Sunday, March 01, 2009

James Graham vs Paddy Ashdown - not exactly King Kong vs Godzilla but...

Just before Lib Dem Voice went down for a little while as part of an upgrade, James Graham wrote a piece about David Omand's report on the necessity of big databases to protect us all.

The report itself is pretty alarming, and as a member of Unlock Democracy and a Liberal Democrat, I thought that it was entirely appropriate to tip ordure on the report itself. And, if James had done so, I suspect that most of us would have said something along the lines of "quite right too!", harrumphed a bit and moved on.

Unfortunately, James felt that it was necessary to play the man. Curiously, not the man who wrote the report, but he played the man nonetheless. There are those amongst us who might be hesitant to 'play' a man capable of killing with his own hands in multiple languages but James is rather more robust than many of us. Perhaps a little less robust after placing the following words in the public domain:

"Otherwise, you risk being a party to the sort of lazy, whitewash journalism that the Guardian article above exemplifies."

At the bottom of page 2 of the report, the following paragraph appears:

"The views in this paper are those of the author alone and are being published here in the hope of advancing public debate. They do not represent the views of the Commission panel or the views of any sponsoring organisation."

I can't help but feel that James has made a bit of an ass of himself here. At this point, I could just emphasise that this neatly demonstrates the point I made a few days ago about playing the ball rather than the man. However, there is a little more to this story than meets the eye.

And so, Paddy has responded, with the sort of crushing riposte that Machiavelli would have been proud of. There is, after his assault, little left but the smoking ruins of James's credibility as a reliable source, for the time being at least.

If only he had focussed on James though. His opening salvo was, to my mind, a misunderstanding of how an operation like Liberal Democrat Voice works.

"What sort of Lib Dem organ is it which makes the outrageous charges made in this piece about a fellow Lib Dem without even asking the Lib Dem concerned to comment before hand?

What sort of Lib Dem organ is it which, having published this kind of article, then closes the comment column so that a response is impossible and forces me to contact the Editor directly to provide a response facility?

What sort of Lib Dem organ is it which prefers to indulge in wild speculation about a colleague’s integrity – but hasn’t even bothered to look at what he or she has said on the record about, in this case, the Government’s plans to establish an “all seeing IT system”."

Actually, what sort of respondent doesn't check the fact that this is an opinion piece written by an individual? Well, apart from James, that is... Liberal Democrat Voice does clearly explain that;

"Views expressed on this website are those of the individuals who express them and may not reflect those of the party."

Ironic really, that James should be right to address the report but choose to attack the innocent bystander, and Paddy should be right to attack the article but choose to attack the... innocent bystander. Is this a new trend, 'tough on innocent bystanders, tough on the causes of innocent bystanders'?

Me, I blame the trees that were cut down so that the Orange Book could be printed...


Jennie Rigg said...

I reckon we should give them both a handbag at conference and watch them duke it out. I mean, sure, Paddy has the training, but James has youth and weight advantages.

I'll run a book if you like... ;)

Anonymous said...


As a serial user of ad hominem, I really don't think I need to take lectures from you. Nor, do I understand why you feel that misrepresenting what I said and lionising Ashdown's rather weak response is in any way helpful.

The majority of my original article was pointing out that the ippr report was paid for by the very industry that had a vested interest in the government agreeing with its conclusions and lamented the media (and specifically the Guardian's) incuriosity about this. As a Council member of Unlock Democracy - which is a member of the Alliance of Lobbying Transparency - I would have thought you would have thought that was an important issue as well.

Far from being an "innocent bystander," Ashdown co-chaired the working group that commissioned this report. He bears some responsibility for the ippr timing its release with a view to using the report as an attack on the Convention on Modern Liberty. He had remained conspicuously silent on this issue, by his own admission now, for the best part of 20 years.

All I have accused him of, and continue to accuse him of, is naivety. I regularly read you making far more outspoken comments. So where did all this newfound piety come from (frankly I'm surprised you haven't called for me to be hounded out of the party; it's not like you aren't doing that every other week)? Why do you not deal with ANY of the points I raised in my response to Ashdown? And how is calling me an 'ass' and claiming my credibility lies in 'smoking ruins' anything other than the most personal of personal attacks?

In short, how the fuck dare you?

Mark Valladares said...


Thank you so very much for supporting my thesis.

Do tell, whose expulsion have I called for? Make a habit of it, do I? Yes, you have a well-earned reputation for your writings, but I think that, on this occasion, you went way over the top. I merely offered my thoughts on your 'difference of opinion' with the noble Lord Ashdown. Your response, a studs showing inaccurate personal attack.

Get over it, James. And when you have, keep doing what you do best, but nobody gets it right every time. I know that I don't, and when I'm called, and realise that I'm wrong, I retract and apologise. Well, most of the time, anyway...

Nonetheless, have a nice day...

Mark Valladares said...


