Last week Helena Morrissey published the results of her inquiry into how the Liberal Democrats handled allegations of sexual harassment. In our 24 hour news cycle, this may already seem like old news. But it is vital for the future of women in politics that do not allow the report and its conclusions to be forgotten. The change cannot only be top down – it must also be a grassroots movement.
The Lib Dems are not the first institution to be found to have mishandled allegations of sexual harassment. It is particularly galling for party members though, as the picture painted is so at odds with the party’s political aims of fairness and liberty. Nick Clegg’s swift response in which he committed to implement all of Morrissey’s recommendations is to be applauded but the whole party must take action in order to effect real change.
Men and women, staff and volunteers, regional and branch parties – we are all a part of it. We need to take note of the recommendations of the report and consider our personal role in making a change. The party structures need to take a long hard look at how we tell people about the recommendations and how they can be implemented swiftly to make sure the supportive culture we so admire is working properly. The leadership must take a role but it is also up to volunteers to make sure we have an understanding of how, for example, a complaint should be dealt with. We must also hold the leadership to account if it is found to be lagging in its promise to implement the report’s recommendations in full.
As a collective of interested individuals, Liberal Democrat Women is in an ideal position to assist the party as it works to implement the Morrissey findings. The group is open to men and women. Representing the grassroots membership, this group takes the heritage of liberals such as Mrs Gladstone and Violet Bonham Carter and infuses it with the Party’s ongoing work to increase the number of women in Parliament. Through its work the group aims to increase and support equality between men and women both inside the party and in the country at large. Liberal Democrat Women will play a vital role in keeping the party and its leadership true to its intentions with regards to the conclusions of the Morissey Report. For example the Morrissey Report points out the training offered by the Group should be open to all to foster the understanding that increased diversity in the party improves society and it can improve the party’s political fortunes.
But as we know, it is not just down to women to improve the lot of women in the party. It will require a collective effort to make a change and alongside the necessary work of our Leadership, we must all look inwards to see what practical, and cultural, changes we want to see to ensure that the party is truly liberal, democratic, diverse and modern.
* Amna Ahmad is an active London party member, Lib Dem Women member and in the day job, she works as a political communications expert.