As the Guardian has just reported, I've been asked to advise the Tories on IT policy, and I've accepted.
I'm posting here, on this mostly disused blog away from mySociety.org to make a couple of things very clear:
1. It is me that is doing the advising, not mySociety. And mySociety is strictly non-partisan. This partisanship is guaranteed by a range of trustees, staff and volunteers of an almost ungovernable independence who would rather see me burned at a stake than change one line of code to benefit a political party.
NB. This is not a paid position, and it isn't full time. I'll be continuing the business of running mySociety almost full time.
2. I am not a political partisan - party politics bores me rather. I'm not a member of any political party, nor have I ever been. I've worked for the Institute of Economic Affairs, and I've worked for the Blair era Strategy Unit, as a civil servant. And yes, clearly everyone has beliefs about the world, and I'm no exception. But if you've met me or read anything I've written, you'll know my passions tend to get raised around things like Freedom of Information, open data, open source and open standards. A bit sad, maybe, but they're things that matter to me a great deal because I believe they can improve lives immeasurably, here and abroad. I also don't believe that they are an issue owned by any one political party: they're something we should all be striving towards.
I've advised and occasionally harassed the current government on these things, including co-author the Power of Information review for the Cabinet Office. I do my best to give advice to anyone who asks for it, and I have spent much of the last few years in Whitehall talking with anyone who'll ask, including plenty of ministers and senior civil servants. More recently I've been holding conversations with some wonderful new technology people in the new US Executive Branch: the government of my other parent country.
I have enjoyed advising this government, and I look forward to advising the next. And to harassing and prodding when advice isn't enough. And when there's another new government after that I hope very much to do the same with them, too. And so on, until they carry me out in a box.
Update 00.33 5th October 2009
Tom Watson has posted a criticism of my decision on his blog. I've left a comment that I expect him to moderate into visibility soon, but here it is for ease of access.
I’m genuinely sorry that the news probably isn’t what you wanted to hear. In particular it makes me sad to receive criticism from someone I’ve had such a good working and informal relationship with.
I would like to stress to your readers that mySociety will continue to be rigorously impartial, just as it was when I was advising ministers like you in the current government. Apart from anything else, I don’t have the power to make mySociety be anything else other than impartial – the staff and volunteers are way too independent minded to allow a dubious change in direction.
Lastly, on the timing of the announcement: I’m afraid I’ll have to go with your ‘at best naive’ analysis. I do not want to damage your party, and I hope you can see I have no interest in doing so.
all the best,