Spiritualist leader or spoilt child?

David BrutonOh dear. I seem to have upset David Bruton, the new president of the Spiritualists’ National Union (SNU). Was it something I said? Apparently so.  He and the SNU’s National Executive Committee (NEC), having totally mishandled the closure of the weekly Psychic News (PN), and remained largely silent about their future plans, if any, have now decided that criticism of their actions is unacceptable. They don’t seem to realise that they are just digging a deeper hole for themselves.

Eleven days ago I emailed a copy of my blog, which posed “Questions the SNU must answer”, to Bruton, Mark Bradley, who was the executive director responsible for PN, and Charles Coulston, the SNU’s general secretary, inviting them to give me a response. These three gentlemen, along with Graham Hewitt, who was spokesman for SNU shareholders, represented the union at the recent creditors’ meeting of Psychic Press (1995).

In my blog I asked what the SNU’s purpose was in wanting to sell the Psychic News business but retain its title and assets. Was it planning its own publication to replace PN? If not, what would it do with the photographic library and newspaper cuttings that the weekly Spiritualist newspaper had accumulated over eight decades?

On my return from Hong Kong, having not received an email or written reply to my communication, I phoned Bruton in the hope of getting a verbal response to the questions I had posed.

I did – but it was not what I was expecting.

He told me that the questions I had asked were “reasonable, rational and acceptable” but he was afraid that the latter part of my blog “was more akin to the schoolyard” and he was not impressed with “the way it was framed”.  [You can make your own judgment by clicking here.]

Bruton added that he would have gladly responded to my questions if the tone of the blog had remained as it was at the beginning, but because there has been so much rubbish put on the internet about what has happened with Psychic News he was “not prepared to respond to them”.

He added that he was not interested in “trial by internet” and did not want the contents of our conversation “ending up on the internet tomorrow morning”.

I pointed out, however, that I had published the fact that I was sending the questions to him and his SNU colleagues.  If he was not prepared to answer my “reasonable and rational” questions, then I was duty bound to share that response with those who visit my website and have been looking forward to getting some answers. I will, however, respect his request not to divulge the rest of our nine-minute conversation.

Well, if Bruton didn’t like the tone of the second half of my last blog then I suggest he stops reading this one right now.

David Bruton has taken on a role with huge responsibility, not only to the churches and individual members who belong to the SNU but also to the Spiritualist movement as a whole. It is an enormous task and I wish him well. But he needs to rise to that challenge by being bold and inspiring. Telling a journalist that you won’t reply to his reasonable questions because you don’t like some of the comments he has made about you or the way they are worded is not only lacking in good judgment but also demeaning to the position you hold.

If the US president or British prime minister refused to answer questions from critical members of the media, their regular press conferences would be very short affairs.

Had I not picked up the phone and called him, I would still be waiting for a response. He and his colleagues didn’t even have the courtesy of sending a curt “no comment” response.

David, you need to wake up to the fact that the reason so much “rubbish” has been written about the demise of Psychic News and speculation is rife is because you and the SNU are saying so little about your intentions – assuming you have some.

In an interview with Tony Ortzen in Two Worlds (September 2010), Bruton says: “I concede that the SNU often fails to get its message across” and adds, “This is one priority I have placed at the top of my personal agenda for the year ahead.” So, David, why don’t you do something about it … like answering my reasonable questions instead of adopting the ostrich position?

In the same interview, Bruton says, “I fully understand the considerable groundswell of opinion attached to PN and its long-standing, loyal readership, and repeat my pledge at the union’s AGM in Blackpool. This is that every effort will be made to ensure the paper survives in a viable format which is appropriate for the modern age.”

Only time will tell whether that pledge becomes a reality. But closing the newspaper and dismissing all its staff is hardly a step in the right direction as far as ensuring the newspaper’s continuing existence. It has ceased to exist. Its staff are on the scrapheap. And all the president can do is behave like a spoilt child, throwing his toys out of the cot when he doesn’t like what is being said about him and his colleagues.

Saying nothing is not the best way out of the mess they have got themselves into. David, you now preside over an organisation that has a declining membership and has relied heavily on charitable donations to continue its work. I don’t envy you the task you have undertaken – which you combine with being a businessman and a working medium – but I wish you every success.

If the decisions you and your colleagues make in the future deserve praise or criticism, I and others will say so. That’s the role of independent commentators – whether online or in printed publications – and you are going to have to learn to live with it. Throwing a hissy fit when people say things you don’t like is laughable. You need to face criticism and deal with it. If your critics are wrong, say so. And if you make mistakes, own up to them.

The more information you share with your members and a wider public, the more support and understanding you are likely to enjoy. Right now, all you seem to be doing is alienating Spiritualists around the globe.

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