Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If this is analysis of Anti-Semitic tropes in contemporary media, I want my £20,000 back

Back in March, Denis MacShane (who is a privy councillor[1]) took office as Chairman of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism. In the press release announcing his appointment, the EISCA proudly announced that the report on antisemitic discourse that was commissioned from it last March would finally be published "this spring".

Tomorrow is Midsummer's Day, a point at which I think we can declare spring to be officially over on anybody's definition, and no report. In between times, MacShane's main activity as Chairman appears to have been deleting the EISCA blog and breaking all old links to it (I think that most of the material is still there in the "archives" of the main EISCA website but I can't tell and it's impossible to check). MacShane himself has been busy, obviously, telling Zimbabwegians that everything's OK now and they should go home and campaigning against other people being paid more than Denis MacShane, but EISCA itself appears to have produced precisely zero in the first hundred days of MacShane's appointment. It is also overdue on its Companies House return which was due on 3 April. Update: ach, apparently Companies House webcheck won't let you link directly to searches; EISCA's Company No. is 06140653 if you want to see for yourself. Note as well that the entire purpose of the annual return is to keep CH up to date with important changes like, say, a new chairman, and also that it's actually a criminal offence to be 28 days late. I've sent what I hoep will be taken as a friendly heads-up to Stephen Pollard, as I suspect that although he's no longer Chairman, it will be him in the frame as far as CH are concerned.)

This is too bad, in my opinion. I am slightly annoyed about the twenty thousand quid - I am now beginning to believe that no publishable report was ever delivered, and the DCLG's continued failure to so much as reply to my inquiries gives me no confidence whatsoever in this regard. But I'm much more concerned with the general practice of people accepting appointments to "thinktanks" which don't seem to produce any "think". Stephen Pollard and now Denis MacShane have both added a small but measurable amount of gravitas to their political views by claiming chairmanship of EISCA, which is out of any reasonable proportion to what the institute has actually achieved. And I only happen to know about EISCA because it was started up by Pollard, who is one of the journalists I have on my watchlist - as I've said before, how many other such "Institutes" are there out there, doing nothing but gild the CVs of policy entrepreneurs?

Quite apart from anything else, MacShane ought to be worried about the potential reputational exposure to himself, given that he is already the subject of one controversy regarding a thinktank. A semi-attached floating corporate vehicle which doesn't carry out an activity is always a potential source of problems, which is why a wise man thinks two or three times about the directorships he accepts.

(Note that both the European Policy Institute, which is not the same thing as EPIN, and EISCA, which is not the same thing as the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism, have names which are easy to confuse with similar and much more substantial operations. This confusion must be irritating to EPIN and the Roth Institute, and reflects an additional cost of the proliferation of Potemkin thinktanks).

[1] I know! Privy cleaner, now that I could have believed.

Update: A bit of internet digging reveals that although MacShane typically lists on his CV that he was "Director of the European Policy Institute, 1992-94", what actually happened according to this oration on his taking a job at Birkbeck College is that he founded it himself in 1992, and ceased to be its director when he became an MP; he was an "Associate Director" according to the register of members' interests until 2002. I don't think this is consistent with the statement in the Mail story that "The EPI was set up 20 years ago by a network of people on the Left working in Europe and the US"; it is true that it published things in the 1990s, like this pamphlet; it even had a subsidiary called "Epic Books. But I can't see any evidence of anything it's done in the last ten years, and it's apparently now "administrated" by MacShane's brother, who is a poet and playwright with no easily available history of policy involvement. In my opinion as the Chairman-Designate of the soon-to-be-launched British Institute of Urology[2], this is taking the piss.

[2] A joke. Actually, it would be highly unlikely that I'd be allowed to register this as a company limited by guarantee like EISCA, as both "British" and "Institute" are reserved words, and the right to call something the "Institute of Urology" is the exclusive property of University College London under the UCL Act 1988.
2 comments this item posted by the management 6/23/2009 03:18:00 AM

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