Opinion: Post Rennard, what should the party do?

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKThe news that Lord Rennard has been welcomed back into the fold has engendered both despair and joy across the party. Those who ‘never understood what the fuss was all about’, those who are no longer sure they want to be part of a party that doesn’t appear to live its values.  Lester Holloway, among others, offers an excellent analysis of the wider implications.

I have made no secret of my disappointment about the way this case has been handled from the start. As a party it appears we have betrayed our values – our commitment to equality and justice for all.

To be honest, our existing rules have served nobody well. To use criminal standards of proof in cases that amount to dignity at work issues, which in any other circumstance would require a civil standard of proof, is bizarre at best and as we are now seeing, disastrous at worst.  I have not only served as a Unison Branch Secretary, where disciplinary and grievance procedures were my bread and butter, but also as a trustee for a number of charities where procedures have  to cover volunteers as well as paid staff. This isn’t always easy to manage, a volunteer is giving their time for free after all, but the least they can expect is to be treated with dignity and respect by their managers.

When this all came out early last year, Naomi Smith wrote a perceptive piece which hit the nail on the head. Namely the much wider problem we have as a party with the abuse of power and patronage.  This is why I believe that as well as a root and branch review of our internal processes and procedures, we also need to understand the power play at work. We need to reconnect our values and our behaviours. Anything less undermines our integrity and seriously weakens our claim to be a party of freedom and equality. Patronage is deeply corrosive – I know of people who have privately agreed with me when I have spoken up but will not say anything themselves for fear of blighting their chances of a peerage. This is how things get covered up with the hope they will then go away. Only today a debate has been going on about the apparent fear of our senior women to ‘put their heads above the parapet’ on this issue. But it isn’t just this, it’s on so many other issues. The result of no one being prepared to speak out or challenge is the kind of mess we now find ourselves in.

So what happens now? Our claim to be a party for women lies in tatters. The great work we have done on childcare or shared parental leave in undermined when we appear to be institutionally sexist.  In my view the following must happen and happen quickly –

  • All internal processes and procedures reviewed for potential direct and indirect discrimination – this importantly must prioritise disciplinary procedure
  • A review of the Morrissey recommendations – where they have not yet been implemented, why not – where they have been implemented what has been the impact?
  • Working together to address the problems of the effectiveness of the organisation, challenging cliqueism and initiating meritocratic structural reform.
  • The leadership and senior members of the party to put their own houses in order – how reflective are their teams in terms of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality – and dare I say it, class? Do they welcome challenge, or avoid it by only appointing people who will agree with them?
  • Attempting to harass those who make a complaint, or their supporters to be pursued  as a disciplinary offence
  • The party to be clear about how it will reverse or review coalition policies that have had a disproportionate impact on women, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.

And as for Lord Rennard? No one can ever take away from the huge force for good he has been for our party, but surely, if he was prepared to be honest with himself about the impact, however ‘inadverdent’, his behaviour has had on the wellbeing of the party he loves, now would be the time to consider his position.

 

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

 

 

 

* Linda Jack is a member of the party's Diversity Engagement Group

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43 Comments

  • Joshua Dixon 20th Aug '14 - 8:33pm

    I think it is absolutely right that Linda has come out and addressed this head on. I think both Sal and Liz should do the same as the winner will be in an incredibly important position, particularly when it comes to implementing any changes.

    Well done Linda!

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Aug '14 - 9:07pm

    I support reviewing the disciplinary processes and lowering the burden of proof. However, both quality and diversity needs to be considered. No one argues against this, but people neglect the importance of quality and you get a situation like the Pauline Pearce one where we select candidates who aren’t ready and make them feel like tokens.

    Regards

  • Tony Greaves 20th Aug '14 - 9:09pm

    I don’t think that anyone thinks that the party’s processes – or the way they have been implemented – have shown the party in a good light. B

  • paul barker 20th Aug '14 - 9:19pm

    An excellent article. We can hope that Rennard dissapears quietly, if not, we will all have to make it clear that he is not welcome. We can be polite but firm.

  • Tony Greaves 20th Aug '14 - 9:23pm

    I don’t think anyone thinks that any of the party’s processes during this matter – or perhaps more importantly the way they have been implemented – have shown the party in a good light. But Linda does not face up to one of the main problems which is the failure of some of the people supporting the complainants to accept the importance of due process – a fair and just investigation and judgement of complaints – and an acceptance of the outcomes of such a process. This is fundamental to Liberalism and indeed to liberal democracy and if these are our beliefs we have to run our party by the same tenets.

