We’re told that Mhairi Black, the youngest new MP in Parliament at the age of 20, was still in college when she beat Labour’s Douglas Alexander in the General Election. Was she studying plagiarism?
Take a look at the following part of her maiden speech, made earlier today (Tuesday) and quoted in The Independent:
“After hearing the Labour leader’s intentions to support the changes to tax credits that the Chancellor has put forward, I must make this plea through the words of one of your own, and of a personal hero of mine.
“Tony Benn once said that in politics there are weathercocks and signposts. Weathercocks will spin in whatever direction the wind of public opinion may blow them, no matter what principle they have to compromise.
“Then, there are signposts – signposts that stand true, and tall, and principles. They point in a direction and they say ‘this is the way to a better society and it is my job to convince you why’.
“Tony Benn was right when he said the only people worth remembering in politics are signposts.”
Now read this Vox Political article from yesterday, Labour is a ‘headless chicken’ over tax credits.
This Blog’s piece relies heavily on Tony Benn’s ‘weathercocks and signposts’ analogy to make its point about the interim Labour leader’s attitude to the proposed cut in tax credits. While Mhairi Black’s words weren’t exactly the same, it wouldn’t take a genius to read this piece and – if you’re an admirer of the great man, put together something similar using his words.
Is it really feasible that she could have come to this choice of material, in this context, independently? Nobody else has.
Such similarity – in subject matter, tone, and the material quoted – suggests a rip-off. If this is the case, Mhairi Black should be lucky to get off with a stern warning.
Instead she’s the toast of Twitter!
Of course, we’ll never know if she didn’t write her speech independently. If this is the case, she’s hardly going to admit it – and This Writer isn’t going to take any further action because it wouldn’t be worth it.
But This Blog is part of my livelihood and if it seems to me that someone is harming that livelihood, then I’ll call “foul” on it.
As for you Mhairi Black – if you did rip off This Blog, shame on you.
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You should be flattered – I have to say that because I often copy parts of your article when I post your blog to F/B and Google – it gets them interested and hopefully on to your site for the rest. Hope you don’t mind, but that’s what comes of being too clever for your own good. Haha
The difference is, you’re quoting my article in order to get people to read the rest of it – not trying to get people to think it’s all your own work.
I don’t mind being quoted at all, as long as I’m credited.
You might be right, in which case I’d take it as a good indication of how far Vox Political travels and influences. It was a good maiden speech anyway.
“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action”
― Ian Fleming
Circumstance. “Twice is circumstance.
“The third time, it’s enemy action.”
My quote came from Goldfinger. Where was your quote from?
“Goldfinger said, ‘Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action”.’”
I not that I was mistaken about “circumstance”. That’s a shame; it made for a better line.
I hope that this is a joke, Mike, otherwise this is scurrilous & incredibly arrogant. Are you seriously making an allegation of plagiarism against a young lady who has just obtained a First Class degree in Politics on the basis that she’s used the same quote you’ve used? Do you honestly think she just knocked up her maiden speech in the past 24 hours, or that she wouldn’t be aware of one of Tony Benn’s oft-repeated lines independently of you? Moreover, her use of Benn could not even be said to plagiarising you even if she were aware of your usage, which I doubt.
I’m a great admirer of your work in the public sphere Mike, but I fear it may be going to your head. I think you owe Ms. Black an apology.
She would certainly have written the part referring to Labour’s stance on tax credits within the previous 24 hours or so, because it was not previously known to the public. Therefore, it is as I wrote in the article – the similarity in subject matter, tone, and material quoted, coupled with the fact that her speech was made a full day after my article was published, leads one to the conclusion that she thought she could use my words because VP is a small political blog that few people read and she could take material from it with impunity.
I’m not the one involved in scurrilous activity, here.
As I’ve pointed out to you on Twitte, she used the exact same quote in The Times a full 12 days before you used it here, so if anything it’s incumbent on *you* now to show that you aren’t stealing her intellectual spadework. Or you could just, you know, withdraw your allegation and publicly apologise for making such libellous claims in the first place?
Libellous now, is it?
My reasons for calling her out on it are very clear and anyone with knowledge on such matters will tell you that they are sound. Put it before a person with no prior preference and they will say there is a prima facie case to be answered. It is incumbent on Ms Black to demonstrate that she could not have drawn inspiration from my article.
One less reader of this blog from now on.. Your attacks on the SNP seeem to be based on pure hatred for the way they wiped out Labour.
If a Labour MP had used your words you would have been fawing over them and saying how frighfully glad you were they quoted you and had eventually listened. But then again no one from Labour will quote your blog because they are all still memorising the Tory manifesto in order to show how “in tune” with the voters they are, all 23% of the voters that is, the other 67% don’t matter.
Re: Your first paragraph – what utter rubbish. My reason for writing the article quite clearly has nothing to do with what you are suggesting.
