer dropped in it”) to the Beatles (“You know how some people have religion. . . ? Brought up by atheist hippies, I have the Beatles”).

 

Daniel Trilling: A letter from Greece

Daniel Trilling visits the remote village of Ierissos, Thessaloniki, the site of a “bitter dispute” between inhabitants and an invasive gold mining/extraction company. Despite local opposition, the government says the project must move forward – “Greece’s profound economic crisis allows no alternative.” Trilling continues:

As politicians try to sell the new Greece, the social crisis continues to deepen. Hospitals are so underfunded that they run short of basic medical supplies. What’s more, public anger shows no signs of abating. A group of enraged villagers who don’t want their mountain turned into an open-cast mine could severely damage the perception that Greece is a safe place for global capital.

PLUS

Kate Mossman goes to a Rihanna gig

Mark Damazer reviews Modernity Britain by David Kynaston

Marcus Mill and Robert Skidelsky deplore the despair caused by austerity

Laurie Penny on life lessons learned from Doctor Who

Will Self bemoans the pointless innovation of 3D cinema

Sarah Churchwell on the dark reality of the 1920s New York jazz scene

Alex Hern on Neil Gaiman

 

Purchase a copy of this week's New Statesman in newsstands today, or online at: subscribe.newstatesman.com

This article first appeared in the 24 June 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Mr Scotland

John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.