    But Linda’s piece seems to be based on a continuing assumption of guilt which is clearly a wholly inappropriate place to start a discussion of what changes may be needed to party procedures.

    Tony Greaves

  • Little Jackie Paper 20th Aug '14 - 9:34pm

    That Lester Holloway article is interesting for the one group that it does not mention – the young. All political parties seem to have a problem with youth and that is utterly corrosive. Admittedly some political youth groups have not been entirely attractive, but that notwithstanding I’d like to see considerably more effort (on the part of all parties) into getting young people in and involved.

    I do, of course, appreciate that this is easy to say and not so easy to do.

  • You cannot have an internal investigation and at the same time objective one. Internal party politics will always come into play.

  • @ Tony Greaves
    I think the idea of guilt or innocence, has become a lost, and dearth landscape, and way beyond where this situation resides?
    The women that feel offended by their Reynard ‘experience’, have a legitimate and genuine feeling of being let down. My understanding is that three have left the party, and one has remained?
    Someone,… preferably Clegg,… needs to personally write to those offended women, and ask, ( beg !!?), them to return to the Lib Dem fold. As a party wishing to learn and change for the better, you really need to encompass the experiences of these offended women as a cohort, and encourage them to form a special (A)team of advocates, for future victims : Or a kind of ‘victim rapid response team’, for any future misdemeanours? Their bad experiences, should not be lost and ignored, but instead, they should be asked to utilize their experiences, collectively and positively, for the betterment of future women in the party,… surely?

  • Stephen Donnelly 20th Aug '14 - 11:18pm

    Tony greaves hits the liberal nail on the head. The lack of a credible due process is the problem here, as Arthur Miller explained to us all in the Crucible.

  • Gordon McFadden 20th Aug '14 - 11:32pm

    The article still presumes guilt, ignores the outcomes of numerous investigations. Requesting Lord Rennard to consider his position within the Party is bang out of order as we from Liverpool say… He is not guilty, how many different ways do you wish it to be written, it is the conclusion of 3 investigations. As a strategist he should now be in the back room again at 3 and 4 and 5am like days of old, directing traffic on the road to victories.

  • It is hilarious that the Liberal Democrat response to a crisis created in part by their obsession with rules has as its first point to… review all the rules!

  • Paul Pettinger 21st Aug '14 - 1:11am

    The more I read Linda Jack the more her head and heart seem in the right place.

    I worked in HQ from 2006 to 2009 and was struck by the frequency that Chris Rennard spoke about working late at Cowley Street. The press office over night media analyst was usually the last one out of the building, but I would usually check the other floors were empty on my way out, before telling the analyst if they were the last one left or not. I very rarely found anyone in the Chief Executive’s office.

  • Adam Robertson 21st Aug '14 - 6:58am

    I have to agree with Tony Greaves, as there is a perception, from this article and Caron Lindsay’s, that Lord Rennard is guilty, despite being found not guilty. I understand Linda’s argument, that Lord Rennard, should consider his position but I would only agree for the short-term, as this will allow the party to come together. Why should he have to walk away ‘permanently’ as several opinion pieces have inferred?

    I understand Linda’s assertion, that the party can be seen as sexist, but this happens in all political parties. I get the impression in our party, that we seem to be torn between meritocratic appointments for PPC’s or All Women Shortlists. I personally favour meritocratic appointments but with women-only workshops, to help promote women into the higher echelons of the party. We could heed lessons from Kirsty Williams, who is the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. She has done it on merit and is one of the best able politicians in the country.

    I hope Lib Dem Voice, will allow, all Presidental Candidates, a chance to respond.

  • Simon McGrath 21st Aug '14 - 7:12am

    “Working together to address the problems of the effectiveness of the organisation, challenging cliqueism and initiating meritocratic structural reform.”
    So will you be supporting One Member one Vote in Federal Party Elections?
    If not can you explain what you mean by “meritocratic structural reform”

  • Webster did not find Chris Rennard ‘not guilty’. He went out his way to say there was credible evidence of wrongdoing! As Linda says, in any other walk of life, he’d have been disciplined. I doubt he’d have gone to court on the balance of probalities!