Re: Your second paragraph – don’t try to tell me what I would do – and don’t try to besmirch Labour with blanket insults.
Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out, either.
Plagiarising or not, this was a very good speech and the lady deserves a lot of credit for referring to the great man. If she has been influenced by yourself, you need to see it as a great complement that your message has reached people and been a meaningful influence. That after all is the purpose of your efforts and I’m sure this personal satisfaction would be sufficient and no need for public recognition required.
Maybe I’ll see it differently in the morning, but when I realised what I was hearing, my reaction was: “Wait a minute! That person is saying exactly the same thing I did, in exactly the same way I did, the day after I did! What the blazes is she up to? And-” as the headline states- “where do I send the bill?”
I started the article in that frame of mind – not exactly angry; more bemused. It is, after all, possible that this young MP – who counts Tony Benn as a major influence – could have formed the same conclusion about both Harriet Harman and Labour policy, attached it to the child tax credits issue, realised that the ‘weathercocks and signposts’ analogy fitted these elements very well, and wrote a section of speech around it, all in the same short space of time as I did. But the deeper I went into it, the less plausible this seemed. Put the elements in front of a right-thinking person with no preconceptions about either of us and they would say there’s a prima facie case to answer.
Then the comments came in, accusing me of all sorts up to and including libelling the MP and, you know, there’s nothing likely to harden a heart more than that kind of antagonism. I said there was a case to answer and there is. I’m not about to litigate against anybody over it, because it simply isn’t worth it – but I’m not about to lie down and let people steal my intellectual property, either (and for the thousandth time tonight, I’m talking about the whole package, not just the Tony Benn quote).
Don’t forget, this blog is part of my livelihood. Anyone taking my material and passing it off as their own is harming that livelihood. If I think anybody is ripping me off, I’ll call “foul” on it.
Wouldn’t you, in similar circumstances?
I once said “people often mistake Ed Miliband’s decency for weakness.” Ed Miliband said exactly the same thing a couple of weeks later. As did Polly Toynbee. Several MPs have used parts of my work in speeches – though occasionally I’ve been credited, mostly not. I’ve had paragraphs, ideas and phrases (the latter two being difficult to prove) lifted by journalists in the mainstream media and whole blogs deliberately lifted by fellow bloggers on a couple of occasions – not counting those times when someone was genuinely unaware it was my work they’d published, though, as somtimes happens on t’internet.
Esther McVey actually nicked the title of a blog – though the content was very diferent in her article. My blog was published the day before hers, and my friend Robert Livingstone made a meme to mark the event.
I think for me, it’s a tricky balance – I’ve put a copyright notice on my site now, because I work hard, and if my work is good enough to pinch, it’s good enough to expect a polite “thanks.” But I am always very happy to see ideas and lines of reasoning used constructively, too.
You raise good points.
One reason I was getting very angry, earlier, was the fact that Ms Black was using the same reasoning as I had to attack, not just Harriet Harman and those who support her attitude, but the whole Labour Party – many of whom have argued bitterly against what Ms Harman advocated. Not only that, but to see that part of her speech highlighted in the Independent article as a great piece of thinking by this rising young star… That’s a little too rich for my stomach.
If she had levelled her criticism at the right people, who knows? My feelings may have been different.
I’m afraid there’s no copyright on titles, so Esther McVey was within her rights to use yours – but Robert Livingstone was also within his to create a meme about it.
I guess I’ll have to put a copyright notice on this site now, too.
The McVey theft of the title included reference to a specific Labour policy too, which was particularly irritating, given the fact her article was defending tory policy aimed at disabled people.
It is sickening to see someone take credit for your work, and more so when they have used it to further their own agenda to boot. I’d have been furious at that.
You’ll appreciate why I was disgruntled when I heard this part of Ms Black’s speech, then.
I personally feel you need to give the benefit of doubt on this one. Rightly or wrongly, to continue might appear contentious and in doing so create animosity from some of your followers. Best to bite the bullet. Not having a go just considered reasoning.
My previous comment to you was intended to be something of a ‘last word’ on the subject.
I have altered the article slightly, to take on board some of the arguments made since I wrote it and to clarify the tone a little.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Mike. Now, where did I hear that before?
I don’t feel flattered.
I don’t see it. She’s using the quote in a conciliatory way, reaching out to the Labour party to act together to oppose the Tories. You seemed to be using it to (rightly) criticise them for a lack of spine.
We really need the old ‘no enemies on the Left’ rule brought back. Mhairi’s a bright, young, articulate Left-wing woman, and the vermin press will be frothing at the mouth trying to bring her down a few pegs, don’t help them out.
Conciliatory? She was attacking the whole of the Labour Party for the views of only a few members. It is known that Harriet Harman has struggled to gain support for her stance on child tax credits, yet that is what Ms Black used as a stick to beat the whole party.
