The three acting c0-chairs of Liberal Democrat Women, Dinti Batstone, Tam Langley and Miranda Whitehead have issued a statement on behalf of the organisation giving their reaction to Helena Morrissey’s report on processes and culture within the Liberal Democrats.
We welcome today’s report by Helena Morrissey following her independent inquiry into the processes and culture of our party, and support in full the recommendations she makes for change.
The inquiry was prompted by the sexual harassment allegations against Lord Rennard, although it does not consider the truth or otherwise of the allegations, but rather how they were handled. Morrissey observes that, ‘Overall it is clear that formal processes existed but were not followed, largely due to the sensitive nature of the allegations and the position of the person to whom they were directed’ (page 36). This is very disappointing to learn, and the report shows some of those involved have since apologised for their failings.
We fully agree with the conclusion that, ‘the addressing of complaints needs to be a higher priority for the Party’. Whilst there is no suggestion of a deliberate cover-up in the report, the picture painted is one of gaping holes in party processes and codes of conduct, and a lack of understanding at most levels of the party of how to respond to complaints. Her practical recommendations for improving the experience of future complainants, such as a dedicated Pastoral Care Officer and manned phone line are welcome, and must be swiftly acted upon.
Morrissey also remarks on the lack of progress made in improving the gender balance of our MPs, observing that, “There is now both an opportunity and an imperative to improve the experience of women in the Party.” (p53) We welcome her recommendation that the Party raise the priority of diversity training and makes this available to both men and women. Liberal Democrat Women will take this on board as we plan our training schedule for conference, as we entirely agree that cultural change cannot only be legislated for, it must also be ‘owned’ by all who are involved. We will follow implementation of her recommendations to see that they are acted upon, just as we are committed to working with the men and women of our party to improve party culture so that it better reflects our values of fairness and equality.
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