Why Howard Davies had to go

The LSE’s links with Muammar al-Gaddafi were not just financial, they were personal.

Sir Howard Davies is the latest figure to fall victim to a toxic association with Muammar al-Gaddafi. The former director of the LSE resigned last night over the damage done to the university's reputation by recent revelations of its ties to the Libyan government.

When Gaddafi switched from international pariah and supporter of terror to, er, staunch ally in the war on terror in the middle of the Noughties, it was open season for accepting investment from the oil-rich North African state. The LSE was one of many institutions to take Gaddafi's money. Indeed, it took rather a lot of it.

The university accepted a contract worth £2.2m to train Libyan civil servants (of which £1.5m has already been received). It also received a pledge of £1.5m from a foundation ran by Gaddafi's son Saif. Although LSE pledged to give away the money it has already received from this (some £300,000), it was not enough to save Davies's skin.

This is partly because LSE's ties with Libya were not just financial, they were personal. Gaddafi's son Saif studied for both an MSc and a PhD at the university. His supervisor, Professor David Held, described Saif as "someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration".

Held distanced himself from these comments when video footage emerged of Saif stood on top of a tank, brandishing a rifle and pledging to "fight to the last minute, until the last bullet" against rebels in Libya last week. "The man giving that speech wasn't the Saif I had got to know well over those years," said Held. Presumably Saif left his AK-47 at home during tutorials.

Colonel Gaddafi spoke to staff and students at the university as recently as last December, as unrest in North Africa was already beginning to flare up. The LSE audience is seen applauding the Libyan leader and laughing at his jokes in the video below.

Anthony Giddens, who taught at the LSE for much of his career, wrote a fawning profile of Gaddafi in the New Statesman in 2006.

"The Green Book is based upon a theory of direct democracy," wrote Giddens, in an analysis of Gaddafi's political philosophy. "Representative democracy, Gaddafi argues, is an inadequate form of government, given that it means rule by a minority and in which the majority have little direct say." Gaddafi has revealed himself to be not very keen on his people having a "direct say" in recent weeks, however.

It is highly unlikely that the LSE was the only university to benefit from Gaddafi's generosity. With student activism on the rise, I imagine one or two other vice-chancellors will be nervously checking through their institution's accounts in the next few days.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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