I don’t want to help the right-wing press attack anybody but what this person has done is wrong. Why are people so determined that I should just put up with it? That’s a Tory attitude, isn’t it – walk all over the little guy?
Mike, you just can’t make the allegation that you’ve been ripped off when a) she’s repeated a widely known quote which she’s previously referred to in print, and b) it relates to a Labour Party position which was criticised by many. The hue & cry you’ve made about it suggests that your formulation was so novel that no-one else could have conceivably come by it independently. I’m afraid it’s not.
That’s not what has happened, though. She has done the same thing I did, in the same way.
How many other people have written in that way about this matter, then?
Hmm looked at this and the debate, afterwards. I too post your articles to friends and colleagues, and we debate amongst ourselves…..however on this, as a Labour supporter, I find it depressing that the socialist debate seems to be coming from the SNP, they seem to be talking in terms of all of the people, not a privileged few. And when they given the Tories a bloody nose, as they have done this week over the unspeakable and the inedible, I for one was glad. I know it was about a bigger principle and the English votes issue, but the way Cameron and Co behave it’s as if Scotland was never part of the UK, in the first place, not when it comes to running the country, and Scotland have had to put up with enough Tory experiments over the years, eg Poll Tax, having ideology done to them from Tory HQ, as opposed to being included. And so Ms Black, well I listened to the speech which contained other issues, like the appalling decision on housing benefit for those under 21, raised also by the wonderful Jess Phillips MP in her maiden speech. Ms Black also talked about the hand of friendship in opposition, because whilst Labour machinate re the leadership it’s hard to keep their eye firmly on the ball, and in any case whoever gets the job will have to deal with the right wing press ripping them to shreds in first few weeks. I think her speech was good, and I also think when you do stand there to make the speech you don’t do it on the fly, so I don’t doubt she researched it, took advice before writing it, and it would be good to know Mike if she reacts to your blog and what you are saying, although given you both have quoted Benn, I think makes this more difficult to pin this down as down right plagiarism.
As I have indicated several times now, it’s not just the Benn quote, it’s the subject matter on which it was used, the context, the tone and the timing. All of these things, added together, indicate theft of my intellectual property.
Yes, she spoke about other things in her speech. That makes what she has done even more disappointing – she didn’t have to do it.
As for the hand of friendship in opposition, I think Labour should look askance at that. The SNP spent the entire run-up to the election stabbing Labour in the back, and now that party wants to be friends? Handsome is as handsome does, it has been said – and while some people see the SNP as attractive at the moment, some of us judge it by its actions and there is a long way to go before Labour should give any credence to that party’s comments about friendship.
Mike, I certainly do hope you see it differently in the morning!
I was going to send you a clip of Mhairi’s maiden speech and tell you to stop pouring out your vitriolic resentment at the SNP after Labour’s nemesis in the General election.
By the way, Tony Benn, as you might remember, urged Labour to cooperate with the SNP!!
One other point. My own MP is from the SNP. I contacted my MP yesterday and urged her to sign Early Day Motion 285 about the ESA deaths. Would you object to that?
Seriously? You’re another one who wants to equate everything with Labour’s losses at the election? Where do you get that from what I wrote? Could you please point out the passage that indicates that is what this is about, because I’m sure we’d all like to know.
I’m glad you asked your SNP MP to sign EDM 285. Of course the reason MPs should sign it is because it’s the right thing to do, not just because I asked for it.
Mhairi Black said much more in her maiden speech than “weathercocks and signposts”.
Yes indeed. What a shame she had to add that part as well.
Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, being a writer myself and to not have yet published anything you have to be very careful you don’t publish anything anyone else has said. It is possible to come up with the same ideas independently, look at Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell-Wallace for instance. Also you can only plagiarize if you lift, word for word whole paragraphs of stuff, but you cannot, as for as I know plagiarize an idea. You should be honoured that your ideas inspire people. And in the long term, if anything brings decency to the world of politics and at least your views are being aired in the world of parliament, you should be satisfied.
Yes, it is possible to come up with the same idea independently – that’s one reason I’ve been saying it seems Ms Black has ripped me off.
Yes, you can plagiarise an idea. If you Google (or use the search engine of your choice) ‘Plagiarism’, the definition you get is: “The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” That’s why college students who steal the ideas of other writers and put them into their own words are still pulled up for plagiarism; if they give credit to those people and discuss what they said, then it’s a different matter.
