Bradley Manning: Andy Slaughter replies

Yesterday I wrote to my MP, Andy Slaughter, to ask him to sign Ann Clwyd’s early day motion 1624 on the treatment of Bradley Manning. Today I received this response:

Dear Matthew Butt,

Thank you for contacting me regarding this issue. This situation has only recently been brought to my attention, and I am shocked to hear about what has been taking place.

As a shadow minister I am unable to sign EDMs, however I will write to the Foreign Secretary to raise your concerns, and to ask what, if any steps, the UK Government is taking to prevent any further torture from taking place.

In the meantime, if you would like to raise any further issue with me, please don’t hesitate to do so.

Yours sincerely

Andy Slaughter

Labour MP for Hammersmith

I am thrilled to have received such a quick response, although sorry that he will not be adding his signature to Ann Clwyd’s EDM. I have responded to him as follows:

Dear Mr Slaughter,

Thank you for your very speedy response to my email, and for expressing your shock at Bradley’s treatment.

I am sorry to hear that parliamentary protocol prevents you from signing Ann Clwyd’s EDM, and very much appreciate your undertaking to write to the Foreign Secretary about this issue; I would be very interested to read a copy of your letter, and any response you might receive, as it would be greatly reassuring to all of us concerned with this case to know that it is being given proper consideration.

Could I also urge you to encourage your parliamentary colleagues to sign the EDM, and to give this shameful situation the exposure it needs.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Butt

It is worth noting that Parliament’s own website has this to say about EDMs:

The following people in Parliament normally will not sign EDMs:

  • Ministers and government whips
  • Parliamentary Private Secretaries
  • The Speaker and his deputies

In other words, there is no mention of shadow ministers not signing, and indeed it appears that the practice of ministers not signing EDMs is custom rather than rule; perhaps someone with better knowledge of parliamentary procedure can enlighten me whether Andy is abiding by protocol or fobbing me off.

I will of course report back if I hear any more.

Letter to Andy Slaughter MP re Early Day Motion 1624: Treatment of Bradley Manning

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I have been taking a particular interest in the case of Bradley Manning, the young Welsh-American soldier accused of whistleblowing and releasing classified military information, including the Wikileaks files. This afternoon Peer and I attended a demonstration outside the US embassy in Grosvenor Square to protest against his treatment, and this evening I have written to my local MP, Andy Slaughter, to ask him to sign early day motion 1624, tabled by Bradley’s old MP, Ann Clwyd, which calls on the government to raise Bradley’s case with the US administration.

Here is the text of my letter:

Dear Mr Slaughter,

I am writing as a constituent to ask you to sign early day motion 1624, tabled by Ann Clwyd, on the treatment of Bradley Manning. Bradley is being held in conditions which constitute torture and, as a UK citizen by virtue of his mother’s nationality, is entitled to British consular support. Furthermore, as Shadow Justice Minister, his case should be of particular interest to you, as it is in breach of both international law and the fundamental principles of justice.

Private First Class Bradley Manning is being held in military custody at Quantico Marine Base in the US on suspicion of whistle-blowing and releasing classified military documents. He is being kept under ‘prevention of injury’ conditions, which place him in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in his cell, while for the other hour he is transferred to another room where he can pace around in shackles for his daily ‘exercise’. During his confinement, he is interrupted by gaolers every five minutes, and required to respond verbally to confirm that he is awake; at night he has access to minimal bedding, and has recently been required to sleep naked, and to present himself naked in the morning. At times Bradley has been placed under suicide watch, although the brig psychiatrist himself has assessed him as being at low risk of suicide; the only explanation for this situation is that this treatment is punitive. Bradley needs glasses to read, and is frequently denied access to them, as well as to radio and television, meaning that he has very limited access to external stimuli during his incarceration.  This treatment has been widely criticised, amongst others by P J Crowley, the former adviser to Hillary Clinton, who described his treatment as ‘ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid’; indeed, the very conditions that are supposed to ‘prevent injury’ to Bradley, are likely to weaken his mental state and put him at further risk.

It is clear that the treatment of Bradley Manning constitutes torture or cruel and degrading treatment, contrary to the UN Convention against Torture, and pressure must be put on the US government to ensure that this treatment ceases, and that Bradley is held in humane conditions.

Secondly, this treatment constitutes pre-trial punishment, as Bradley has not yet stood trial for any of his alleged actions, nor has a date been set for him to stand trial. As Shadow Justice Minister you will be aware of the importance of due judicial process, and should be deeply concerned at this breach of such process.

