Friday, September 11, 2009

"Hello John. It's Gordon Brown."

Last night the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a long statement about my Alan Turing petition that included a clear apology for his treatment. Unfortunately, I've been in bed nursing the flu so it was only by chance that an amazing sequence of events occurred.

Yesterday evening I realized that I had to check my email (I'd been avoiding it while ill) because of a work commitment on Friday and so I logged in to find a message that read:

John - I wonder if you could call me as a matter of urgency, regarding your petition. Very many thanks!

Kirsty

Kirsty xxxxxxx
10 Downing St, SW1A 2AA
Tel: 020x xxxx xxxx

So, I called back. The telephone number was the Downing Street switchboard and after Kirsty told me that the government was planning to apologize for Alan Turing's treatment she then said "Gordon would like to talk to you".

A few minutes later the phone rang and a soft Scottish voice said: "Hello John. It's Gordon Brown. I think you know why I am calling you". And then he went on to tell me why. He thanked me for starting the campaign, spoke about a "wrong that he been left unrighted too long", said he thought I was "brave" (not sure why) and spoke about the terrible consequences of homophobic laws and all the people affected by them.

I was mostly speechless. The Prime Minister was calling me!

What no one saw was the work to make this happen. And what many don't realize is that the 'campaign' consisted of a staff of one: me. Although many people enthusiastically got the word out via Twitter, blogs and other means, I spent a great deal of time massaging the press, handling celebrities, and keeping the momentum to make it happen. One day, perhaps, I'll tell the story.

Most of the planning was done from the top deck of a London double-decker bus on the way to work. Amazing what you can do with 30 minutes of peace and an iPhone.

But what I must do is thank all 30,000 people who signed the petition, the media who ran with the story (especially the Manchester Evening News, BBC Radio Manchester, The Independent and BBC Newsnight) when it was still a small story. Thank you to all in the LGBT press that interviewed me and got the ball rolling in the first place. And thank you to the big names like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry who got the story out to a wide audience.

And thank you Gordon Brown. Your telephone conversation with me was heartfelt, and your apology clear and unambiguous. What a wonderful outcome!

For me, it's the end of my campaign.

But for others it is not. It's vital that Bletchley Park and the National Museum of Computing secure funding to keep them alive.

Labels:

16 Comments:

Blogger Jon said...

I also think that you deserve a big thank you for starting this in the first place, so as one of those petition signatories, thank you.

10:37 AM  
Blogger clawhammer said...

Firstly a big thank you for your work on the Alan Turing petition.

Now that you have the ear of the Prime Minister, and have extracted an apology from the Government, I have a further suggestion for getting both Bletchley Park and Alan Turing celebrated for their work in helping to win the Second World War.

For some time now there has been much discussion about what/who should adorn the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. As the other 3 commemorate great achievers for the British nation, why not place on the forth plinth a great achiever who helped win WWII? I think a statue that combined a representation of both Bletchley Park and Alan Turing would be a good choice. They both were the silent heroes that helped us win that war.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Huma Shah said...

Hope you're feeling better John.

Agree with Jon; good idea clawhammer.

And John, your inclusion on the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee will enhance, and increase interest in, the work being done to commemorate Alan Turing's life and achievements in his centenary year, 2012.

Hope petition followers will sign up for the Alan Turing Year newsletter:

http://www.turingcentenary.eu/

12:10 PM  
Blogger migratingfishswim said...

Congratulations and well done John! And well done to all of us who signed the petition.

Sunshine and a recognition of a wrong acknowledged, what a good day.

12:36 PM  
Blogger mm said...

Many congrats to you and your petition's signers. Not being a British citizen I was unable to sign, but my support was there in spirit.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Hofi said...

Thank you so much for giving the opportunity. Without you to start the whole thing I, for one, would never have had a petition to sign, nor the wherewithal to create one.

I'm saddened that so many people have assumed that you are gay. Not because this would be a horrible thing, but because they assume that only someone gay could care about the issue. It is still hard for straight people to campaign for gay rights in the public sphere. Apparently it's still hard for a lot of straight people to see someone campaigning for the human rights of a person who only had them violated because of his sexual orientation.

Good luck in all your future endeavours. Slàinte

5:48 PM  
Blogger Stanley_Krute said...

Hi John

Thanks so much for your work on this. I was unaware of the whole thing, then saw the news this morning, then just listened to you being interviewed on NPR.

-- stan

9:33 PM  
Blogger Cyberdoyle said...

thanks for taking the initiative to start the petition, now the ball is rolling there is hope that Bletchley can be saved for future generations. It is great when the voice of the people can reach the politicians. I hope it happens more often. Well done. Hope you are over the flu now. Chris.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Jason Black said...

The best history of Turing's Bletchley Park years and his astonishing contributions to the war effort I've ever read is chronicled in a book called "The Hut Six Story," by Gordon Welchman who worked at Bletchley in those years.

It was out of print for many years, which made it extraordinarily hard to track down (I eventually found a copy in my university library), but Amazon has a listing for it now so it appears that some sort of re-issue is available.

Get it. It's an amazing story, of amazing people in amazing times.

11:27 PM  
Blogger aqwer said...

Great work John! Like mm, I'm not a Brit, but this was closely watched from all over the world, and it was fantastic to hear your PM's apology.

3:29 AM  
Blogger bvk-chaitanya said...

Great Work John. Thank you.

8:15 AM  
Blogger bootload said...

Thank you John for this benevolent "social hack". A reminder that Hackers do good things. A reminder that in a just society, people and Hackers alike should be judged by their achievements and not their race, religion, sex or orientation ~ http://seldomlogical.com/2009/09/12/a-benevolent-social-hack

8:23 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

Thanks for your work on this. Yes it would be great to hear the story of how you did it...! My post on it FYI http://antidoteblog.wordpress.com/

7:45 PM  
Blogger fivetonsflax said...

Nice work, sir. A heartfelt thanks from across the pond.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Kris J said...

Well done! Admirable work Sir!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Eva said...

Well Done you!!
Please note that in my song "Gordon Brown be my Angel" a stanza says 'YOU RIGHT WRONGS!!!! MY RIGHT'S BEEN WRONGED'

So now I must run this campaign and tell Gordon Brown about injustices so that hopefully the next 124 years will be more prosperous than the previous 124 years in terms of protection from criminal harm. I've received 2 letters from number 10 but oh god please hurry up...

"Gordon Brown be my Angel"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCEWhEuhRoo (lyrics annotated)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znUtocdwnYw (BETTER SOUND QUALITY)

Brahms Lullaby

Gordon Brown! Gordon Brown!
Will you be my angel?
Guardian angel is what I meant
Will you rescue my soul?

For you are in charge
Of these people I wrote to
Stephen Timms, Jack Straw
Let me place my trust in you

Gordon Brown! MP’s!
Let me sing out loud
For what you do, for my country
For my reproductive system

You right wrongs! My right’s been wronged
I am desperate for you
Not just you! There’s Jon Herring
I’m a violated woman

Gordon Brown, help me sleep!
Help me sleep like a baby
Will my babies ever come out?
Maternal desires!
I lost my womanhood
In a sinister curse
Gordon Brown! Bring it back!
You are perfect for that!

"Eva Jo Frogster"

11:55 PM  

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