  • Rabi Martins 21st Aug '14 - 8:38am

    @Little Jackie Paper
    I agree we don’t do enough to nurture and develop
    the young talent
    But it is not fair to say we “have a problem with
    Youth”
    Have a read the blog Linda wrote on 14th July
    You can access it via http://www.backjack.org.uk

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 21st Aug '14 - 9:00am

    Linda collects together the principles which need consideration by the party as a whole. Tony’s request that all principles have to be mirrored in due process is the goal for which we must all strive. And a third issue is the use of executive powers by all leaders – at all levels of the party, local as well as national – who should be accountable to the party members as a whole. This issue, like all issues of a party nature, has an obvious root in fairness and listening to party members, who in their larger numbers represent more closely the population of our country as a whole. If any party cannot solve all of this within due process – it cannot withstand public scrutiny and survive as highly regarded, especially if it gives itself a name which implies it holds the above standards.

  • Nick Barlow 21st Aug '14 - 9:09am

    You should see the post above that’s now above yours Linda – apparently, we should all pretend this never happened, that nothing whatsoever is wrong and say absolutely nothing about this to anyone at risk of being sued.

  • peter tyzack 21st Aug '14 - 9:12am

    If TPTB simply allow his Lordship to resume a former position, as Gordon suggests, that will be a smack in the face for those(not just the 3 or4) affected by this, and many more resignations will follow. The ‘lack of credible due process’ is a problem that is being addressed, but where the person at the centre of it was our ‘super-strategist’ he should have seen a better way of resolving the issue long before it became so public and needed ‘due process’ to be applied. ‘guilt’ doesn’t come into it, it’s perception that counts, and the public want to see us put things right. As Tim says, we must now set the Gold Standard, but as Linda refers, the unions have got procedures pretty well worked out already.

  • The problem here is not so much the excessive burden of proof as the fact that, bizarrely, Rennard was charged with failing to apologise, rather than for his original conduct. So all he had to do to successfully refute the charge was issue a grudging apology, which of course he did. Case closed, and people like Gordon McFadden can then declare Rennard “not guilty”, though he has not even faced a verdict on the original accusations.

    It is difficult to imagine how this affair could have been more grotesquely mishandled.

    Our claim to be a party for women lies in tatters.

    To be honest with you, many people outside your party (me included) have always found this claim to be pretty preposterous anyway. A party with hardly any senior women is always going to look very suspect when it claims to be the party of women. And in the same week Pauline Pearce wrote about racism in the Lib Dems, the lack of ethnic minority MPs rings alarm bells too. I don’t doubt that there are many sincere and passionate believers in diversity within the Lib Dems, many of whom write on this site. But the events of this week just confirm my suspicions that there is something institutionally anti-diverse about the Lib Dems.

  • The comments give the lie to the title, don’t they? The idea that the party is, in any meaningful sense, post Rennard is laughable.

  • Simon Oliver 21st Aug '14 - 9:47am

    what Gordon said

  • Liberal Neil 21st Aug '14 - 9:58am

    I don’t think the polarisation between ‘guilty’ and ‘not guilty’ is particularly helpful.

    It has been the norm for many years to deal with allegations of inappropriate behaviour in organisations through a more measured process, with the primary aim of stopping inappropriate behaviour from happening again.

    One of the ways our party’s processes failed was by turning into an adversarial process, rather than dealing with allegations early and effectively through a less adversarial route, and one which would have at least left the complainants feeling that they had been listened to.

    The process has treated both Chris Rennard and the complainants very badly, and as someone who knows most of the key people involved personally ,to differing degrees, this is very saddening.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Aug '14 - 10:39am

    Linda Jack

    As a party it appears we have betrayed our values – our commitment to equality and justice for all.

    No, I don’t think so. This is something that could happen in ANY organisation: serious allegations are made, but since it comes down to one person’s word against another it is impossible to prove what really happened, particularly as a big aspect of it is the way in which a particular physical action could be interpreted very differently by two different people.

    What concerns me is the readiness of many to use this case to make general attacks on our party. I see this happening so often, and it is a reflection of the fact that our party has many enemies and few real friends, and that applies particularly to those on the left/community-politics side. If a Labour or Conservative person does or says something bad, it’s written up as a person doing or saying something bad who just happens to be a member of that party. If one of us does something bad, it’s written up as if it’s a reflection on the whole party, as if that bad thing said or done is what our party is all about. If the Labour or Conservative Party is faced with an organisational dilemma, it’s written up as an organisational dilemma. If the Liberal Democrats are faced with an organisational dilemma, it’s written up as the Liberal Democrats being bad people.

