Author Archives: Alice Thomas

The new complaints process – our first year

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When the Lib Dems’ new members’ complaints procedure went live on 1 July 2019, we committed to an independent, fair, member-led process. The Federal Board agreed to review how the system was working at the end of its first year and I’m pleased and proud to say that the first steps in that review has identified some clear positives.

The system is independent. The Federal Board has no role in – or knowledge of – individual complaints. Instead, the Senior Adjudicators’ Team (SAT) leads and advises our volunteers. This team of four specialists, lead by our Lead Adjudicator, Neil Christian, reflects the federal nature of our party and it means there are up to three people from outside the state party of the complaint to provide impartial advice to our volunteers.

It is well-staffed: since our volunteer call last year we’ve trained over 100 volunteers to act as adjudicators, mediators and investigators. That’s well in excess of the 55 volunteers Conference originally agreed we needed, and we are working to train more.

The rules are much more transparent and flexible than they have been in the past. We have spoken to members and party bodies across all the state parties since last July to ensure it works – and to make amendments where it doesn’t. These changes are drafted by the Disciplinary Sub-Group and agreed by Federal Board as needed. The procedure is published on the party website and we welcome input from all members on how we can improve it.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 23 Comments

The new complaints process goes live on 1st July

It’s a good year to be a Lib Dem: we’ve gained thousands of new members, hundreds of council seats and 15 new MEPs because we are united while the Tories and Labour tear themselves apart from within. No party is immune to mistakes though and that’s why I’m proud to say that – from 1 July* – if a new complaint is made against a Lib Dem member, it will be handled under our new complaints procedure, which is consistent, clear and fit for purpose.

Federal Conference voted for this procedure at Brighton in Autumn 2018 and it has since been accepted by each of the state parties in England, Scotland and Wales. It is now time to implement it.

No complaints procedure can work without people to run it. That is why I am proud to say that more than 400 people responded to call for volunteers and we will be ready to hit the ground running. 

From 1 July 2019, complaints should be reported to the Standards Officer at LDHQ who will record the details in the case management system and send it on to the Senior Adjudication Team or “SAT”. The SAT comprises a Senior Adjudicator from each state party and our brilliant Lead Adjudicator, Fred Mackintosh.  The four members of the SAT have many years’ experience in the party and a background in making decisions and dealing with complex problems.

When a case is first raised Fred will randomly assign it to one of at least forty trained and impartial Adjudicators, who will assign any case which is more than frivolous to one of either the formal or informal routes.  At the same time the SAT will decide whether the member complained about should be suspended from membership whilst the complaint is resolved.

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Proposed new party disciplinary procedures

I love working with a party that is so committed to giving everyone in society a voice. At the moment, though, our disciplinary process doesn’t live up to those values. Far too often it lets down those making complaints, those complained about – and the whole party. That’s why I’m moving business motion F11: Reforming our Party’s Disciplinary Processes at federal conference in September, a motion I hope you will support.

This reform has been a long time coming: for many years now, experts (yes, we Lib Dems still think there is value in experts!) have been looking at our systems …

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Offshore 101, or: Can we please stop asking David Cameron to resign?

One of my favourite things about the Liberal Democrats is members don’t just get stuck into debates – they go looking for the evidence to back up what they’ve got to say. That’s why this week’s furore around what David Cameron did or didn’t do has been so frustrating.

The Panama Papers are fascinating to me, as a lawyer and a would-be tax specialist. It looks likely that when the dust has settled there will be evidence of money laundering, of tax evasion, of tax avoidance and of regulatory failings. But so far most journalists and commentators are throwing around words like fund and trust as if they’re the same thing, and treating tax avoidance, tax evasion and money laundering as equivalent acts. Unfortunately, much of the social media discussion so far has accepted these red herrings.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 57 Comments

Women and minority candidates are good enough to be MPs already – it’s the party that needs the diversity motion

I understand why people dislike targeted shortlists. I don’t like them, in principle. To me, liberalism is all about giving people the greatest personal choice, and in an ideal world I wouldn’t support them, which is what I said on the stage at autumn conference in 2014.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, and that’s why I’m supporting the diversity motion at this Spring Conference.

The classic arguments just don’t hang together any more. People say we need a level playing field. We do need it, but right now we don’t have it – and our diverse approved candidate list proves that’s not because underrepresented groups refuse to put themselves up for selection.

People think it will lead to tokenism, and god knows I don’t want to be treated as the token woman. I know I’m not a token, I know if I ran to be an MP it would be because I felt I was good enough to do it whoever I was up against, and I trust that any local party that had gone to the effort of selecting me would too, which is what really matters.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 35 Comments

Opinion: “Victim-blaming” 101: why sexual assault is different to other crimes

Sussex Police has produced a campaign poster encouraging women to stick together on a night out to reduce their chances of sexual assault. There are so many ways this poster is stupid: it perpetuates the myth of stranger rape as the only “real rape” (an idea which helps acquaintance rapists get away with it over and over again), it ignores male victims of rape, and it suggests women should fear sexual assault more than they value their sexual liberty.

