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Letters / Deeply patronising

I was disappointed, though not very surprised, to read Ian Tinkler’s deeply patronising letter, ‘Fictional Class Divisions’, this morning.

Anyone who took the time to read Louise Thomason’s original article will have been left in no doubt that it was a very personal and very measured account of her decision to vote Yes this September. It is not necessary to agree with her conclusions in order to acknowledge that fact.

To claim, as Mr Tinkler does, that ‘Louise is doing little more than quoting SNP dogma’ is quite plainly false. And his use of the term ‘cybernat’ to dismiss her views is both lazy and silly. Ms Thomason takes care in her article to explain that she is not a nationalist. Her sense of national identity is complicated and difficult to pin down; her decision to vote Yes is, rather, about democracy. It is a position that I, and I’m sure many others, share.

Mr Tinkler may think that it is ‘disinformation’ to suggest that old Etonians are over-represented in the government at Westminster, but the facts do not support his view. Even Michael Gove recently described the current situation as “ridiculous”, and John Major called it “shocking”. Neither, so far as I’m aware, are ‘cybernats’.

Between 1945 and 2011, 80 per cent of ministers in Conservative cabinets and 32 per cent of Labour cabinets were privately educated. Both figures are far too high to be genuinely representative of the country as a whole. And sadly, the situation is not improving. Almost half of the current shadow cabinet received private education, as did more than half of those in the coalition cabinet.

Similarly, the suggestion that Westminster is ‘male-dominated’ is hardly controversial. Just 22 per cent of MPs today are female, with an even lower proportion in the government itself. That is clearly not good enough. In Holyrood things are better – 35 per cent of MSPs are women – but there is still a long way to go. The representation of women in government is a serious issue, and can hardly be dismissed by pointing out that Margaret Thatcher was not a man.

Ms Thomason’s article was not, as Mr Tinkler claims, an ‘attempt to stir up an unpleasant and fictional class division’. It was a calm and thoughtful contribution that I’m sure will be appreciated by people on both sides of this debate, and by those still undecided. Unlike Mr Tinkler’s response.

Malachy Tallack

Battlefield, Glasgow

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