    There’s similarities with the points I’ve been trying to make about the Coalition. It has become impossible to discuss rationally the genuine dilemma the party faced and faces over the Parliament elected in May 2010 because of what I call the “nah nah nah nah nah”s, people whose response to any attempt at a thoughtful discussions on what could in practice have been done after that elections is to shout it down with “Nah nah nah nah nah, I’m not listening, what you did is because you are bad people, and the more you try to argue about the difficulty of the situation, the more it shows up you are just bad people trying to make excuses. Nah nah nah nah nah, dirty rotten Liberal Democrats”.

    So, in this case, any attempt to discuss the real dilemma in the situation, the principle that someone has a right of defence no matter what they are accused of, the point that there is a real big danger in accepting the notion that the party’s Leader should have the right instantly to expel for life any member against whom an accusation has been brought, and so on, is all lost, as it is met with “Nah nah nah nah nah, you’re just a bad person with misogynistic attitudes, nah nah nah nah nah, dirty rotten Liberal Democrats”.

  • Some interesting and wise comments above. Looking back to the beginning of the problem was very much that one person had a huge amount of power – and to an extent that continues at the higher levels of the party as in any organisation. Where other, learning, organisations are different is that the recruitment/promotion process is more transparent. The mistrust about what has happened within the party is indeed that there are scarce resources – pay and for candidates, campaign resources and without absolute clarity about the qualifications needed for these, mistrust will continue. and also the opportunity for abuse of position.

  • What Liberal Neil said.

    We have spent our lives complaining about adversarial politics, but our leaders apparently believe in adversarial justice…

  • As I think the posts, and Linda’s well written article show, we collectively as a party have to deal with this, because having left it to our current leadership we all been sorely let down. I look forward to a new and honest approach being taken under a new President, which I hope, and will vote for, to be Linda Jack.

  • David Allen 21st Aug '14 - 1:05pm

    Matthew Huntbach,

    “It has become impossible to discuss rationally the genuine dilemma the party faced and faces over the Parliament elected in May 2010 because of what I call the “nah nah nah nah nah”s..”

    Then I am afraid it is you, and not those who disagree with you, who has chosen to replace rational debate with mindless abuse.

    Many people have offered many differing views over the Coalition dilemma, and over the Rennard issue. Quite a lot have been rationally argued. However, I’m afraid that when you disagree with someone else’s analysis, you tend to dismiss it as being irrational. And that, I’m afraid, is illiberal. Indeed, one might say, mindless.

    I’m sorry to write so harshly, because at your best, you often come up with great political insights (and argue them rationally!) However, then there are the other occasions, when you get yourself wedded to a fixed position, and then emotion seems to blot out rationality.

    What you’ve said about Rennard comes into that category too. To attack on “the point that there is a real big danger in accepting the notion that the party’s Leader should have the right instantly to expel for life any member against whom an accusation has been brought, and so on…” is simply to create a straw man by gross exaggeration, and thus avoid addressing the much more reasonable positions which people are actually adopting. Thus for example, the suggestion that there is anything “instant” about what has happened with Rennard over almost a decade is (surely you can recognise this?) quite ludicrous!

  • daft ha'p'orth 21st Aug '14 - 1:14pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “[a group] I call the “nah nah nah nah nah”s”
    Yes, you do. Repeatedly. Ad nauseam. And why you think that will improve the quality of the discourse is an absolute mystery.

  • Party members vote on the peerage list. Members stand as candidates, like they would any other position in the party (if OMOV goes through at conference this October). Our peers would be the only elected peers in the Lords.

    Surely this has been proposed by somebody before right?

  • Sue Doughty I am interested in your somewhat mysterious remarks about lack of transparency. You and I were PPCs at the same time, and although you were in a target seat and I was in the next category down (but still a seat in which we held, and still hold, second place) I don’t know much about the game-playing you seem to imply goes, or at least, went on, about money etc. It seems to me, if what you say is true, that all sides were involved in these “games”. If that is, indeed true, shouldn’t the wider “we” in support of your transparency theme, know what has been happening? Is it straight, or is it dependent on “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”? Should a liberal party be encouraging such game playing?

