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Bletchley Park board member quits amid TNMOC split-off spat

Trust needs 'more women at high level', sniffs departing doc

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A Bletchley Park Trust board member has stepped down in protest against the charity's failure to sort out a long-running dispute with the National Museum of Computing.

Dr Sue Black, senior research associate at University College London's department of computer science, quit the Trust's board at the end of last year.

She announced this decision for the first time over the weekend, in a blog post which suggested "mediation is the solution" to the "bitter dispute".

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) and the Bletchley Park Trust have been locked in conflict for some time.

Their barney reached new heights this year after the Trust erected fences to prevent visitors to Bletchley from visiting TNMoC and allegedly sacked a volunteer for taking a tour party across enemy lines to see TNMOC, which, amongst other rare and valuable exhibits, houses a working replica of the World War Two Colossus code-cracking machine.

The Register has covered the ongoing Bletchley barney for some time and Sue Black has never acknowledged our emails, let alone replied to them.

She has sat on the Bletchley Park Trust board since 2012 and has "stressed about" the squabble ever since then.

We need to talk...

Black wrote: "My main goal in becoming a trustee was to try to ensure Bletchley Park as a whole’s future success, with a fundamental part of that being trying to help both trusts work together with a view to at some point becoming a single trust. I sought to get BPT to agree to ask TNMOC to go to external mediation together to get them talking to each other and working on a way of moving forward together. Unfortunately I was not able to persuade the board to take that route.

"When it became apparent to me late last year that I could not achieve my goal, I resigned. I failed to make happen what I still think is a critical factor in the future success of Bletchley Park as a whole. If the two trusts cannot work together, the future success of Bletchley Park as a fundamental, international heritage site is under threat."

Dr Black has written a book called Saving Bletchley Park and is one of the historical site's most passionate supporters.

She suggested the problematic gender makeup of the two rivals' boards could be the problem stopping an agreement being reached.

"It has often occurred to me that maybe it would have helped to have more women involved at a high level," she said. "BPT and TNMOC are not exclusively male, but they are mainly male. Would having a few more women involved to encourage communication and collaboration rather than competition been a good idea? I think so. Having a gender balance can make a difference in these types of situations.

"I believe that mediation and getting both trusts talking to each other is the best way forward in ensuring a safe and successful future for Bletchley Park. I may not have been able to make that happen, but I think that there will be someone who will be able to."

She called for an independent mediator to step in and suggested Conservative peer Baroness Trumpington, who worked in naval intelligence at Bletchley during the Second World War.

Dr Black's other suggestions for mediators include Ed Vaizey MP; Professor Brian Randell of the University of Newcastle; BBC technology scribe Bill Thompson; and Lucian Hudson, head of communications at the Open University. Eagle-eyed readers will notice none of the above are women.

"The UK public and many people around the world absolutely love Bletchley Park," Black continued. "It is an awesome place. The place where more than 10,000 people, mainly young women, worked to save millions of lives during World War II. It is the birthplace of computer science, the place where Alan Turing and others like him worked tirelessly for us so that we and millions of others around the world like us could live in peace. We owe it to these people, and to the site itself, to now help these two organisations work together."

Dr Black also writes that she was invited to join the BPT board by its chairman, Sir John Scarlett. A former head of MI6 and of the UK's Joint Intelligence Committee, he is best known to the public as one of the authors of the infamous so-called "dodgy dossier" which led to Britain joining the United States in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. ®

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