Author Archives: Sal Brinton

Sal Brinton writes: Hungry for Democracy?

Next Tuesday the UK will commemorate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the vote and we will be marking the contribution of the commitment of suffragettes and suffragists over years to achieve it. I am sure, however, that many of them would be very concerned about the fault lines in our democracy one hundred years on.

The democratic deficit in our country is stark. First past the post denies representation to millions: in the 2015 General Election, the Lib Dems, Greens, and UKIP got over 24% of the vote, but won a mere 1.5% of the seats in Parliament. And in 2017 the Conservatives and the DUP received 43% of the votes between them, but hold a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Sal Brinton writes…Transgender rights are core to Lib Dem values

Following some problems in the Labour Party over whether transgender members can be treated as women for the purposes of all women shortlists (AWS), a number of members of the Liberal Democrats have asked me where the Lib Dems stand on transgender rights, including on AWS.

As a party we voted at Federal Conference in March 2016 to use all the powers available to us under the guidance to political parties under the Equality Act 2010. Helpfully, this also links to our clear and long term view about the rights of an individual in our values, best summarised in our Preamble to the Constitution:

‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full….

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely.’

Under the Equality Act 2010 we are able to have all women ppc shortlists (AWS) & all disabled shortlists (ADS), as well as to reserve places on a ppc shortlist for LGBT+, BAME, women & disabled approved candidates. Our definition for those who are eligible for AWS is based on the self definition of candidates when they ask to go on to the approved candidates list (which can be updated if their circumstances change by sending a formal request to the candidates office to change their equality and diversity form).  We respect the view of the individual as to their gender – it is core to our values – and we’ll continue to do so. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 34 Comments

Sal Brinton writes…How the party is addressing members’ concerns over harassment complaints

The Federal Board of the Liberal Democrats has met to discuss the concerns expressed by members of the party over the last few days. We considered what action should be taken to address these concerns, and also to let members know about changes that are in progress already.

I want to start by thanking everybody who has spoken up about harassment and sexual assault over the last few days. I know, from personal experience in the media when I was younger, that it is insidious, pervasive and demeaning and the effects never really leave you. Vince Cable and I remain very clear that there is no place for harassment and sexual assault inside the Liberal Democrats and we must have a zero tolerance approach to it.

That is why the serious allegations made by some members relating to rape and assaults in a case that is currently under investigation are very serious. Because the case is under way at the moment, the party cannot comment. However, we can look at some of the concerns raised by the complainants about where the process may have failed. That is urgent, and the Board recognises this.

Early in 2017 the Federal Board asked Lord Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions, to carry out a review of our current disciplinary processes for two reasons. Firstly, following the Morrissey Review the party constantly reviews its processes, but the Board was also  concerned to hear that some cases appeared to take too long, and that some processes were inconsistent. Ken was asked to think radically about a new process that would be seen as independent, fair, faster and accountable. The snap General Election halted the evidence he was taking, but the report is now nearing conclusion and will be presented to the Board in December, published to the party in January and then changes presented formally to Spring Conference.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 11 Comments

Sal Brinton writes…We must have a politics in which everyone feels able to be involved free from abuse or harassment

Over the last ten days the country has been rocked by the revelations of sexual harassment at Westminster.  Let me be clear that the Liberal Democrats believe harassment and abuse of power are unacceptable in any situation, and especially at Westminster.  Whether the allegations are about groping, inappropriate remarks or texts through to possible criminal offences of sexual assault and rape, any complaint needs to be listened to, taken seriously and investigated. Since these incidents are often about abuses of power, it is crucial people have an independent, confidential route to report incidents when they happen.

This week the Chief Whips in the Commons and the Lords have met with staff twice to hear their views and to ensure everyone is aware of how to make a complaint, and assured they will be taken seriously.  We are also reviewing our procedures in Parliament with a view to broadening the involvement in investigations to include some of those most likely to have a lived experience of this type of behaviour. There have also been meetings with both groups of MPs and peers to review their responsibilities to staff and volunteers.

Vince Cable will be meeting with the other party leaders on Monday to discuss how Parliament and the political parties can work better together to rid Parliament of the scourge of harassment.