  • Deborah Newton-Cook 21st Aug '14 - 3:58pm

    Another interesting debate.
    But “a Party that has always stood by women”? Give me a break.
    When I finally got approved as an EPPC in 2004 it had taken 5 years – then the Party record- to qualify, and cost me a fortune. Has it taken anybody else longer? I hope not.
    Fortunately, I had Lib Dem friends – not in the LDGB team – who encouraged me to continue.
    So I did.
    We need to have a mechanism to aid the chances of women being selected as PPCs in winnable seats.
    Otherwise, we will end up with only white, male LD MPs in 2015. I am sure that that the EMLD would have a comment on that result, too. But I will leave it to them to state their position.
    So, 40ish seats and only a chance possibility of being in a Coalition Government again.
    I will not be surprised if there will be less than 5 Lib Dem women MPs after the next General Election. Possibly none at all.
    Things have to change.
    Check Lady Shirley William’s speech at Party Conference. Otherwise, we we will lose not only the women’s vote, but also those of ethnic minorities. And those EU nationals resident in the UK who have the right to vote.
    Equality must be seen to be done.

  • Tony Dawson 21st Aug '14 - 5:22pm

    @David Allen

    “To attack on “the point that there is a real big danger in accepting the notion that the party’s Leader should have the right instantly to expel for life any member against whom an accusation has been brought, and so on…” is simply to create a straw man by gross exaggeration, and thus avoid addressing the much more reasonable positions which people are actually adopting. Thus for example, the suggestion that there is anything “instant” about what has happened with Rennard over almost a decade is (surely you can recognise this?) quite ludicrous!”

    Dave, I feel that you might need to analyse your own posting with the same self-criticism which you have suggested Matthew needed here. Nick Clegg demanded (and got, goodness knows who allowed this) Chris Rennard’s suspension and ‘trial’ for NOT the underlying issues over several years but over the simple failure to apologise for something of which he had not been found guilty. He was effectively being put forward for expulsion on the grounds that his failure to comply with one person’s expectations made him a nuisance. We have seen, months later, what became of that.

  • Tony Dawson 21st Aug '14 - 7:55pm

    Linda Jack’s article is correct in identifying the power of patronage within the Party, rather than Chris Rennard’s alleged behaviour, as being at the heart of the problem. Remember, none of the women who brought forward these complaints left the Party either immediately after the alleged events or after the original reporting of the matters. The former would hardly be surprising: whether Chris did or did not do what he was accused of, this is, most unfortunately, a form of behaviour which is still undertaken by hundreds of thousands of men (and some women, too) every year. If these people were all completely ostracised forever and given no chance of rehabilitation ever then our society would largely become paralysed (NB Lib Dems are meant to be into ‘forgiveness’!).

    It is the failures of the Party not only to assist ‘at the time’ corporately but also the failure of a number of individual senior Party members and their staff to pursue the matter as ‘concerned human beings’ over a number of years, which is equally-worrying not just to the ‘victims’ but to many Party members. Another serious concern is the apparent effects of the power of patronage in keeping these allegations being ignored for years,. Also the mental damage to individuals and their friends who would seem to have ‘self-blackmailed’ for years in not chasing the issues up because of what they believed this might do to their political careers (whether this was correct or not). I cannot be alone in knowing of past other ‘non-sexually-related’ abuses of patronage within what is meant to be an open and democratic Party.

    So, Tony Greaves is quite correct to say that the Party’s ‘due purpose’ has been followed. The problem is that the ‘due process’ is considered by many to be completely irrelevant to the true problem,which is more concerned with the complete failure of supposed ‘Liberals’ to prioritise making early intervention on what is meant to be a fundamentally core Liberal issue. Similar concerns have been raised in respect of the Hancock affair and one might well ask, given what eventually transpired, why there appeared to be no intervention with Chris Huhne before he pincered himself with his later attempts at ‘cover-up’ of his dishonesty. Protecting the core of the Party appears to have been far more important than protecting what the Party was meant to be about. One sees what is now trickling out of the Conservative Party regarding defence of historical establishment figures where the loyalty to their Party (or, more correctly to the ruling clique or cliques within it) totally washes away loyalty to the supposed underlying values which are meant to have brought those Party members together in the first place. The question arises as to whether the Liberal Democrats are collectively braver and more moral than our Coalition partners. And the jury may still be out on this one for some while.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Aug '14 - 11:06pm

    David Allen

    Many people have offered many differing views over the Coalition dilemma, and over the Rennard issue. Quite a lot have been rationally argued. However, I’m afraid that when you disagree with someone else’s analysis, you tend to dismiss it as being irrational.

