back to article Brown apologises for 'appalling' treatment of Turing

The Prime Minister has apologised for the "appalling" persecution of World War II code breaker Alan Turing. Gordon Brown's words of contrition came in response to a petition on the No 10 website calling for a posthumous government apology to the wartime hero and computing pioneer. The petition has received thousands of …

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Let's keep the ball in motion...

First comes the apology; then comes the posthumous knighthood.

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Cringeworthy

"So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better."

Why would you apologise for something you took no part in? It's cringeworthy. I am not responsible for anything any of my ancestors did and wont apologise for it. I would not expect anyone to apologise to me for something they themselves didn't do.

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wordle

http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/1118913/Gordon_Brown%27s_apology_for_Alan_Turing%27s_persecution

he used the word 'Years' a lot

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Cringeworthy

It was a slightly silly and wonky apology, badly expressed (shock), but it was an official gesture - that's what these things are. You can't be literal about it - it's a symbolic act. Of course other things need to be done but at least it's made his family happy, and has drawn a line separating us from a nasty, nasty part of our past, and if you'd like to explain how that is a bad thing (as in actually negative, not just inadequate) then I'm all ears.

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Pint

too bloody right

Shame on the government for allowing such a travesty of justice to a national hero ill

i can only raise a glass in his honor and +1 for the knighthood for helping to hold back the nazi tide

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Anonymous Coward

and then...

he can avoid making another Turing out of someone kinky.

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Anonymous Coward

Good?

so its good that Turing is recognised for what he achieved, he was just unfortunate to live at a time when being gay was illegal. No doubt in 30 years time a politician will apologise for the Brown Govt allowing the Americans to kidnap and torture British citizens in Guantanamo and other locations around the world even though it was illegal. Funny world.

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Nah...

Stick his face on a note and let just call it quits.

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Poor sod

Persecuted in life, and used as a political posing pouch in death.

Those who drove him to suicide had plenty opportunity to apologise at the time. As far as I know they didn't, and so one suspects they weren't sorry. Given such evidence, I don't see how anyone can meaningfully apologise "on their behalf". This act simply cheapens any apology Gordon Brown might ever issue for something that he *is* personally responsible for. Oh, hang on...

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Heart

GoGo Gordon

Never let it be said that this government pointlessly encourages and engages in popularist policies with zero impact on the real world.

Oh Wait.

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Anonymous Coward

Brown is going to be very busy

if he's going to apologise for all the bad things other people did in the past.

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Let's keep the ball in motion .... and give IT Right Wicked Spin.

"First comes the apology; then comes the posthumous knighthood." ... By Andrew Moore Posted Friday 11th September 2009 09:58 GMT ...... and AI Turing Bletchley Park Foundation .... for New Post Modern Colossal Control Systems ...... in CyberIntelAIgent Security Offices.

What Better HQ for Enigmatic Future Intelligence in Transparent Steganography, would there be?

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Great news.

Whilst it's easy to imagine this was done for some easy political point scoring, for the first time in many years I'll give Labour the benefit of the doubt on this one. The fact is, nothing stopped previous governments doing the same, but they did not.

The Labour government is abysmal, but finally after years of failing at everything they've done something right for once.

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Pleasantly surprised

I must admit I didn't hold out much hope of seeing GB take such a bold stance on this, so I'm pleased to be able to commend him for once.

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To answer your question...

>Proud to say sorry for an overdue apology? What does that even mean?

It means that an election is coming, why else would Brown actually respond positively to a No.10 website petition?

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Jobs Halo

@Mike Cardwell

"Why would you apologise for something you took no part in?"

He was apologising on behalf of the British Government, which WAS responsible for what happened to Alan Turing.

As for why: There are currently more than 31,000 reasons here:

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/turing/

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Dead Vulture

You having reading difficulties?

>"Proud to say sorry for an overdue apology? What does that even mean? "

I dunno, what does it mean? You're the one who made it up, it's not anywhere in Brown's statement. Brown apologised for the way Turing was treated, not for the lateness of any apology. The gibberish originated with you, not him. The exact quote is this:

>"I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him"

That's what he's sorry for: what happened to him. Then there's this:

>"I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal"

That's what he's proud of: that it's not like that any more.

How are you finding this so hard to understand?

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All very nice, but....

