LSE head resigns over Libya link

Conservative MP in UK calls on London School of Economics' council members to consider stepping down as well.

howard davies 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
howard davies 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – The director of the London School of Economics, Sir Howard Davies, has resigned following an emergency meeting of the school’s council on Thursday night about the disclosure of the school’s financial link to Libya.
Since the disclosure last month that the school had accepted a £1.5-million donation from Muammar Gaddafi’s son Seif al- Islam, pressure has mounted on the university.
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On Wednesday, LSE announced it was setting up a scholarship fund for North African students from the £300,000 it had so far received from the Libyan regime.
The university also revealed on Thursday night that it had signed a £2.2m. contract with Libya to train the county’s civil service, and had already received £1.5m. from the total sum.
In the aftermath of the controversy surrounding the university, it also announced, following the council meeting, that it will conduct an independent inquiry, led by former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, into the link with the Gaddafi regime.
Lord Woolf will also investigate the alleged plagiarism charge leveled against Seif Gaddafi, who completed his PhD at LSE in 2008.
In a statement, Davies said it was “right” for him to step down.
“I have concluded that it would be right for me to step down, even though I know that this will cause difficulty for the institution I have come to love; the short point is that I am responsible for the school’s reputation, and that has suffered,” Davies said. “I advised the council that it was reasonable to accept the money, and that has turned out to be a mistake.
“There were risks involved in taking funding from sources associated with Libya, and they should have been weighed more heavily in the balance,” he concluded.
“Also, I made a personal error of judgment in accepting the British Government’s invitation to be an economic envoy, and the consequent Libyan invitation to advise their sovereign wealth fund.
“There was nothing substantive to be ashamed of in that work and I disclosed it fully, but the consequence has been to make it more difficult for me to defend the institution,” he added.
Earlier in the week, Conservative MP Robert Halfon had called for an investigation into the university’s link with the Gaddafi regime.
“My grandfather was one of thousands of Jews who had to leave Libya because of Gaddafi’s appropriation of Jewish businesses and homes, and he came to this country because of its democracy. He would have been shocked to have seen not only the close relations between the last government and Gaddafi, but the acceptance by our distinguished universities, particularly the LSE, of more than £1m. from Gaddafi,” Halfon told the prime minister in parliament on Wednesday.
“The government should establish much stricter guidelines around donations to UK universities, and put a stop immediately to donations from oppressive Middle Eastern dictatorships with a terrible record on human rights,” he added.
Davies, a former head of the Financial Services Authority and deputy governor of the Bank of England, will remain in his position until a successor has been found.
On Friday, Halfon and Student Rights, a London-based organization tackling extremism on campus, called for other LSE Council members to consider their positions in light of the Davies resignation.
“Just who are the guilty men – and women? [British sociologist] Antony Giddens, who wrote a paean of praise to Gaddafi in The Guardian. Prof. David Held, who went out of his way to compliment the Gaddafi family, and Lord Desai, who is alleged to have supervised Seif Gadaffi’s PhD,” Halfon said on Friday.
“Most astonishing and disappointing of all is [director of human rights pressure group Liberty] Shami Chakrabarti – who was on the LSE Council that agreed to the Gaddafi blood money. No doubt more of this will emerge in the coming days,” the MP added.
“We are making a public call for LSE Council members to stand down if they were involved. It is hypocritical and incongruous for someone like Chakrabarti to serve as the director of a human rights group while legitimizing murderous regimes,” said Raheem Kassam, the Student Rights director.