I may have mentioned this elsewhere on this column, but it bears repetition: Mhairi Black is being given a huge amount of credit for being the first to have pinpointed the problem with the Labour Party, when in fact she wasn’t; I was. That kind of recognition is like gold for a small political blog, on which its writer depends for part of his livelihood. Being honoured doesn’t pay the bills! And that’s a Tory attitude to have, anyway – be grateful that the important people have noticed you enough to steal your work.
no it doesn’t, I suppose unfortunately writing rarely pays whether you get copied from or not, unfortunately writing is my only gift and is a broken crutch of mine. I have not what employers want, and so it fall to me that writing is the only way I can earn or more of better chance than earning. I know your position well, but still this is how being a writer is. It is more a vocation than a living, more a duty, to society I suppose, that’s the way I see it. To your other point, it is a more socialist view be grateful that are views are shared and aired equally. And why is Mhairi Black more important than you?
I’m confused – what doesn’t? To what are you referring there?
I’m going to differ with you on the Tory v Socialist view. Socialists would value another person’s contribution.
As to your last point… beats me why anyone should think she is!
sorry, I was agreeing with you that writing doesn’t pay the bills and how hard it is to make a living that way. I have no intension of thinking like a Tory and though I hate no one personally, I hate the tory way of thinking, it is insulting to me, but I’ll let it go because you don’t know me or what my principals are. You think your the only one who has had things pinched, someone copied a whole piece of poetry I wrote and claimed it has their own, word for word. I’m not in the slighted bothered by it, because I know what I wrote has helped people with mental health issues, because people have told me it helped them and as long as it does good I don’t really care who takes the credit for it. The last part refers to ‘And that’s a Tory attitude to have, anyway – be grateful that the important people have noticed you enough to steal your work.’ so I just assume you thought she was more important than you but that is probably irrelevant to the discussion anyway so feel free to skip that bit.
No, I didn’t think she’s more important than me. She might think so, though.
I do believe that the attitude “be grateful… steal your work” is a Tory attitude.
I have to defend my ownership of my work, otherwise everyone will think they can steal it. It’s an aspect of copyright law.
i support mike if he says he’s been ripped off then that’s the bottom line
Mhairi Black is in a very lucky position she will never be as good as Douglas Alexander she does not take this country forward in any way and David Cameron will at all times walk all over her leading this country into even more uncharted waters and danger
I’m saying it seems that I have been ripped off.
One thing that has definitely happened is that she is taking credit that isn’t due to her – for being the first person to point out what’s wrong with Labour in that particular way. She isn’t; I was.
As for her future performance, I hope this is just a blip and that she may develop into a useful MP.
i I would also like to add that the speech was good and with my daughter with a similar degree (first in EU politics and international relation’s) agrees with me but none the less that speech alone however good does not take her viewpoint forward in which her viewpoint would became implemented
What Mhairi Black said was just a few words that came across with good effect Barack Obama does the same many people do in all occupations but that does not make them a diplomat like myself before my retirement and the likes of john Kerry who have to ram home what the score is and WHAT will happen if you guys don’t get to the center ground and being a good friend to all but in a detached way
Mhairi Black in going forward needs to develop a solid theme that she sincerely believes in so she is seen at all times to be believable most mps are not believable so therefore extremes of policy’s are always high on the agenda as policy’s are just made up on the hoof and invariably a disaster for those that have to live in such a country
we shouldn’t be arguing among ourselves,we should be combining together to rip the Tories apart for what they are doing to the people of this country,which is what Mike
constantly does,and rightly so.
i’m afraid at this present time i’ve no faith in the Labour leadership or any of the contenders except perhaps Corbyn.
we are lacking a good orator,with fire in his/her belly who could command an audience
at the hustings or wherever they spoke.
if Farage had been Labour leader,and of course a socialist we would have walked the General Election.
It’s bizarre to think in that way, knowing what Farage is, but he is a good speaker.
The reality is the ONLY way to get rid of the Tories at the next general election is for ALL current opposition parties to cooperate in doing so.
Perhaps the SNP could start by giving credit where it is due.
Usually enjoy, if that’s the right word, reading your blog Mike, but think you may be wrong over this. Mhairi has used a very similar “weathercock” analogy, in print, back at the beginning of May, which pre-dates your blog piece. http://www.mhairiblack.scot/graham-spiers-article-for-the-times/ I don’t think either of you were plagiarising.
It’s not about the analogy – it’s about the application of it to Harriet Harman’s attitude to child tax credits. That’s not something that will come to everybody automatically, you know. It’s something that occurred to me because I had been involved in a debate on ‘triangulation’ (another term for ‘weathercock’ behaviour) before I wrote the article, and because it seemed clear that this was what Ms Harman was doing. Read my article and you’ll see that this is the case. I built up a layered, reasoned argument and presented it – and I was the first to make that particular point in that particular way.
Then, yesterday, along came Ms Black, making the same point in the same way; she gets huge praise for being the first to say it – she wasn’t. Even if she did come to it by her own route, it’s still not right that she’s getting praise for this idea when I published it first.
