On Friday morning Bath students were for the second time in a matter of months victims of unsolicited emails from the Bath Liberal Democrats.
An email was received by large numbers of students on campus from Don Foster who is stepping down at this election following 23 years as the Member of Parliament for Bath. The email sent from Foster’s Bath Liberal Democrat account had the subject: ‘The Tories think they can win – we can prove them wrong’ and requested financial support for the Lib Dem campaign in Bath.
Foster explained: “It is my personal mission to ensure Steve and Lib Dem Councillors get elected. I don’t want to look back on 23 years as your MP and see the Tories start undoing all of our hard work.”
At the end of March 2015, Foster launched a fundraising campaign with the target of £3000 to support the “liberal future for Bath”. In Friday’s email, he raised the target of this fund to ‘elect Steve’ to £5000.
A second email was received on Friday afternoon from the Liberal Democrats stating: “The Liberal Democrats would like to apologise unreservedly for this error, and have committed to donating a percentage of the funds raised from the email directly to a Bath charity.”
The party have blamed a technical fault for the mistake, explaining that the email should have been sent to an email list of “Supporters” but was instead sent to a list of students that the University of Bath had previously requested not be used by the party.
This followed an unsolicited email Bath students received on 7th February from Steve Bradley, the Lib Dem candidate for Bath. At Bradley’s hustings in March, he faced the wrath of a dissatisfied student who felt betrayed by the Bath Liberal Democrats behaviour in sending the email. Bradley apologised profusely for this error of judgement and assured students that it wouldn’t happen again.
At the hustings, Tom Barrett, a final year Economics and Politics student said, “I was strongly considering Liberal Democrats, but I feel this gross invasion of my privacy and this thoroughly illiberal action – considering you call yourself Liberal Democrats – was unjustified.”
Mr Bradley explained that obtaining emails of students is easy and that the University itself was a little bit embarrassed over the issue. It was, he said, a way of communicating with students and was done with good intentions, but was a “clumsy move.”
The University of Bath noted that, “An investigation led by the University Secretary has identified that the email addresses were provided to the Lib Dems by a student at the University.”
But noted that “the act of obtaining the email addresses was not in itself a breach of the University’s data protection policy.”