He's had *years* to apologise, as have his predecessors. It's a populist vote-grabber of the very worst sort. Depressingly, this will be trotted out every time his mob want to show they 'listen to people'. (And the other mobs would do the very same, I have no doubt. There's not much to choose from these days.)

Get on with a chuffing pardon and the belated honours that Turing deserves, and stop the posturing.

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Apology 2.0

When will we get one for Brown?

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Re: Cringeworthy

Perhaps it's an apology on the behalf of the British State, which most certainly was in existence at the time. After all, he is the Prime Minister, and therefore is an appropriate representative of the State. I guess the Queen could also function as an appropriate apologee.

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Anonymous Coward

Paraphrased

"Turning was convicted of "gross indecency" in 1952 after BEASTY PORN WAS FOUND ON HIS HOME COMPUTER and forced to agree to experimental chemical castration in order to avoid prison. He was denied clearance to work on classified work for GCHQ after the conviction. Prevented from exercising his formidable intellect OR TEACH, OR BE A DOCTOR, OR EVEN A CARETAKER, OR HOLD ANY PUBLIC POST WHERE HE MIGHT COME INTO CONTACT WITH VULNERABLE YOUNG ADULTS, Turing fell into depression and committed suicide two years later in 1954, aged just 41."

If Brown wants to apologise for anything, he should apologise for putting Jacqui Smith in the Home Office. He should have had better judgement, but having made the mistake, he should have recognized that she couldn't tell 'cause' from 'correlation' and fired her.

I make the joke that Rapists have been found to dunk biscuits therefore dunking biscuits is the cause of rape, but this was the exact same trick used to lock people up for possession of beasty porn.

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This is a first................

A Number 10 Petition which has actually achieved something.

Way to go that man........ or was it only listened to because it didn't criticise the current government!

Wish they would listen to the Number 1 Petition.

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I for one am pleased

There's no need to get narky about the being proud to say sorry or make questioning digs at politicians individual motivations or sincerity. We asked our chief elected representative to make the apology on behalf of us as a nation, thank heavens we have moved on and the time is now appropriate and possible to do this. It's perfectly reasonable to be proud to be invited to do this and to celebrate the importance of this gesture with some sense of settling past wrongs to peace. Hey, I'm proud that we did this, and I'm sorry as a British citizen and human being that we made that wrong choice all those years ago.

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@Sarah Bee - Re:Cringeworthy

Yes it is a gesture, but what is it symbolic of? What does the symbol mean?

Does it relate to Alan Turing or is it just patting ourselves on the back?

What does it say about the other people prosecuted under 'offences against the person' famous (e.g. Oscar Wilde) or unknown and uncampaigned for?

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@Mike Cardwell

So would you expect the German government to never have apologised for their history, on behalf of their ancestors?

And an aside whilst Labour may be unpopular with some gay people I get so angry when I hear other gays saying they're going to vote Tory - how quickly they forget Section 28 and the way certain members of the current so called "progressive" Tory frontbench voted when it came to the final Commons vote on repealling it!

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@Took no part in

The nation took part in it and like it or not, Gordon Brown is currently the mouth of the nation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cringeworthy

So you wouldn't expect the CEO of a company to apologise to you if one their workers killed your family through negligence? The CEO didn't do it, but the organisation that they are responsible for did, but they shouldn't apologise, just the worker?

There is absolutely nothing cringeworthy about it. The PM is the CEO of the country and it is right that they take on the responsibility for the action of the 'company' that committed such a grossly negligent act.

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Sarah Bee

It's a bad thing because it perpetuates the myth that we are some how responsible for what our parents did.

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Hmm

I don't agree with empty apologies. But if that's what the family needs (did they sign the petition?), then good for them. If he had apologised of his own volition though, I think that would have meant more.

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Anonymous Coward

@Sarah Bee

Not the original poster but let me have a try.

My understanding of an apology is that it must be sincere and show remorse for the offending action.

All we can go on with politicians is context. We don't know them, whenever they speak, we don't know what they said before nor what they said immediately afterwards. So we have to look at context.

The political cartooning in almost every newspaper sets the context for Gordon Brown's sincerity, e.g., the one where he is weeping over Michael Jackson's coffin but ignoring the nineteen dead soldiers.

Or having the time to phone regarding Susan Boyle's health but being silent on Lockerbie.