I’ve said before – that kind of attention is like gold to a small political blog like mine. By attracting all the attention, Ms Black is taking it away from me. Readers of this blog will be well aware that SNP supporters see me as an enemy so there is a question about whether this is intentional enemy action to steal my thunder. I don’t give it much credence but it is worth consideration.
Another commenter has suggested that I should have linked up to Ms Black’s speech, in order to attract some of the attention my own article deserves – but it wouldn’t work that way. I would be pointing people at Ms Black; there would be no reciprocity and therefore this would simply take even more attention away from where it belongs.
also and this is for mike it is very unlikely that Mhairi Black reads this blog or has ever heard of Vox Political and with mike being a caring decent person may have to come to the conclusion that this speech by Mhairi Black was sheer coincidence and nothing more
Maybe. Have a look at my response to Alan Matthews.
It was her maiden speech, for crying out loud. Do you really think she would have waited until the last minute to write it and copy something from your blog? Do you seriously think she has time to sit and read all the various political blogs?
She’s smart. More than smart. Extremely clever. I think she can manage to write her own speeches.
Take a famous saying, and link it to something related to politics, and many people could come up with the same ideas.
Give the woman credit. You are making yourself look like very childish.
Have a little think about that timing issue and hopefully you’ll see where your logic fails.
Get a grip….
I have. It’s you who couldn’t work out that Ms Black could not have written the part of her speech that is in question more than a short while before she delivered it. Insulting me won’t change that.
Sorry, Mike, I like most of what you publish but you’ve had an axe to grind with the SNP since before lat year’s referendum and never really explained why (at least not in anything I’ve read on your blog) and this just seems like a desperate attempt to discredit a young MP from a party you can’t (for geographical reasons) or won’t (for more legitimate political reasons I’d assume) support.
Whether or not you agree with the SNP, they are now the majority party representing Scotland in Westminster, so now might be a good time to take them seriously, especially as they are continuing to offer hand of friendship to the other opposition parties in the house, despite the blatant disregard most of them have shown for Scotland and it’s People since the General Election.
I’ve explained my issues with the SNP at great length. There’s even a special page about them (into which I still have to add a large number of elements – there’s just not enough time in the day).
This has nothing to do with any of them.
You’re claiming on Facebook that I’ve moderated this comment out. Why are you lying to the people there?
I’ve replied to this on Facebook. Suffice it to say I’m not lying to anyone; I did not say you had “moderated this comment out.”, I simply said you were “moderating comments” – in future I will reply to you only on Facebook, avoiding any moderation and minimising any misquoting or further accusations of dishonesty.
Good-oh. Clear off with your ill-informed nonsense and your affected indignation.
With all due respect I do think you have it wrong this time.
I very much think a newly appointed MP would be pouring over her maiden speech longer than just the previous 24 hours.
Granted she will have noted in the very latest news or opinions on that day before she spoke, but I find your insinuation she stole your work as rather disappointing.
I could also be wrong though so maybe contact her office with your grievance and see what they say.
There’s just one problem with your claim about her thinking about her maiden speech for longer than the previous 24 hours. Have a think about the tax credits issue and the timescale. I’m sure it’ll come to you.
Get over it. You’ll live.
Tory attitude, that.
Arrogant and conspiratorial attitude yours.
Grow up son, you’ll lose readers at this rate.
Do you even have an argument?
No point in paying attention to you, then!
Resubmitting my comment of 1.06pm, as it seems to have been inexplicably missed and is still awaiting “moderation”:
After numerous back and forths on Twitter and this page, and seeing your continuing dogged resistance to any semblance of proportion or propriety, I realise that the following is most likely pointless. However, the whole basis of your indignation, and outrageous allegation of “plagiarism”, seems to hang on this half sentence: “After hearing the Labour leader’s intentions to support the changes to tax credits that the Chancellor has put forward…” To think that a holder of a First Class degree in Politics, who has successfully campaigned to win a seat in Parliament in a heavily socialist seat, did not have the independent capability to add that to her previously established admiration for Benn, *published less than 2 weeks ago*, is a nonsense.
You have replied to a commenter on this page that “Mhairi Black is being given a huge amount of credit for being the first to have pinpointed the problem with the Labour Party, when in fact she wasn’t; I was.” Seriously, Mike? You were the first person to recognise that Labour seem to spend more time trying to neutralise Tory attack lines than represent their own values? I’d think it funny, but that level of narcissism troubles me. It belies an unhealthy level of egomania. You’re claiming ownership of an idea (which, let’s remember is actually *Tony Benn’s*) or an analysis because you know *you* published it, but you have no idea as to whether you were the only, or even the first, to publish it. As far as I can tell you’ve made no attempt to officially contact Ms. Black directly (I don’t count Twitter as an “official” channel), which could be implied as a recognition that your assertion of plagiarism is weak. Instead, you are happy to continue to traduce her reputation online. (As an aside, without a clear acknowledgment of doing so within the post itself, editing your original post to finesse your argument is ethically dubious. If you’ve done that here how can your readers be sure you haven’t done same with the 2013 post you refer to? (I personally don’t, but once an atmosphere of suspicion is created it’s hard to contain, is it not?)
