Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Death of a Wyvern

 Wyvern killed by wolf , Trento Italy

 “Out of a blue sky, trouble struck. Initially it seemed little more than a cough and a splutter, so to speak, but things deteriorated rapidly, and in a rather public and embarrassing way,” writes Howard Davies in Management Today. “I also lost my job.” 
Sir Davies was allowed to keep his column in Management Today but he had already asked for his P45: on March 4 the director of the London School of Economics resigned over the school’s dealings with the Gaddafi regime.

“An important chapter in my life came to an end.” 

Davies who has been director of the LSE since 2003 has been enmeshed in a sordid affair. He has been academic advisor to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi while the latter studied in LSE (yes, the same Saif who warned that Libya would see “rivers of blood” if protesters insisted on attacking his father’s regime). He gave advice to Libya’s sovereign wealth fund in 2007; accepted (on behalf of the LSE) a £1.5m from a charitable foundation run by Saif to set up a north Africa research programme and visited Tripoli on behalf of this programme in December 2009. 

Sordid affair today. At the time, no one raised an eyebrow to Gaddafi, his son or his regime and many (including Soros) indeed advised LSE to accept the donation. Although Davies admitted “there were risks involved in taking funding from sources associated with Libya,” these were debated at the time and “we took a risk... and it’s right to say that that risk backfired on us.” One of those who commented on The Guardian article pointed out that had the Gaddafi regime embarked on a reform programme that eventually led to liberalisation, the LSE would have been hailed as a key player in that process. But it was not to be.

“Even at the end of February there seemed little sign of trouble ahead. We were purring along nicely.” 
The uprising in Libya has torn apart the cosy blanket under which politicians, consultants, businessmen and academics were dealing with Gaddafi’s regime. Is Howard Davies a scapegoat? Surely, he is not the only one to have dealt with the miasma. And surely academic institutions are not the bastions of morality any more than banks are. 

“In just a few days, I realised that it was all over, and I needed to get used to the pain of separation. I was very unhappy about it, I can tell you, and blamed myself.” 
Indeed within a few days there was blood on Libya’s streets, “Brother Leader” (as an LSE research fellow had addressed him)was attacked and the good Saif (who was awarded a Ph.D. from LSE) was accused on plagiarism. What was sanctioned yesterday came under scrutiny today.

“And that’s not all. The nib of my antique Wyvern fountain pen has gone skewwhiff; and can’t be twisted back to shape. The Davies family’s anachronistic reliance on the proud traditions of British engineering has proven misplaced.

I also lost my job.”

Quotes from: Howard Davies, “Howard Davies: The MT Diary”, Management Today, 29 March 2011;
“LSE head quits over Gaddafi scandal”, The Guardian 4 March 2011. 
On Wyvern pens see Dave's Mechanical Pencils

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