Thirdly, Bradley Manning holds dual citizenship and the UK has a responsibility to ensure he has appropriate consular support. His mother is Welsh, and he lived and went to school in Haverfordwest during his teenage years. Whilst Bradley returned to the United States at the age of 17, he still has family in Wales, and it is the local MP, your colleague Ann Clwyd, who has tabled this early day motion.

I urge you to sign this early day motion, to demonstrate that the UK values the rights of its citizens and stands up for human rights around the world. Whatever your personal position on the charges brought against Bradley, I am sure you will agree that his torture and pre-trial punishment are unacceptable, and that we in the UK have a particular responsibility to stand up for his interests. Please support our calls for justice by signing this early day motion at the first opportunity, and by urging your colleagues in the house to do likewise.


Matthew Butt

Please write to your MP as well. It is a small matter for them to sign this motion, but we in the UK are in a unique position to help improve the conditions of this heroic young man.

Oboe concerto teaser: II

This is part 2 of a series on my forthcoming oboe concerto. This is a commission for the Handel Collection, and will be performed on 5 July 2011, 13:0014:00 at St Stephen Walbrook (warning: site plays music), 39 Walbrook, London, EC4N 8BN. Please come along if you can!

I mentioned last time that the Sarabande is built on a meta-canon. Here’s how it works.

This movement is 156 bars long which is equal to 12 × 13 or 2 × (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12). This second formula is salient, because it’s based on a triangular number, and I’m rather fond of triangular numbers.

The oboe and bassoon parts are each divided into 12 sections, each of a different length 2n where n is a number from 1 to 12. The oboe’s sections are ordered n = 12, 9, 6, 3, 2, 5, 8, 11, 10, 7, 4, 1, and those of the bassoon n = 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, 1, so they both similar types of pattern.

As the sections are of different lengths, the beginnings of sections rarely coincide in the two parts, and only once on the same length of section: n = 1 in the final 2 bars. Other coincidences of note are that oboe 2 and bassoon 12 start together (mirroring the beginning of the movement, where oboe 12 starts with bassoon 2), bassoon 11 and oboe 11 overlap by 16 bars, and bassoon 7 and oboe 7 by 6 bars.

This structure then forms the basis of the meta-canon: the material for each value of n is the same in both voices, wherever they occur. This means that in sections 11 and 7 the voices really are in canon, and in section 1 they are in rhythmic unison. All of the other sections are not self-contiguous, so the voices perform a canon-at-a-distance. In addition to this basic canonic principle, odd-numbered sections are inverted between oboe and bassoon, while even-numbered sections are performed recte.

There’s not really much in the way of musical example I can post until I’ve explained the derivation of the material (and finished writing it all!), so in the mean time, here’s a colourful illustration of the structure of the canon:

Oboe concerto teaser: I

As I mentioned before, I am working on an oboe concerto. This is a commission for the Handel Collection, and will be performed on 5 July 2011, 13:0014:00 at St Stephen Walbrook (warning: site plays music), 39 Walbrook, London, EC4N 8BN. Please come along if you can!

I’m currently working on the central movement, which is a sort of meta-canonical sarabande. I thought it might be interesting to say a few words about it while it takes shape.

The movement is based around three key ideas:

I’m going to describe the chaconne here; the other elements will come in future posts.

Viola, Violoncello and Double bass staves

One of my favourite musical techniques is the process of gradual transformation found in bellringing. In this process, a row of pitches is repeated over and over, but with each repitition any two neighbouring pitches can ‘change‘, swapping places. In campanology, there is a great discipline to coordinating a group of ringers to perform a whole sequence, or peal, of changes without fault; on a smaller scale this is a great way to produce musical material that maintains unity while developing over time.

In my chaconne, two rows are transformed: the viola has a descending chromatic scale from a′, while the cello and double bass have a figure that opens chromatically like a funnel from A:

On the second repetition, I apply a simple transformation to each row: in the viola, places 1 & 2 swap places, as do 3 & 4, 5 & 6, 7 & 8, 9 & 10, and 11 & 12. In the bass, places 1 and 12 remain in place while 2 & 3, 4 & 5, 6 & 7, 8 & 9, and 10 & 11 all swap:

If I were then to apply the same transformation again, I would get back to where I started, so instead I apply the transformation originally used in the viola to the bass, and vice versa:

If I continued this long enough (24 changes), I would return to where I had started, having performed a plain hunt maximus (ie, the simplest possible pattern on 12 pitches); for this movement, I am more interested in moving from one row to another, rather than returning, so I finish the piece after 13 rows (12 changes), at which point both voices have reversed:

As you will see from the excerpt at the top, I have set these notes to an ostinato rhythm, whose purpose is to support the counterpoint above; each note in the row takes up a bar, so we have a total of 12 × 13 = 156 bars, which, anticipating my next post, happens to be 2 × (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12).