Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seckford Foundation: "if you can't win the argument, intimidate your opponents"

The argument for, and against, free schools in Suffolk has taken a curiously sinister turn.

In last year's District Council elections, one of the more lively campaigns was in Stradbroke and Laxfield, where local school governor, library campaigner and self-confessed geek, James Hargrave, took up the cudgels for the Liberal Democrats against the incumbent Conservative (described on the ballot paper as Independent, but we all know what that usually means). And, whilst he lost, his campaign was seldom dull.

Afterwards, he returned to his two personal campaigning issues, libraries and education, giving the County Council a hard time, and highlighting efforts by local Conservatives to skew the process in favour of their proposals.


In recent weeks, he has been giving the supporters of a proposed free school in Beccles a thoroughly deserved hard time. He's clearly having an effect, if this excerpt of a letter he received from Graham Watson, the Director of the Seckford Foundation is any guide;

"Please note that we do not intend to engage in any further correspondence with you but will continue to monitor your blog in case you publish any defamatory comments in the future."


Mr Watson is described on the Seckford Foundation's website as a Member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, with extensive knowledge of charity law, tax regulation and governance issues. He doesn't mention any expertise in the field of public relations.

So, as a favour to him, I would suggest that, in terms of public relations, he's wise not to claim any expertise. However, most people know an implied attempt to intimidate when they see one and, from the perspective of this bystander, that's exactly what Mr Watson's letter looks like.

And one wonders about the wisdom of issuing such a clumsy threat in writing, to a blogger, who has the means to immediately tell the world that you've threatened him. And in turn, you might wonder whether someone who considers that intimidation is an acceptable strategy should be involved in the education of your children.

I'm sure that he understands entirely what he's doing... But just in case...

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