Sunday, February 05, 2006

LSE visiting fellow threatens Blair with legal action

The Financial Times earlier this week covered the LSE's response to repeated government libels that their "Identity Project" report was the work of one man, my friend Simon Davies. Tony Blair again made this claim at Prime Minister's Questions on 18 January. LSE Director Sir Howard Davies pointed out that the claim was ridiculous: the report was the collective work of 60 researchers, overseen by an advisory group of 16 LSE professors.

Simon has now understandably reached the limits of his patience. He sent the following letter to the Prime Minister earlier this week:

2nd February 2006

The Rt Hon Tony Blair,
Prime Minister,
10 Downing Street,
London SW1 1AA

Dear Mr Blair,

Letter before Action

I was distressed to hear your comments during Prime Minister's Questions of 18th January relating to the London School of Economics' project on identity cards. You alleged that the report is the work of one man, a leading campaigner against ID cards. It would have been clear to anyone aware of the history of this claim that you were referring to me.

This slur has been repeated by numerous ministers, both inside and outside of Parliament and it is entirely untrue. It has also been made on numerous occasions by the Home Office. The effect of these claims on me, at a personal level, has been devastating. Its effect on the LSE and on the many authors of the reports has been at the very least disruptive and embarrassing, and possibly even damaging.

The claim was first made by Charles Clarke last June on the BBC's Today programme, during which he named me and then made a number of false allegations. These claims were subsequently repeated by other ministers. Baroness Scotland named me in the Lords in December, and as recently as this morning Andy Burnham repeated the claim during a press briefing.

The Director of the LSE, Howard Davies, wrote to you on January 20th to correct the statement made by you during PMQ. He has also written to other ministers in the same vein. More than sixty academics and a further forty external experts have contributed to the LSE work. Clearly this correspondence has been ignored and government has continued what can only be interpreted as a campaign to discredit the LSE and myself.

I am no longer prepared to tolerate such systematic and malicious deception and I have sought preliminary legal advice to determine my rights. I am therefore writing to advise that if this untruth is repeated at any point in the future I will proceed without notice with legal action against the individuals involved. If the allegation is again made in Parliament I will regard it as an intentionally misleading statement to the House, and will seek at every opportunity to have the matter dealt with in the appropriate way.

Notwithstanding this condition, I reserve my right to proceed with action on the basis of the statements already made outside Parliament.

I would request that you clarify this unfortunate and damaging situation by retracting your remarks and issuing an apology on behalf of the government.

Yours sincerely

Simon Davies
Visiting Fellow
Department of Information Systems
The London School of Economics

c.c.'d to:

The Hon. Charles Clarke MP
The Hon. Andy Burnham MP
The Hon. Tony McNulty MP
The Baroness Scotland

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