Oh yes, one more thing. Since when was it a 'crime' to commission a view which might not be that of the body as a whole? If one is trying to stimulate a debate, why not put a variety of viewpoints before the public?

Anonymous said...

Again, Mark, I haven't attacked you with the level of vituperance that you have attacked me in your post above.

As for calling people to be kicked out of the party, that was a reference to your appalling behaviour over the Irfan Ahmed affair a few months ago.

As for trying to shut down debate, the only person calling for such as thing is you, suggesting I had no right to criticise Lord Ashdown. And again, you have chosen to ignore my substantive point: this paper was not merely a "point of view" - it was a report paid for by companies with a vested interest in it influencing the government, being reported as independent opinion.

If you are going to have a debate, you have to have transparency. Yet apparently my credibility lies in "smoking ruins" simply for calling for this.

Jennie Rigg said...

Oh, it HAS to be THIS one:

Anonymous said...

You're only saying that cos it's black Jennie. I agree it is gorgeous though. Do they do one that would fit a 17" laptop? :P

Jeez, I call someone a bit naive and get accused of handbagging and "playing the man." Imagine the response if I'd actually said something mean about Paddy Ashdown. Forgive me for assuming that people had somewhat more perspective.

Mark Valladares said...


There is an irony here. I had been mulling over your initial response, and been wondering whether the phrase 'smoking ruins' was not a mite harsh. I'd even got to the point of drafting in my mind an appropriate withdrawal and qualified apology. It just seemed like such an elegant analogy given Paddy's military background...

I'll save myself the apology though. I won't, on the other hand, stoop to inaccurate abuse in response.

I have never publicly called for anyone to be expelled from the Party. I may have expressed surprise that an individual or two hasn't been, in private, but if I want someone to be expelled, I actually know what the process is. I know that because, on the one occasion I have been involved in an attempt to expel someone, I acted as their defence attorney. So I accuse you of embellishment in your charge.

Yes, I thought that Irfan's comment was inflammatory, and I was open about that. I also asked the question as to whether or not there was a scenario whereby someone might be excluded from the Lib Dem blog aggregator. Guilty as charged, m'lud. Did I call for Irfan to be excluded? Actually, no I didn't. Have I called for anyone else to be excluded from the Party? No. So, on the charge that I habitually call for people to be expelled, I'm as innocent as all hell.

The paper itself did not purport to be independent, as you suggest, it was reported as being independent. Is it not possible that this is a slack piece of journalism? The paper makes no pretence of being an independent view, is honest about its funding, and allows the reader to use that information to judge its integrity, as you have done. I share your concerns as to the credibility of the paper, especially given the interests of the sponsors. But that wasn't the thrust of your piece, was it?

Oh yes, the charge of trying to suppress a debate. Ah, I see, attacking you is suppressing a debate. Did I tell you that you couldn't. Did I threaten you? No, I didn't. What I did do was attack you for being, in my opinion, inaccurate and unjust. I still think you were. You responded by lying about my record.

You dish it out quite readily, James. You're evidently not so keen on taking it...

Oh yes, I suppose that I'll have to read your response to Paddy now...

Jennie Rigg said...

James, I'm not saying you are or have been handbagging, I'm saying I want to see you handbagging in the future, live and in the flesh - or, rather, leather.

I did TRY to find one with Tharg on, but they are sadly lacking.

Anonymous said...

Point out one thing I wrote about Ashdown that was inaccurate.

As for Irfan-gate - I apologise if you didn't actually call for him to be kicked out and withdraw that comment. But it isn't as if you can deny you "played the man" in that and plenty of other incidences (I'm scrolling down your blog archive right now). It is something you do regularly. So again, I ask, where has this piety come from all of a sudden?

All I've done is accuse Ashdown of naivety. You on the other hand have gone out of your way to traduce my reputation (it can probably take it, but that's beside the point), admitted you went over the top, and yet refuse to apologise and instead try to turn it up a notch by making some macho-bullshit comment about not being able to take it.

What are you trying to prove, exactly?

Anonymous said...


I think a Dredd one would be better. Maybe with the new film coming out they'll produce one. After all, they've brought out Watchmen condoms.

Mark Valladares said...


It's called 'defending one's integrity against an inaccurate attack'.

You accused me of regularly calling for people to be expelled. When called on it, you came up with one name, which turned out to be wrong. Not exactly demonstrating your credibility as a reliable source, is it?

I thought that your attack on Paddy was inaccurate. It was because I believed him to have nothing to apologise for in terms of the paper itself.

Your suggestion that he can't come up with an example in his defence more recent than 1989 is another cheap shot, though. Is it necessary for him to list the occasions on which he has spoken on the subject? You imply silence on his part, although there is no evidence that you have checked that. I haven't either, but I would be more cautious in levelling the charge.

I don't claim to be a saint. I make mistakes sometimes, in anger, or in haste, occasionally in both. That doesn't mean that I'm proud of it, merely aware that it isn't a good thing.