Or inviting the England cricket team in for tea but silent on England's football team's qualification for the world cup, (noting that Scotland didn't make it)

There are many other context setting examples, different spaces, different worths, but one might not be too cynical to suggest that this is more about trying to appeal to a distinct group of voters (LGBT) that would be consistent witth the government's attempts to Balkanise politics in the UK, than having anything to do with Turing.

No one who knows anything about WWII or computer science doubts that Turing was anything other than a top geezer, nor gives a fig that he was a homosexual. Actually, his real problem was that he wasn't a "chap" If he had been a "chap" he could been free to be spying for Russia.

How was that?

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Time to Petition the Queen and the BoE

Hurrah to Brown for the public apology. The redress may mean nothing to the man because sadly he's gone but it means to world to many in ICT as this was a founding father who was so grossly mistreated.

I'm going to find out if there's a way to petition the Queen and the Bank of England so the Mr Turing may get his posthumous Knighthood and a place on a £££ note.

Many thanks to all of those from the Register readers whom, along with myself, signed the #10 petition.

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He was treated appalingly...

... but then so were all "Gays" at that time. He was (currently) the most famous of those treated in such an appaling way.

An unreserved apology should be given to ALL those treated in such a way.

I'm just waiting (but not holding my breath) for Gordo to apolgise for the way NuLabour has treated the British public since coming to power.

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Re: Cringeworthy

Thought I would get INB4 "It was my ancestors wot did it!". Oh well.

This happened very recently. Living relatives of mine may have been involved. We're not talking about gifting indigenous americans blankets full of smallpox - section 28 applied to almost all of us, and homophobia is still rampant in this country. The UK government is my representative as well as yours, and I am pleased that they have apologised for the behaviour of their very-near predecessors.

One has to be very careful about conflating issues here, but if the present UK government apologised for Bloody Sunday I for one would not sneer "You didn't do it!"

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Anonymous Coward

Only toadies apologise for things they didn't do

He's not apologising to [Turin] for [mistreatment], he's apologising to [Turin Lobby Group] for [Turin lobby group representation of Turins mistreatment].

There's a subtle distinction there.

If he then has to go on and commit a contrition to right this wrong, he will not be committing this contrition to [Turin] to fix [Turin mistreatment], he will be committing this contrition to [Turing Lobby Group] to fix [Story as presented by lobby group].

Perhaps you think the story presented by the lobby group is very close to fact, but I bet you haven't checked it personally, you'll have taken it at face value.

So to me, his apology can not fix any previous wrong, because Turin is dead and Brown was not PM then, but does show Brown is easily swayed by lobby groups with sob stories. So I'd expect all future lobbyists to recognize his weak point to sob stories and frame their lobbying in that way.

(snip) Perhaps I can sum it up in one sentence:

Only toadies apologise for things they didn't do.

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How long...

...until Brown apologises for things the current government have done?

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I have a feeling

Brown has infinitely more to apologise for than Turing's treatment by the special services. Besides, I for years have been convinced that a public inquiry should have been held and deeper questions asked for I have never believed Turing killed himself. Nor did anyone who knew him at the time.

Fifty seven years after his death, a creature like Brown should apologise to a man like Turing? Its a disgrace. Like everything else his name is associated with. Its a meaningless stunt to appease the tiny minority who have even actually even heard of Turing. Its weird and pathetic and butters no parsnips with me.

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Knighthood petition?

I, like many of you, signed the petition

They make peers of the realm out of War-mongers, Politicians and Bureaucrats

Can we have another petition for someone who actually deserves it for a change?

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FAIL

Gordon Brown's words of contrition...

...came in response to a petition on the No 10 website

Of course they did! But what about all those *other* petitions that have just been ignored or fobbed off with some meaningless BS or dismissed with "it's not us you should be talking to about this" or...?

I'm reminded of the BBC TV comedy show called "If I Ruled the World" hosted by Clive Anderson that they ran some years back. The final round was called "Desperate Vote Grabbing"...

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Happy

EVEN A CARETAKER AC11th September 2009 10:39 GMT

Yup, to, like, prevent a repeat of the Caretaker Ian Huntley murder, remember?

I know if yer kid gets murdered you can always have another one, or adopt, but lotsa people get awful upset, especially if the murderer has a history of sexual offenses against children and no one thought to ask or pass on.

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And there are those...

...who would say that (a) he deserved everything he got because what he did was against the law as it stood at the time, and (b) it should still be against the law. Where isd the petition for that?

