Tag Archives: paddy ashdown

Ashdown, Amnesty and the ippr

Background: last week I wrote a short article on Lib Dem Voice about the ippr’s new report on surveillance and data protection, pointing out how it had been funded and lamenting the fact that Lord Ashdown has, in effect, been used to legitimise the argument. This resulted in a furious response from Lord Ashdown himself, most of which I have dealt with in the subsequent comments thread.

There has been one lingering thread from all this which I have been quietly pursuing. Lord Ashdown listed a number of other funders for his Commission which I didn’t mention. These are:

DfID
Cabinet Office
The Foreign Ministry of Sweden.
Amnesty International

I didn’t mention them because they didn’t finance this particular report. Nonetheless it is true that the Commission itself has a plurality of funding. This hardly negates my argument, but if Lord Ashdown wishes that to be placed on the record, then fair enough.

But then I dug a little deeper, looking at the Security Commission’s section on the ippr website and scanning through all their publications. I could find references to the Swedes and DFID, but not the Cabinet Office or Amnesty. Since the Cabinet Office hardly counts in my book as pro-human rights and privacy organisation, I wasn’t particularly bothered if Lord Ashdown wanted to boast of getting money out of them. But Amnesty was somewhat more curious, so I have spent the last couple of days trying to find out the exact nature of their funding. And now, thanks to the helpful person running Amnesty’s Twitter account, I have it:

We do not fund the work of the commission per se, but contribute to a series of security lectures they hold. We do this to give voice to the human rights dynamic of counter terrorism. [Direct message sent to me]

Now let me be clear: as far as I am concerned, Amnesty’s role here is unimpeachable. They are doing exactly what I would expect a major human rights organisation to be doing. But it does highlight a couple of points coming out of Lord Ashdown’s missive. The first is that Amnesty’s funding is entirely unrelated to the production of this report and thus it is extremely misleading to even bring it up. They aren’t even contributing to core costs which would make them indirectly responsible for its publication.

Secondly, he stated that:

All funders are required to sign a contract which explicitly forbids them from trying to influence the content of what we publish. As it happens, one funder did try to exert this kind of influence and their money was returned to them immediately and they were immediately showed the door.

I’m sure they do all sign such a contract, but it is a silly one to make. They know exactly what they are getting. In the exact same way, it is not as if CAMRA are funding the ippr on a research project on community pubs (announced today) with any doubt in their mind that the research will conclude that community pubs are worthless and should be shut down. In the case of Amnesty, they are quite explicit: “We do this to give voice to the human rights dynamic of counter terrorism.

EDS, Raytheon Systems et al don’t merely have an agenda, they have shareholders and a fiduciary duty to maximise profits. I don’t begrudge them funding research but I do assert my right to highlight it.

I am unaware of a single disinterested IT professional who actually supports the agenda driving the database state. Equally, I have seen the sheer energy which has been wasted in countering apparently independent research on climate change which, it turns out, was funded by Big Oil over the past decade. We simply cannot afford to ignore the degree to which money is driving this agenda and what an unlevel playing field it results in. And that is why I am uncomfortable with a man like Lord Ashdown effectively lending it greater legitimacy that it would otherwise warrant.

I am genuinely surprised by how many fellow Liberal Democrats have sought to shout me down or belittle me for raising this issue, or claimed that getting told off by Lord Ashdown has left my credibility in “smoking ruins.” Whether my reputation is in ruins or not, I’m afraid I’ll keep blogging about this. Sorry to disappoint.

Lord Ashdown and I have words…

A few days ago, I quickly penned a brief article for Lib Dem Voice about a new ippr report which amounts to a paean to the database state. What the coverage about it did not mention was that the report was funded by what amounts to the ICT industry which will be the main beneficiary of such a massive expansion of the so-called “transformational government” and that this has not even been mentioned by the mainstream media. What irritated me somewhat less but which was nonetheless pertinent was the fact that the working group which commissioned this paper was co-chaired by Lord (Paddy) Ashdown.

The immediate reaction was almost deafening silence from the LDV readership, an audience not known for its reticence in putting its views forward. But this weekend Lord Ashdown himself issued a furious response. He went on to make a number of extraordinary accusations, dwarfing anything I wrote, which was actually quite mild about him (I only really challenged him to put his views on the record, which he sort of now has – job done). So you can read my counter argument as well.

It does all rather recall my rather mixed feelings amount the man. Just last week I hailed him as the best leader the Lib Dems have ever had. Yet he is also a leader who secretly discussed merging the party with Labour (hotly denying it at the time) and a cheerleader for the 2003 Iraq invasion. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t view his judgement as infallible.

Henley and Paddy’s memoirs

The Tories seem to be having problems deciding on who should replace Boris Johnson as their candidate in Henley. Meanwhile I got an email this morning from Lord Rennard about why I should go and help the Lib Dem campaign there:

When Paddy publishes his memoirs, he will pay great tribute to a particular group of people. This group is the one that travelled across the country and worked so hard to bring about the famous by-election victories that established the Liberal Democrats.

A particular debt is owed to those who came to help in the early stages of the key campaigns. It took many hundreds of people throughout the campaigns to win successes for the party from Eastbourne (1990) to Winchester (1997).

I’m sure that is all true, but why is Paddy planning to publish his memoirs when he published his far more extensive diaries 7 years ago?