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In the interest of transparency, openness, and non-partisanship I hope you can share your advice online for the public and other political parties to benefit from as well. Doing so might also be a more efficient use of your time and help avoid partisan distractions.


So just to clarify, with point 2), if, say, the Labour Party (as opposed to the current Govt) or the Lib Dem party asked you to help them with their manifesto policy on open Govt, would you help with that too?

Or are you betting on who will be the next Govt?

(I don't mind whether you are a closet Tory or not, by the way, I just want to tease out something that might ameliorate some of the grumbles I've seen about this announcement.)

Tom Steinberg

Hi Phil, Scott,

I hope I can share my advice too. I'll certainly press on the issue.

Scott, what makes you think I haven't already? :)



I think you have a type at the beginning:

"This partisanship is guaranteed by a range of trustees, staff and..."

I think you mean non-partisanship, not partisanship.


Dear Tom

Tom's blog post is what makes me think you haven't already. And the lack of proposals in manifestos to date. Though I'd be happy to be surprised!

Phil's idea is ace. Hmm... WeLobbyForYou? :)

Account Deleted


Tom Watson wrote:

the manner of his [i.e. your] appointment will leave an air of mistrust between him and supporters of MySociety who are not Conservatives

I'm not a Conservative, I'm a My Society supporter and I have no problem with your appointment.

You've done a lot of very useful work for the current government, particularly on POI,and it makes absolute sense to me that you advise the next government too. Personally, I'm pleased that there will be an element of continuity.

It also makes sense that you start to give this advice well before a new government comes to power so that it can formulate a coherent set of policies and get to work straight away.

However, I suppose the problem lies in the fact that whether you intend it or not, your move may be seen as an endorsement of the Conservatives. And it is very likely that your ideas, indirectly at least, will be used to try to win votes.

I'm not sure what I would do in your place- who wouldn't want to advise the party most likely to form a new government? Seriously- who wouldn't?

The quote from you in the Guardian seems neutral enough too- there's actually no sense of endorsement really.

I also can't see that you personally advising the Tories gives rise to any serious doubts over the future impartiality of My Society. Anyone who knows the sites can see that impartiality is so ingrained that it would be next to impossible for you to influence their content and messaging.

On balance, I'd say you are right to accept the Tories offer but should perhaps consider making any data/recommendations that arise openly available to other parties. That may well be what you intended anyway.

Good luck with it- it sounds exciting stuff.

Juliet Brain

Tims post nails it for me, I'm not a political animal but how can you live and breathe without being affected by the consequences of politics? My initial reaction was "no matter how you couch it, you've sold out" but having read and considered all the comments and blogs I'm with Tim it will be fine (in the unlikely event that your new client will have the generosity to allow you to make all information available to all - like ermm the Freedom of Information Act - remember that old thing?) Once you become part of the *machine* how do you expect to continue functioning outside of it?

Paul Levy

Good for you, the concept of party politcs is nonsense and out of date.

Whoever runs the country needs good advisors.

Just give good advice, and you have the backing of all sensible people.

Steve Ebden

I agree with Tom W this leaves a particularly nasty taste in ones mouth. Without doubt this compromises your impartiality, I know what you are saying but it is just plain wrong.

A bigger issue for me is that the Conservatives (and Labour have been no different) are to appoint an adviser, who is not elected, and who at best has limited experience and background.

Whilst I don't doubt that you have done some interesting work on a few basic websites it hardly makes you an expert. What will the government of the day do when unelected advisers disagree with officials? where does accountability lie in this instance.

If I were an official, under transparency I would ensure all advice to Ministers were published, currently excluded from FOI, I believe. If the Government of the day are so keen on transparency (as I am) let's publish everything.

This is democracy going wrong and you should have kept your hands clean. We will not be able to trust you going forward


Terence Eden

@Steve - so what do you do if no one who has been elected is an expert in, say, microbiology? Government needs expert advice - people who are experts prefer working in their field than standing for election.

@steiny - I don't think there's anything wrong with advising a political party or a government. I trust your integrity that you won't allow your good name - nor that of MySociety - to be used to endorse something heinous like DPI.

However, you do walk a fine line. The Conservatives are a mainstream political party - albeit one I wouldn't vote for. But would you lend your advice to UKIP? To the BNP? You know that being linked to a political party (as opposed to a government) carries with it an implicit endorsement - as long as you can keep that endorsement in context, I don't see a major problem.

Best of luck with the new role - I'd rather have you inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in.

Steve Ebden

@Terrence, use officials, use academia, no offense Tom, but not an amateur whose claim to fame on IT is a few websites!

If this is the best the conservatives can come up with then heaven help us.

What I would say about Tom S, is that he has been a master at transparency, he should stick to what he is good at.

Jag Singh

Ignore the negative comments and hoopla, Tom.

This should be about you, and your ability to influence the shape and direction of IT policy in the coming years, under what currently looks to be a Tory government. I think you'll do a fantastic job.

The Tories don't have my support, but you do (and so do MySociety).

Simon Mallett

Brilliant, well done and congratulations.

I've referenced upmystreet on my local parish website - much to the irritation of the local highways, apparently people use it to report problems! They are now developing their own map!

Also, and I seem to be getting deeper into it by the week, I created and maintain www.renewables-map.co.uk, now referenced by DECC and wikipedia. Like so much online, a free and I hope effective resource but I bet some Dept in Whitehall is even now planning on spending a fortune on a competitor!

