I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership in relation to the party over the past few weeks in the wake of the allegations about the conduct of Lord Rennard, which he denies.
Why did no one tackle this effectively at the time? Why did it take several brave women talking to the media for us to finally deal with such a serious problem?
Not for me or other Liberal Democrats members. That is why we set up Rock The Boat – Lib Dems Against Sexual Harassment (though I am pretty sure the vast majority of Liberal Democrats are against sexual harassment). We want the Liberal Democrats to lead by example.
If we cannot get our own house in order, how do we expect others to do so when we want to tackle these issues in society at large?
So let us do what we do best. Lead from the grassroots up.
As we are all aware, there are investigations in place into the specific allegations and the various failings of dealing with these when they were reported.
However, we need to also be focusing on the wider issue. After all, I’d rather that no one felt sexually harassed in the first place, even if we have thorough and appropriate measures to deal with it. And as recent comments from various senior Liberal Democrats show, there is a lot of work to do on changing attitudes.
That is why I and others will be handing out postcards and stickers at conference. We want to show that this party takes these issues seriously from the grassroots up and that the need to tackle them can’t be forgotten in the post Eastleigh relief. There is no cause for complacency.
Our aims are:
- to ensure no one in the party is sexually harassed;
- to ensure that we have the right processes and procedures in place to deal with allegations when made;
- to ensure that staff, elected representatives and party officers are trained on these matters;.
- to challenge the outdated attitudes that dismissed, and still dismiss, such behaviour
We call ourselves Rock the Boat because it’s common for people who complain about sexual harassment in an organisation to be told to stay quiet so as not to rock the boat. Sometimes, those boats need rocking.
If you would like to get involved with Rock the Boat you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. The number for Public Concern at Woto who are the main point of contact for people to come forward with allegations or concerns is 020 7404 6609.
* James Shaddock is a Liberal Democrat member and activist in Portsmouth