    Well, I think you would accept I am not a fan of Clegg and what he has done to the party. Yet I’ve experienced so often that if I disagree with the “The LibDems just rolled over and gave into the Conservatives” line, and try to establish a mid-point between that and the Cleggies, I’m written off as if I’m a supporter of Clegg and all he does and stands for. Similarly in this case, I’m concerned at the way so often on this case anyone who argues against some of the more extreme things that have been said is accused of being some sort of monster who can’t recognise how damaging sexual abuse can be.

    That is, it seems to me the actual position I hold, which is somewhere between the extremes is not permitted. Instead we are supposed all to fall on the extremes of one side or the other, which then makes argument and discussion about them rather futile.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Aug '14 - 11:39pm

    David Allen

    To attack on “the point that there is a real big danger in accepting the notion that the party’s Leader should have the right instantly to expel for life any member against whom an accusation has been brought, and so on…” is simply to create a straw man by gross exaggeration,

    Well, if you think people in the Leadership would never ever abuse procedures and engage in underhand tactics to do down those who might be political opponents, what’s this all about then?

    No, I don’t think this case was entirely manufactured in order to get rid of someone who was very much part of the pre-Clegg Liberal Democrats and not part of the crowd who now seem to be dominant at the top who want the party to be all about extreme free market economics and a top-down leader-oriented public image. But, let’s put it this way – I suspect there were quite a few of that sort who weren’t unhappy to see Rennard pushed out of any remaining influence he had.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Aug '14 - 10:55am

    daft ha’p’orth

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “[a group] I call the “nah nah nah nah nah”s”
    Yes, you do. Repeatedly. Ad nauseam. And why you think that will improve the quality of the discourse is an absolute mystery

    I’m sorry, but that’s how people like you, and almost every person from the Labour Party who comments on the Coalition come across. I have tried, and failed, to engage in a decent discussion about the Coalition with you. Oh, you can throw the insults and accusations of “abandoning principles”, but when I’ve probed and asked you and others like to provide a detailed plan of a workable alternative to joining the coalition, I’ve not received a straight answer.

    In particular, I resent the constant accusations of the “nah nah nah nah nah”s that those of us who accept that forming the Coalition was the least worst option are all motivated by delight in “power” (the Coalition gives me none at all), or by secret sympathy with the Conservatives which is at odds with our public pronouncements (I know what is in my head better than you do, and I assure you, secret sympathy with the Conservatives is not there).

    Now, simply because I accepted the formation of the Coalition was the least worst option does not mean I agree with the way Clegg has handled the situation since. But the “nah nah nah nah nah”s simply won’t listen to me when I point that out. I’ve been doing it for four years now, yet despite the fact that I have been one of the loudest critics of Clegg’s leadership all that time, I find that if I say anything other than agreement with the line “the LibDems just abandoned their principles and rolled over and gave complete support to the Conservatives just for selfish reasons” I am attacked for what I said with attacks using lines that suppose I agree with everything Clegg has said or done, even when I have spelt out in great detail that I don’t.

    I would be happy for us to agree to disagree, perhaps for you to leave it suggesting that a minority Conservative government would not have lasted long and the LibDems would have triumphed in an early general election following its collapse, and me to say that I don’t think it would have worked out like that. But it doesn’t end like that – all that happens is that you and your type carry on with the “nah nah nah nah nah” insistence that I am not expressing what I really believe, and that underneath I am saying what I am saying only because of secret Conservative and right-wing sympathies.

    David Allen says there have been rational discussions about the Coalition. I’d like to know where. I’ve not seen a decent article anywhere which sensibly discusses it in terms of what junior coalition partners have been able to achieve in similar situations elsewhere, or in terms which cover the real weak position that the Liberal Democrats were in following the May 2010 general election. All I’ve seen is comments which unrealistically over-estimate the strength of the Liberal Democrats in that situation and condemn them for not exercising it (the Labour line), comments which unrealistically over-estimate the strength of the Liberal Democrats in that situation and praise them in an exaggerated way for how they have used it (the Cleggie line), and comments which unrealistically over-estimate the strength of the Liberal Democrats in that situation and condemn them for the way they have used it (the Conservative Party right-wing line). The Guardian newspaper publishes either Cleggie line or Labour line comments. The right-wing press publishes either Conservative right-wing or Labour comments (when it thinks the latter will be more damaging to the LibDems and thus more helpful in restoring the two-party system and hence full Tory dominance).