I wave no banner for Ms. Black beyond my admiration for what she has achieved at such a young age, and a gut recognition of a shared commitment to socialist values. The same goes for the SNP; I admire their conversion to a progressive future, and see in them some of what I continue to hope for from Labour. I am tribally, *viscerally* connected to what should be the enduring values of the Labour Party, so my engagement with you on this issue isn’t motivated by a desire to protect the SNP. I’ve admired *you* personally for a long time; the empathy and tenacity you’ve shown on the issue of WCAs and the government’s mendacity on related deaths continues to be an inspiration. However, this irrational, egocentric and potentially damaging behaviour has destroyed any personal respect I had for you.
I’ve been busy working on other articles and concerns.
Right: Your comment about the basis of my indignation completely misses the point. My concern is that the section of Ms Black’s speech that we are scrutinising is too similar to my article from Monday to be of comfort. My article referred to the process of “triangulation” which a Labour official from Oxfordshire had suggested was a good thing, pointed out that it really wasn’t, went on to show that this was what Ms Harman was trying to do with tax credits, and applied the Tony Benn quote about ‘weathercocks’ and ‘signposts’ to emphasize the point. I stand behind the resulting piece as a very decent bit of reasoning. Mhairi Black’s speech goes from the reference to tax credits straight to Tony Benn’s ‘weathercocks’ and ‘signposts’. There’s no clarification of why she is going from tax credits to weathercocks and signposts, to “let us be those signposts”. It seems, to me, as though she was looking for a way to squeeze that Tony Benn quote into her speech. Whether she found it in my article is up for debate, but it certainly doesn’t look comfortable where it is.
I only came to the above conclusions after revisiting the speech in order to respond to you. What’s interesting to me is that, the more I examine it, the more reasons I find to question it. If your claim was accurate, then I should be struggling. I’m not.
Moving on: The problem with the Labour Party that Ms Black was said to be pinpointing was its constant attempts at ‘triangulation’ – becoming more like what they were supposed to be opposing – and the way in which she was praised for doing it was by using the Tony Benn quote. Again, it’s up for debate whether I was the first person to do this, in this way. My comment was made on the basis that Ms Black’s use of the same argument as me, made using the same terms, but the day after I made it, was then hailed as a revolutionary and brand-new statement about Labour. If she was being hailed as the first, and I had done it previously, then I must be the first. It’s a simple piece of reasoning. While it may be debateable whether I really was the first to make that argument in that way, what we can say for certain is that Mhairi Black was not the first person to do it.
So why has everybody (especially The Independent) been making such a fuss about it?
Let’s have a look at some of your other arguments…
Lots of attempts to put me down – dogged resistance to proportion or propriety, outrageous allegation, narcissism, egomania, whatever else. False arguments intended to put down your opponent without addressing his points.
Attempts to validate Ms Black simply because of other achievements – she has a degree in Politics, she’s an MP. Again, false argument – doesn’t address any points.
Attempt to suggest I’m claiming ownership of Tony Benn’s words. Ridiculous, for reasons already stated.
Attempt to invalidate my reasoning because I haven’t contacted Ms Black – betraying a certain lack of understanding of human nature. Contacting people about something that they’ve done only really works if you know for sure that they did it. Asking WHY they did a thing gets a better response than asking WHETHER they did it – for obvious reasons, especially if the act is dubious. If she didn’t do it, her answer would be to that effect. If she did, she wouldn’t want anybody knowing that, so her answer would still be that she didn’t do it and I’ve wasted my time.
Attempt to impugn my reputation by suggesting I may have edited the 2013 article in which I first mentioned the Benn quote because I said I had edited last night’s article about Ms Black. Again, ridiculous. You’re suggesting that I would lie about the former because I told the truth about the latter. One clearly does not follow on from the other.
What a shame I’ve lost your respect over this. Perhaps I can regain some by pointing out that throughout this rather sustained attack from you, I have kept my head, have responded in a reasonable manner to all your criticisms, including those which are not reasonable in themselves, and have not lowered myself to personal comments about you.
She used some of those quotes 12 days ago. Fair play to you though, I hadn’t read your blog before and had a Tory mate link to this blog entry as a way of downing Mhairi Black’s (Brilliant) speech, not sure if that was your intention but certainly the result!
It’s no surprise that a Tory might want to amplify Mhairi Black’s speech – she does attack the whole of the Labour Party (wrongly) in this passage, when only Harriet Harman, Liz Kendall and their supporters merit the criticism.