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Anonymous Coward

@Dunncha

I doubt very much that it had anything to do with the Number 10 petition. We all know that is only there to make gullible troublemakers think they are making their voice heard whilst also allowing the government to claim that the numbers are actually so low (31000 may be a large number for these petitions but it is a very small proportion of the [internet facing] electorate) that the majority disagree with the statement in question.

rather it is as a reaction to the popular press, which we do know has the power to influence election results.

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Different times, different sensibilities

First let me say that I think Turing was a genius and probably had a lot more to give BUT

He broke the law that was in force at the time was tried, convicted and that was a contributory factor in his suicide.

Do we expect an apology to every homosexual that was imprisoned ever? How about a word for Oscar Wilde? "Prison was unkind to Wilde's health and after he was released on 19 May 1897, he spent his last three years penniless, in self-imposed exile abroad and cut off from society and artistic circles."

How about an apology to everyone persecuted as witches?

The fact is that the apology cost nothing and allows Brown to prove he takes note of the petitions (yeah right) and he's a caring sharing sort of chap who saved the world and deserves another five years (yeah right).

I can just imagine the scene in the Cabinet Office while they discused the lowest impact highest profile petition to pander to. The Sir Humphreys must have been creaming their pinstripes when they came up with this one.

Cynical moi?

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Meaningless twoddle.

I can only add my voice to the school of thought which sees the idiocy of apologizing for something you had nothing to do with. Posturing it certainly is. Old Macavity sticks his head over the parapet when there's no chance of catching a bullet. Big deal!

One can empathise or express regret, but to apologise is a trite nonsense.

Has anybody apologized for the beheading of Charles I yet? Or the Dutch invasion of 1688? How about sticking to making apologies for those mistakes for which you are responsible, Mr.Brown? Or should we wait 50 years for another Labour government, though more likely some EU tyrant, to do that for you?

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WTF?

Of all the petitions

Of all the petitions that have been submitted :

General Election Please

Please tell the CPS to follow up on PHORM

Stop the war in Iraq

Stop ID Cards

he picks this one...the one that means absolutely sweet nob all to anyone except as a gesture to look like the petitions website actually achieves something.

Don't get me wrong, I think that Turing is one of the greatest minds to have lived teamed with Tommy Flowers they achieved something quite remarkable in the worst of circumstances and at such a difficult time and as payment for their efforts Turing gets ousted from his profession (although being a homosexual at the time did make him a real target for blackmail) and Flowers is pretty much made bankrupt for actually building Turing's invention. But these are all historic events and apologising for them doesn't change them at all.

Why not focus his efforts on actually changing something that the British people care about and that is happening right now, whilst he is a leader and able to prevent something that is truly objectionable. For me, it would be to stop the Police state that is forming in this country at an ever increasing rate and that is tearing down the very society that people like Turin and Flowers were fighting to protect.

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Stick him on a 5er

or a £20

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What should he do?

All this negativeity over it. What should have been done? Should the government have ignored it? Refused to appologise? I need to know what you people think, but im not sure I want to. Im guessing this is just bile from people who will lash out about anything.

Im glad its come, not sure about the knight hood because it seems a little pointless, and would rather see the time spent trying to get more funding.

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Flame

The Irony

An apology to the memory of Turing. Not to anyone else destroyed by the same persecution: say, Oscar Wilde, to take another distinguished example.

But that's neither here nor there. The real irony is that this should take place at the same time as the biggest "indecency" witch-hunt in history is taking place, all in the name of protecting the children. A small number of adults who pose any kind of threat, but a far greater number made to suffer, some of them seriously - as happened to Turing or Wilde.

A future government in search of a soundbite will have so much more to apologise for. Even if we set aside altogether more serious issues like war and pollution.

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Anonymous Coward

worthless

This must count as the most worthless thing anybody can receive... an apology from Gordon Brown

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@northern monkey, Paul 4

I'm with him on that one. TO use your example: I would *not* expect the German government to have apologised. I would expect them to regret that it happened, but that is short of an official apology.

Paul: Ignore it, no. However an "apology" is different from expressing publicly a regret that something happened.

The government of the time may have been responsible, but just as Gordon Brown wasn't present in it at the time, neither was any of the rest of the Government.

I'm glad that a statement was made, and I'm glad that Turing's descendants take some comfort from it. I just, personally, don't feel it means anything.

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Anonymous Coward

Brown

Idiot.

Turing broke the law, that's all there is to it. That the modern fashion is different is irrelevant.

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