But there’s only one issue I want to address now. On Monday, Caron Lindsay called the poster “victim-blaming”: she was right, and it’s worth explaining why victim-blaming is so much more harmful in cases of sexual assault than other forms of crime.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 46 Comments

Opinion: Let’s look at the harm caused by Page 3

Given that Page 3 wasn’t in The Sun this week, it sure took up a lot of media space, especially among Lib Dems. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that loads of us want to wade into a fight that was framed as free speech and sexual expression vs gender equality and quality news reporting. But that’s not actually what’s going on at all: so here is a rundown of what Page 3 is, and why it’s harmful.

Page 3 is normalising objectification of women. The Sun makes printing nude women for the sole purpose of titillation in a national newspaper, which would otherwise be totally weird, normal. Images of nude women and breasts are perfectly normal and widely available in a sexual context (see, 80% of the internet), but a daily national newspaper is not the place for it, because it’s supposed to be for news. “Women have breasts” is pretty much the oldest story there is. Unless, like my mother, your breasts make it into the paper because they are testing the new mammogram machine at your local hospital they don’t need to be in there. If the Guardian decided to swap Polly Toynbee for a massive naked man next week, I’d find that equally inappropriate, because quality reporting is not about getting your rocks off (unless you have a particular fetish for bad photos of Ed Milliband).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 61 Comments

Opinion: Nick Clegg, want to win the women’s vote? Try working with one.

Lib Dems celebrate 100 years of women councillors - Photo by Martin TodThis week, Lib Dem Women went public with our campaign to lobby Nick Clegg to promote more of our brilliant women, and especially to ask one of them to join the Cabinet. This weekend, it was announced that he has no intention of another reshuffle before the General Election.

Here’s why that’s a really bad idea. It’s not just because the Liberal Democrats have plenty of exceptional and capable women who deserve more senior positions. We do, of course, but if we were talking about experience and ability alone we should have done this in 2010. Annette Brook taught economics for nearly two decades before she became a councillor, mayor and then MP; Susan Kramer had a long and successful career in infrastructure and transport finance; Lorely Burt ran her own award-winning training and development business; I could go on. Nothing about these women suggests they are less capable than, say, Jeremy Browne or Danny Alexander.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

The Gender Agenda #4: The Liberal Democrats are a feminist party

Feminist fist by Eva the WeaverThe Liberal Democrats are a feminist party. When I first wrote that down I knew it would be a controversial statement among a minority, but right now I think it’s going to cause a wider stir.

It shouldn’t. When I first read the Lib Dem constitution, it seemed obvious that liberalism as it is expressed there, is feminist.

Feminism as I understand it describes a movement that aims to achieve true equality of opportunity, as reflected in more equal outcomes between genders. My support for that movement is why I joined a party that rejects ‘all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.’ (Ok, so I’d prefer if that said ‘gender’ not ‘sex’, but it’s a much bolder statement than the other parties are making).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 29 Comments

The Gender Agenda #3: Is there such a thing as “Women’s Policy”?

LDW stallI was long-winded last time so let’s try brevity: yes, and no.

When people talk about ‘women’s policy’ they usually mean one of three things:

1. Policies which only affect women directly: men (apart from trans men) do not, for example, suffer FGM or need access to abortion, so they will only ever be indirectly affected by policy on those issues.

2. Policies were your gender directly determines your rights and treatment in society: that includes gender separation in schools or prisons, or access to parental leave.

3.  Policies aimed at everyone, but that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 33 Comments

The Gender Agenda #2: Helping women climb the rungs of the activist ladder

Womens shortlistsI think we all got into politics for one of three reasons: principle, policy or people. When it comes to joining a political party, most Liberal Democrats reading this will know which category they fall into. Maybe it was the idea that ‘no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity’; for some it was policies born from those principles, like electoral reform or fairer parental leave; and for others, it was the local councillor who took the time to get to know them and help when they needed …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

The Gender Agenda #1 Why have women only training? What’s so special about women?

Womens shortlistsOn May 7th, I wrote my first article for Liberal Democrat Voice.

It wasn’t exactly ground-breaking. It was promo for an internal SAO, written in a hurry by a first-time candidate (me), a couple of weeks out from one of the toughest elections we’ve ever seen. It was less than five hundred words of innocuous fluff.

You would never have guessed it from the reaction.

Within a few hours, it had over seventy comments, and it hovered on the Most Read list for days. Why? Because it was about Liberal Democrat Women, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 141 Comments

Opinion: The Gender Agenda: What Liberal Democrat Women can do for women candidates

Campaigning on the doorstep - Lynne FeatherstoneOn May 22nd I’m fighting my first local election as a candidate. I’ve been stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors for other people for 8 years, but with a seat on Islington Council in the balance, this time it seems a little more real.

But I’m lucky. I’m fighting – and fighting hard – alongside a councillor with 8 years experience, and an experienced campaigner who’s already fought a by-election. The ward has two Lib Dem councillors out of three, and if we all get elected, …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 116 Comments
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