As for the quotes, if she used them 12 days ago, then they can’t have been part of an argument that could only have been made after Harriet Harman announced that she was not planning to oppose David Cameron’s cuts to child tax credits. If that’s your argument, then it falls.
Have a read of my latest response to Alan Matthews, too.
Nah, you are misunderstanding me. They are using it to belittle the speech, nothing to do with the Labour party (who are an irrelevance in Scotland now).
If they’re trying to use it to belittle the whole speech, then they’ll be wrong to do so and everyone should be able to see through it.
If they’re attacking that one part of it, then I could not speak against it.
That Benn quote is a favourite of Mhairi’s that I have heard her use before the election. This ridiculous accusation does your blog no favours
Read my response to Alan Matthews. It won’t seem as ridiculous afterwards.
(If it does, then I’m afraid the problem is more to do with your own personal preferences than with the issues at hand.)
Another thought came into my head.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about why Scottish people had turned their backs on Labour. I said that it was actually the other way around, Labour had turned its back on the people of Scotland. I am sure Mhairi Black said something similar in her speech yesterday. Now…..should I presume that Mhairi had somehow discovered my blog, read it and thought it would be good to use in her maiden speech? Was I the first person to say that? Of course not. People can think the same way sometimes.
I don’t normally read your blog, but reading comments here, you are normally well thought of. Don’t ruin that reputation by acting as though someone stole the crown jewels while you were looking after them.
(Incidentally, if any politician ever did read my blog and use any of it in a speech, I would be highly flattered)
Another false argument – false correlation. You are trying to relate two dissimilar things.
People think well of me because they consider me to be fair. I don’t think I’m going to ruin my reputation over this – for that reason, if no other.
Someone elsewhere asked a very good question, which I’ll paraphrase in relation to your last paragraph: If you were running a sweet shop and somebody came in, grabbed a handful of sweets, and walked out without paying, would you be flattered then?
By the way, on my earlier comment, I wrote, ‘get a grip’. You took that as an insult. It was not intended as an insult. Merely a suggestion.
I’ll leave it to readers to decide for themselves whether I should agree with you or not.
Right or wrong over your accusations about Mhairi Black (personally I do not agree with you here, but that is probably an irrelevance) I think it is a shame that you have not grasped how badly you are coming across in this blog and more particularly in the way you have handled the following debate. To be honest, it does feel somewhat narcissistic and/or paranoid. Despite your repeated avowals to the contrary.
I am sorry for it. It is not necessary to like a person who is writing useful political commentary, but it is certainly easier to have faith in what they right if we do.
I’m sorry you think I’m coming across badly, but you should really consider the sweet shop comparison (if you were running a sweet shop and someone came in, took a lot of sweets and left without paying, would you be flattered or would you want your due payment? Answer: You’d want what’s yours).
writings a funny business in that sense though, people who write really do ought to get paid better, I do get your points. As a writer though have you ever gone into creative writing?
Certainly – although I never mix creative writing in the sense that I’m inferring you mean with my journalistic work.
no I didn’t intend to infer you be creative with the facts merely I meant to infer that you can explore political ideas within a fictional setting, at least that the route I ‘m interested in, a sort of political moral tale. It just its so interesting to talk to another writer, I don’t know many other people.
Ah – that’s something I haven’t tried to do, at least not overtly. Some might say there’s politics in all stories. Closest I would have got to that is Hard-Boiled Hitler, my bad-taste comic series which occasionally compared the behaviour of the Nazis with that of modern UK Governments. I stopped doing it before the Conservatives came back into office in 2010, though, which is a shame because the amount of comparison material available to me is now so much richer.
But we have strayed off-topic.
There’s a rather glaring fault with your hypothesis, which is that discussion of exactly this facet of Labour’s lack of direction has been common currency ever since Milliband took over, with writers as diverse as Frankie Boyle, Craig Murray and Alan Cochrane all making the same point. Harman’s decision was nothing more than a small confirmation of this, no different than their decision to buy into the Tory myth/falsehood about them overspending when in power. They’ve been triangulating ever since (as you yourself point out – ‘constant attempts’ you write above) , and there have been Gigabytes of discussion about it since prior to the Scottish elections in 2012. Applying it to just the latest example – one that was of course highly relevant to the budget debate in which her speech took place – is hardly either particularly inspired on her part (by which I mean that what it actually was was a blindingly obvious gift), or earth shattering evidence of plagiarism.
Oh, and I think you show your true colours by dissing her for taking credit for the idea: as far as I know, she’s made no comment on it. What is true is that she has been given credit for it by the commentariat, but they seem to be as bllinkeredly unaware of this long running discussion in social media as you are. Furthermore, the credit wasn’t for that idea: it was for the whole speech. You could take away the part about HH’s decision on tax credits and the speech would still have been just as powerful, just as noticed. I suspect that envy for the coverage she has garnered is playing a part in this.