Karla Su

@Jaq, I don't think we should just ignore comments, even if we do not agree with them.

I work for an IT supplier, and Tom will know this, there are many many advisers to Government. To think that Tom can influence the direction on IT Policy is very foolish and naive. Secretary's of State have the final say, not Treasury, not No 10. EU rules overlay this and this is what drives many IT decisions.

Finally who cares about the specifics of IT, it is what you do with IT! Health, crime, transport, schools, this is where the focus has to be, ICT is just a tool.

Geeks get your heads out of the sand and come into the real world.

Officials are used to a new so called adviser a week, Tom you will be made welcome, and listened to, but those "appointing" you have no more interest in your views than anyone else's.
As a previous blogger said when it comes down to accountability it is down to the Minister, if he/she has been advised by an official one way, and a Minister listens to an unelected adviser and it doesn't work, bye bye Minister

Jag Singh

@Karla - I think you underestimate the influence of unofficial advisers.

Also, re: "Who cares about the specifics of IT?, it is what you do with IT"

When you're in charge of a system that costs billions of dollars - it matters.

Simon Mallett

Jaq, Karla. Having worked in Govt as an IT professional, the best I can add is to just use the term 'Advisor' and discount official or unofficial. The most important thing is to have access to the decision makers at the highest level, it really is down to contacts and networking. Having seen fools in high places with a succession of failed projects being given ever more contracts to waste money on! Well, its either that (including tickets to Glyndbourne) or more balatant corruption!

Ben Proctor

Tom, I don't know you but I admire mySociety and your work there greatly.

I think most people are actually capable of distinguishing between professional and personal roles. I actually think it is good for our country when people become involved in the political process and I see no reason why this should affect your work one iota.

I have worked in "politically restricted" roles in local government. In such roles people are forbidden from political activity. This was an infringement of my liberty but it was acceptable and necessary to prevent bullying and coercion within local government (the reason it was introduced).

We're not going to advance the political process very far unless we agree that good people can, in fact, become politically engaged without being fatally corrupted.


Hmmm, I'm a huge fan of Mysociety as well as a subsriber-I'm no techy but was looking forward the democracy ideas they had were you could actually help out and be techy.

This though, leaves a nasty taste in your mouth-only because it was annouced in conference AND because it's one thing advising the Labour party-who are in govt lol but the Tories, are not. But I guess you think they will be, which is very shrewd. I think all you hero worshippers are not seeing this for what it is for people like me who have linked on Mysociety, as well as sung its praises to people who are not political as well as political.

The tories are going to cut public services. Fine. I'm just wondering what they will use Tom's expert transparency expertise on? Us? Society? I know the Tories don't think much of the oi polloi and it won't change, just look at the policies and watch PMQ's after half an hour. Will they be used on foreign affairs? To check up on immigrants? Will it be used for more transparency from foreign countries resources so they can get their freer market whilst the developing world suffers?

I'm not even a Labout supporter. Just someone who really believed in democracy and call me naive but I thought that was genuinely what Mysociety are about.

Time will tell.


The timing seems a bit off, announcing this at the conservative conference isn't a good thing. Congratulations though Tom, I trust that you'll not let this compromise mysociety. I just hope that they listen!

@Steve Tom directs an organisation that has done more than any academic or public official in makin democracy happen on the web. There is scarcely anyone more qualified, nearly everyone who has already worked for the government are already discredited. He's also co-authored reports on IT for the government.

Alex Hilton

Tom, I find it hard to square the non-partisan element of this with the announcement at Tory conference.

Are you saying this role wouldn't preclude you taking exactly the same role with Labour, the LibDems or the SNP for example?

Paul Massey

Tom, when I saw you talk publicly, I was suprised to witness that your underlying motivations seem to be going after financial support for mySociety via public contracts than actually recreating government.

Don't get me wrong, you have done some admirable work. But recent projects, such as Mapumental, leave me dumb founded.

I hope you won't be wasting your precious time with the Tories, who have you exactly where they want you.

Paul Massey

Apologies for typo, last line of further than should read 'rather than actually recreating government'.

I've just found this post which is interesting http://www.internetartizans.co.uk/politics1government2.


Paul Massey, mySociety's aim is to give people "simple, tangible benefits in the civic and community aspects of their lives." Seems to me that Mapumental could do precisely that. Not sure why you think its job is "recreating government."

Paul Massey

Z. My impression is that mySociety’s ambition extends further (eg. Tom’s £1million post http://bit.ly/r7cO2). If I’m wrong then I apologise for my comments above – although I don’t think this is a black and white issue!

My comments were intended to demonstrate the importance of separating government advisers from contractors to avoid conflicts of interest (see principles here: http://www.dfpni.gov.uk/content_-_successful_delivery-euprocurement2 http://www.tsol.gov.uk/Publications/scheme_publications/finance/Contracts_Procurement_policy.pdf).

If there is not already an app out there which highlights conflicts of interest within government contracts (other than reading Private Eye) then Tom could suggest one to the Tories (if he hasn’t already). However, can mySociety then contract with UKgov to implement the project without a conflict? I would love to see mySociety continuing to build great applications without facing the dilemma of becoming party to potentially damaging elements of the system which it is opening up. Tom, I’m not questioning your integrity and I’d be very interested in understanding the processes you are considering or have in place to avoid such conflicts.

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Yes, I'm going to be advising the Opposition on IT

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