The curious case of Ian Liddell-Grainger and the personal data

The website for Ian Liddell-Grainger, Conservative MP for Bridgwater, is probably the only website for a British Parliamentary to be blessed with a prominent animated cat on its front page. It invites you to click on a link to read Mogg-the-Blog, where a rather darker set of content awaits than the amateurish layout and intensive wall of block capitals on the website’s front page.

In the blog, or rather to give it the full title Mogg-the-Blog, is a series of posts documenting the falling out between Ian Liddell-Grainger and a member of the public. An MP and a member of the public falling out is not news. For the MP to put it on their own website is unusual. However, what gives it that darker edge on Liddell-Grainger’s site are his choices over what to publish about someone who contacted him. (All the posts referred to below are here).

The origin of the dispute rests with butterflies, with the MP having taken great exception to a local pro-butterfly organisation seeking public money. Christopher Foster emailed the MP to disagree, making a few pungent comments of his own. The MP responded by publishing Mr Foster’s email in full, including his personal email address.

Given that under data protection law people’s email addresses are personal data, for an MP to publish without consent someone’s contact details in this way is rather unwise and certainly unusual.

Mr Foster then wrote in to object to the publication of his email on the website. The letter contained a reminder and warning against abusing data protection laws by publishing people’s personal contact details without consent, and included an explicit request for his personal data to be removed from the MP’s website.

The MP’s reaction to this? The letter was published in full on Ian Liddell-Grainger’s website – including publishing this time Mr Foster’s home address.

Responding to a complaint about personal data being published by publishing further personal data about that person is even more unusual and even more unwise.

It also runs counter to the MP’s own privacy statement: “your personal details (i.e. your name and contact details) will not be shared without your permission”.

Highly unusual, although the MP for Bridgwater has often taken unusual steps in the past. He has been accused of faking letters to himself in order to improve his apparent letter response times, produced an strange YouTube advert comparing himself to Gene Hunt (making use of footage from the TV show), has been spoken to by both David Cameron and the Conservative Chief Whip over his behaviour and used crude language on his website.

This time the fallout may be rather more serious for the person involved has lodged a legal complaint with the Information Commissioner, who is currently investigating. Chris Foster told me,

Since it was a public attack on a private individual that led me to write to him in the first place, I should not have been surprised when I became the next target of his blog. Nevertheless, I was taken aback by the arrogance and rudeness of his very public ‘reply’ to my email. What disappointed me even more is that he spent further public time and money scanning and posting the letter of complaint I had addressed to his Westminster office — frankly bizarre behaviour from a Member of Parliament.

A curious footnote: whilst checking this story I noticed that on Ian Liddell-Grainger’s website it says “This web site is owned by Ian Liddell-Grainger and financed by him alone (but it actually costs peanuts to run)”. However if you look at the records for MP expense claims, there are two claims for “website hosting”, in September 2010 and in August 2011. I have asked the MP for an explanation for this but at the time of writing have not had a response.

* Mark Pack has written 101 Ways To Win An Election and produces a monthly newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.

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15 Comments

  • This, of course, is not the first time ILG has been over the top controversial in his blog (Mogg). Some will know of his support 3 or so years ago for a then senior Lib Dem Somerset Councillor, who was later banned from office for two years, which led to speeches – and a debate in the House. I am sure his intervention made the case considerably more difficult to solve than it should have been, and was arguably an abuse of disciplinary process.

  • I would urge anyone reading this to take a look at the blog (and the website generally). It is like a spoof of a terrible website and old-style Conservative member of parliamant. I honestly can’t believe that there is an elected MP with this kind of stuff up there (and it does not stop at butterflies – “amusing” French comments in relation to EDF’s plans for wind turbines is another breathtaking section).

    I know Bridgwater is a safe Tory seat but you would have thought that he is at least giving hope to the local Lib Dems….

  • P.S. I am waiting for Mark Pack’s letter to appear on the blog with a personal attack as well….

  • As a recipient of his attacks all I can say is good luck to Mr Foster, I have even seen letters from David Cameron and spoke to him on one occasion but still nothing stops this dreadful blog site. I have even tried to get the site taken down to no avail. The abuse on this website of individuals is nothing short of cyber bullying and sets a dreadful example when the coalition is trying to stamp down on this type of abuse of young people.

  • Richard Dean 29th Mar '12 - 2:22pm

    Is there any chance that this MP might go to jail for this, or otherwise be forced to resign, triggering a by-election and a possible LibDem win?

  • Well written Mark Pack! I try to stay out of politics, but ILG is absolutely the worst type of Tory, bullying, hectoring and totally self opinionated to the point where he clearly believes himself to be above the law! That may have something to do with him being 329th (or thereabouts) in line to the throne!! He does not even have the nerve to allow comments on his blog, so democracy and free speech do not interest him, I am forced to assume, any more than other people’s opinions. All power to Chris Foster’s argument.

  • The animated pacing cat in question is, unmistakably, Felix the Cat. I’m compelled to wonder if Liddell-Grainger is infringing copyright by using that on his website.

  • Being a great great great grandson of Queen Victoria doesn’t stop him being a total idiot. I think he was extremely lucky to get the nod in Bridgwater in succession to Tom King. When I came across him first he had become the new Tory PPC for Torridge West Devon after Emma Nicholson defected to the Lib Dems. During that period one of the TV stations (BBC, I think) had the brilliant idea that they would hire another party’s politician to be a “spy” at each of the three parties’ conferences. ILG was the Tory “spy” at the Lib Dem conference! Observing him close up is not impressive!! He then appeared in my world, if you like, as a candidate for the East Devon Tory PPC in succession to Peter Emery. He was unsuccessful, as we know, but normally Tory contests are cloaked in secrecy. He, silly man, wrote to the local paper, heaping fulsome praise on the local area etc. When asked how he felt about West Devon, his then seat, he said something like – oh I only went there because it was a seat. So, lucky for him, Bridgwater fell for his “charms”!

  • Euan Davidson 30th Mar '12 - 12:32pm

    What a strange. strange man!

  • It wasnt that long ago that his web site was championing the bulldozing of the Bath & West showground to make way for a housing estate. Bonkers barely begins to describe the idea.

  • Lord Bonkers might have something to say about that! But clearly Chris Foster should be invited to become the next LibDem candidate for Bridgwater. As a former PPC I would be glad to go over and help.

  • I can tell you that ILG is NOT popular in his constituency town of Bridgwater – I would suggest that 80% hate him with a passion ! Unfortunately, the Tory voters in rural west somerset have a majority (albeit very slim) and somehow manage to get him in.

  • Sorry to be so far behind the game on this subject, but even someone as a-political as me has to say in support of ILG that he has been tenacious in exposing the totally inept performance of the lib-dems while they were in power at SCC (particularly in relation to the South West One contract). Perhaps this is why there is so much dislike of him on this site?

  • Ian liddell-granger has now taken his Mog blog down and replaced it with one that clais to be ‘ “Peregrine’s Pen” – my brand new blog.’

    Why does anyone vote for this guy??????

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