  • daft ha’porth, re:

    “[a group] I call the “nah nah nah nah nah”s”
    Yes, you do. Repeatedly. Ad nauseam. And why you think that will improve the quality of the discourse is an absolute mystery.

    It would help,for a start, if you could raise “the quality of discourse” to that of Matthew Huntbach’s. He makes valid points; explains his shorthand which he descriptively calls the “nah nah nah nah nah nahs”, which it would appear you are unable to, so instead simply object to his shorthand expression.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Aug '14 - 7:20pm

    Tony Dawson

    Similar concerns have been raised in respect of the Hancock affair and one might well ask, given what eventually transpired, why there appeared to be no intervention with Chris Huhne before he pincered himself with his later attempts at ‘cover-up’ of his dishonesty. Protecting the core of the Party appears to have been far more important than protecting what the Party was meant to be about.

    It’s easy to say this in retrospect, but I think you underestimate how very difficult it is to remove someone on the basis of rumours which they deny, and even on the basis of fact which is somewhat embarrassing. It’s something that is seen in almost all organisations, if there’s someone in a senior position who’s doing wrong, no-one quite has the courage to take the steps needed to deal with it, and it tends to rumble on. It’s generally not a planned conspiracy, more often it;s everyone sitting round hoping someone else will act.

    Consider if you have an organisation where someone at the top has an alcohol problem. Some of us may have been in situations like this. How difficult it is to tackle that and make the moves to get rid of that person. How easy it is just to shut one’s eyes to it think “maybe it’s not as bad as it seems” or “maybe he’ll get over it” and most certainly “Well, I don’t want to be the one who makes the first move”. Or consider an organisation where someone at the top is a nice person personally, but just incompetent, keeps making mistake after mistake which is damaging that organisation. Does a person in that situation tend to get thrown out quickly? Or do things rumble on because people sort of know what is happening but find it hard to talk about, and push their concerns aside, and certainly don’t want to be the first one to make the move to do something about it, in part because usually the person who acts first in situations like this suffers for it. It’s not nice being a “whistle-blower”. Mostly whistle-blowers lose their jobs, even when they have been proved right.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Aug '14 - 7:36pm

    Deborah Newton-Cook

    When I finally got approved as an EPPC in 2004 it had taken 5 years – then the Party record- to qualify, and cost me a fortune. Has it taken anybody else longer? I hope not

    Well, I tried once, but after a while and being made to jump through various hoops, and being criticised in ways which I felt unfair but where I had no right of defence, I just gave up. I was told I was “poor at communication”, despite my strong record of success in getting letters and press releases published in the media. That counted for nothing, instead the judgment of a single person on a single day based on what I thought were some rather silly role-playing exercises was enough to condemn me. My actual record of action and success in the party counted for nothing.

    I also felt I was being condemned for the sort of personality I have. I am naturally quiet, and I was told it was bad that I was seen at these things sitting in the corner being quiet. I suspect also that my accent and demeanour which betray my working class background counted against me, consciously or unconsciously.

    Others have written or spoken of experiencing quite a deep class prejudice in the party. I think it very obvious how a certain sort of glib upper-middle class person tends to be the sort who moves upwards at the expense of others.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Aug '14 - 10:57pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    Well, I tried once,

    For accuracy, this was for approval as PPC, not EPPC.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Aug '14 - 9:52am

    @Matthew Huntbach:

    “I think you underestimate how very difficult it is to remove someone on the basis of rumours which they deny, and even on the basis of fact which is somewhat embarrassing. “

    I am talking here about suspension only, within the rules which are applied to others but not apparently to certain ‘excluded ones’ when there are serious charges being investigated by proper authorities. I do not underestimate this because, as District Party Chair, I once had to agree once to suspending a selected candidate just before the local elections because of criminal investigation which eventually went nowhere.

    Consider if you have an organisation where someone at the top has an alcohol problem. Some of us may have been in situations like this. How difficult it is to tackle that and make the moves to get rid of that person. How easy it is just to shut one’s eyes to it think “maybe it’s not as bad as it seems” or “maybe he’ll get over it” and most certainly “Well, I don’t want to be the one who makes the first move”. Or consider an organisation where someone at the top is a nice person personally, but just incompetent, keeps making mistake after mistake which is damaging that organisation. Does a person in that situation tend to get thrown out quickly?

    As a past whistleblower, who once lost his job in the NHS as a result, I love your succinct double Party history lesson! Why did you miss out Ming?

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