In doing so, he will draw on the lessons our own party has learned.  In 2013 the Liberal Democrats commissioned Helena Morrissey to conduct a Review which changed fundamentally the party’s process and attitude towards sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power. The Federal Executive (now the Federal Board) accepted all her recommendations, and also asked Helena Morrissey to review progress against her recommendations, which the FE also reviewed at the end of 2014.

We re-wrote our Code of Conduct for members  and made it clear what the rights and responsibilities are of members.  There’s a page that has links to specific responsibilities for people with different roles here. We encourage people to report incidents – without a complaint it is very hard to investigate – and put in place arrangements to ensure that complainants feel supported.  Some people have been expelled from the party since strengthening our rules.

We have a professional Pastoral Care Officer, Jeanne Tarrant, who is not a party member.  She is trained to handle complaints fairly and independently, whether they come from inside or outside the party. Complaints come to her via the website  or by emailing her at [email protected].  She will contact the complainant to get more information if necessary and guide them through the process. Where she believes that a crime has been committed, she will also encourage the complainant to go to the police.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 15 Comments

Sal Brinton’s reminder about Party Awards nominations – deadline Friday 11th August

The deadline for this year’s Party Awards has been extended until Friday – don’t forget to nominate! I know there are people all over the country who deserve to be rewarded for all the hard work they put in during the election period, not to mention the invaluable ongoing work which so many party officers and others have been carrying out.

As a reminder, please see below the various categories, and how to apply.

Posted in News | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sal Brinton writes…Party Awards 2017 – nominate your hero!

It is Awards season again!

At our Autumn Conference the party presents awards to members who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and have given the party outstanding service and commitment.

We need you to tell us who should be considered for these prestigious awards. Nominations need to be completed by an officer of a local party, or of a regional or state executive.

Nominations must reach my office by 7 August and the judging panels will make their decision in time for Conference. The nomination form and submission details are on the party website.

This year there are four awards.

The President’s Award is open to any party member elected to public office and who has demonstrated excellence and commitment.

The Harriet Smith Liberal Democrat distinguished service Award is open to any member never elected to public office

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Sal Brinton writes… What you need to know about the leadership election

You can tell that we are in the middle of a Leadership Election. All the Lib Dem social media forums are buzzing, rumours abound, and there are plenty of discussions going on about the next Leader of the party.

As President I have to remain completely neutral in any Leadership contest because I represent all 104,000 of you to the Leader. I am very aware that many thousands of you will never have been through a Leadership Election before, so I thought it might be worth an attempt at explaining our processes.

Any candidate has to get at least 10% of our MPs to support them by 5 July, and thereafter get nominated by 200 paid up members from at least 20 local parties or official party bodies (Specified Associated Organisations such as Young Liberals, Lib Dem Women etc ‘SAOs’). These nominations must be submitted by 20 July when nominations close.

At the moment, the nomination forms have only just been circulated to the MPs, so anyone planning on standing is now going to have to come out to the membership to get your nomination.

Any candidates will have teams round the country asking for your support, so don’t be surprised if you get a request. 200 nominations doesn’t sound a great number, but speaking as someone who has had to get those nominations in twice for the Presidential elections, it isn’t as easy as it sounds! Remember, you can only nominate one candidate. 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 29 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRoland 18th Feb - 12:15am
    No Rob Parker, the referendum didn't mandate anything, however, various influential fringe elements of the Conservative party, being worried about UKIP and wanting to appear...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Feb - 9:22pm
    "middle-class Remainers of the north of England to be given more attention?" Why only middle class remainers? I live in the North too and, from...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Feb - 9:06pm
    As always it comes down to wanting more money for the NHS and social services. We are always asked "But where is the money going...
  • User AvatarRob Parker 17th Feb - 8:56pm
    "May’s speech shows that staying in the EU is best for Britain’s security" Right, but the referendum result, which politically speaking May HAS to implement,...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 17th Feb - 8:40pm
    @JoeB, To be fair to Ricardo, he did float the idea of Ricardian equivalence, he later backed away from the idea. His entry in Wiki...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 17th Feb - 8:27pm
    Can I put in a plea for the middle-class Remainers of the north of England to be given more attention? It is reported that the...