No – Labour has been triangulating since Tony Blair took over as leader in the 1990s. That’s why the party is having such difficulty, now, in working out what it’s supposed to represent.
Applying my argument to Harriet Harman’s declaration on Child Tax Credits was entirely logical as it was the current flashpoint. Plagiarism takes place when somebody uses ideas which are previously published by another person, without acknowledging the source. Since I published the argument – in that way – before she did, she ripped me off. It doesn’t matter whether she meant to do so or not. Taking away the part about Harriet Harman and tax credits wouldn’t work as that is the context in which Ms Black made her ‘Tony Benn’ reference.
And no – the Independent article I quoted was definitely giving her credit for the idea. I’ve set that paper’s editors straight, although I notice they don’t seem to have published anything about it.
I’ve had another comment from Alan Matthews which is not worth publishing here, and certainly not worth any response.
“Mhairi Black is being given a huge amount of credit for being the first to have pinpointed the problem with the Labour Party, when in fact she wasn’t; I was”.
My God! What Vanity! You reckon you were the first person to pinpoint the problem with Labour? Every man and his dog have been pointing it out for years while you stubbornly praised them to the heavens.
I posted on this blog a couple of weeks ago, when you first brought up the current fox-hunting issue, that the ideal solution would be for the SNP to vote against the changes then move to change the law in Scotland. I suppose I should now be attacking Nicola Sturgeon for plagiarising my post?
If something is as obvious as that one topic of Mhairi’s speech, she and several other people will have thought exactly the same. You should get out and buy a bigger hat.
My apologies; I’ll clarify. I meant that I was the first person to publish material pinpointing the problem in that way.
Your comment about Nicola Sturgeon plagiarising your post is not relevant as it is not a like-for-like comparison.
For your final claim to be credible, it would have to be agreed that the argument, referring as it does to Harriet Harman’s position on tax credits, Labour ‘triangulation’, and Tony Benn’s comments, was – in its entirety – common knowledge.
If you’re suggesting it was, then you’re knocking down one of the principle reasons everyone’s been saying Ms Black’s speech was as good as they’ve been saying it was.
I’ve been brushing up on the legal aspects of this, you see.
I suppose that your meaning of common knowledge is that everyone knew. That is not what I said at all. I said “several people” and I suspect many more people than read your blog are very familiar with Tony Benn’s quote, Harriet Harmon’s rediculous stance on tax credits as well as much more of the content of Mhairi’s speech.
I have fairly often read posts in blogs that were almost word for word what I would have said myself.
A speech is much more than the written content of it. It is the manner and passion of the speaker that makes the speech. It is that which many people, apart from you obviously, have found so inspiring in such a young person.
I very much doubt, by the way, if Mhairi has the time or inclination to read this blog.
The point is that those blogs actually published those words, so the ideas then belonged to the writer.
Scientific study, to quote just one example, is full of issues like this. Writers of papers and speeches have to be sure they’re not, even unintentionally, taking anybody else’s work and passing it off as their own. Whether they had seen it before is immaterial.
I don’t suppose that you’ve contacted Mhairi Black about this issue you have with her. I for one would love to hear her answer.
It turns out I don’t need to. I published first and that’s all there is to it.
Still, it would be interesting to see her response, so I might.
Joan Edington makes a good point when she says “every man and his dog have been pointing it out for years [New Labour’s problems] while you [Mike] stubbornly praised them to the heavens” (end of quote)!
Mhairi Black made the best comment of all about this matter when she succinctly said “New Labour is Not Labour” (end of credited quote – I don’t want charged with plagiarism)!!
By the way, a very LARGE proportion of SNP MPs have signed Early Day Motion 285 about the ESA deaths – and it appears the number is growing..!!!
You wouldn’t be charged with plagiarism anyway because you credited the person you were quoting.
EDM 285 is a completely separate issue, and I applaud those SNP members who have signed it. I notice Ms Black is not among them.
Joan’s comment refers to non-specific criticism of the Labour Party, whereas the issue under discussion is the fact that an argument that I created, referring to a particular issue in order to cast light on a wider problem, was echoed the very next day by Ms Black.
I know a lot of people find this hard to accept, but there it is.
I notice also that you appear to be the same person who tried to troll this site, claiming to be “Mhari Black” – so why should any of us pay any further attention to you? What’s your real name?
As far as my little soubriquet “Arbiter” goes, it has something to do with not letting the left hand know what the right hands is doing. To describe me as a troll is a bit too severe.
There are times when I want to remain incognito, otherwise I myself might become a victim of the real trolls. The Internet is full of nicknames and aliases. I’m not setting out to do you any harm.