Botswana elections: Liberal Democrats help sister party and its “calm revolutionary of our time”

Three chiefs and justice gaborone botswana by BoHeMIoYesterday was polling day in the General Election in Botswana. 57 parliamentary seats are up for grabs along with council seats across the country. The Botswana Democratic Party has been in power since the country gained independence in 1966. The Liberal Democrats have been helping our sister party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy, which has been fighting the election as part of a coalition of opposition parties, the Umbrella for Democratic Change. In early August, their campaign suffered a huge blow when BMD leader and Vice Presidential candidate Gomolemo Matswaledi was killed in a car accident on the way back from a visit to Johannesberg.

Top Liberal Democrat campaigns guru Victoria Marsom, who has the by-election victories in both Brent and Eastleigh under her belt, has been working closely with the BMD for the past year as part of a project funded by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. She’s travelled to Botswana twice, once in June and she’s there now for this last week of the campaign. I had a bit of a surprise the other night when I found this from her on my Facebook timeline:

Victoria's Botswana message

That said folder on Facebook has emblems for everything from Ros Scott’s campaign for the party presidency to the recent Scottish independence referendum. I went to have a look at it and thought of all the party’s brilliant campaigners who had put the artwork together for me to simply click into place.

I’m liking what that collection of campaign artwork inspired for the candidate Victoria was helping, Ndaba Gaolathe. “The calm revolutionary of our time” – what a strapline.

Ndabo Gaolathe Botswana


We’ll find out over the weekend whether he has been successful – but I certainly want him to be.

How, by the way, is this for an eve of poll rally:

And if you want an idea of some of the work Victoria has been doing:

And does this seem familiar?

And this?

If you want to know more, Victoria has written an article for the forthcoming all-member issue of Ad Lib magazine.

UPDATE Sunday 9:35 am:

He did it!

Ndaba wins in Botswana

And overall, the ruling party is 12 seats down on 2009 and UDC have won 14 seats so far according to Reuters.

Photo at the top of this post is of the Three Chiefs and Justice in Gaborone, Botswana by BoHeMIo

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and News.


  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 26th Oct '14 - 2:59pm

    Incredibly uplifting post. I would rather campaign there – for real change!

    Compare campaigning in England: campaigning is either for nastiness or for more of the same – as our leader has had to choose between [not been edifying] – and nastiness or more of the same are almost indistinguishable when voters are looking for something worthwhile to vote FOR. Even Labour is trying to look negative or completely redundant now. This is leading voters to consider Green or UKIP or giving up voting altogether. I would like to campaign for change but cannot be energised by what is on offer so far.

  • Lester Holloway 26th Oct ’14 – 5:26pm

    Bit unfair don’t you think, Lester. Will you be complaining that medical aid to Sierra Leone is scratching a colonial itch? I doubt if you will be commenting — “Why not leave its to Africans to sort out their own medical problems?”

  • Lester – an African is in charge of the Lib Dems General Election campaign…

  • Igor Sagdejev 26th Oct '14 - 6:05pm

    Why no one went to the Ukraine? At least, there’d be no accusations, as it was part of another empire.

  • Simon McGrath 27th Oct '14 - 12:48pm

    @Lester – how did the Uk “underdevelop” Sierra Leone ?

  • Simon McGrath 27th Oct '14 - 1:43pm

    @Lester -I was really hoping for something a little more convincing than very old school marxist claptrap. Still I enjoyed gems like this :
    “Indeed, as far as the two biggest socialist states are concerned (the Soviet Union and China), socialist development has already catapulted them beyond states such as Britain and France, which have been following the capitalist path for centuries”

  • Simon McGrath 27th Oct ’14 – 1:43pm

    Not often I say this but I am in complete agreement with you.
    The book which Lester Holloway provided a link to is clap-trap.
    I stopped skimming through the text when I read the sentence about white European colonialism as experienced by The Maoris of Australia and the Vikings of Scandinavia.

    I am sure that Lester is correct in saying that there are tonnes of other books on this subject.
    That being so — I would strongly recommend that he does not make reference to this one again.

    Pan-African scholarship has moved on a long way since 1973 and seeing the African experience exclusively through the prism of the brief period of European Colonialism (chiefly from the 1880s until the 1960s) has long since gone out of fashion.

    You found this quote —
    “Indeed, as far as the two biggest socialist states are concerned (the Soviet Union and China), socialist development has already catapulted them beyond states such as Britain and France, which have been following the capitalist path for centuries”

    I am tempted to say that if you remove the word “socialist” from this quote it sounds a bit like the equally mis-informed fan worship of China that appears in Jeremy Browne’s book. Daft statements about China are obviously not restricted to one corner of the political spectrum.

    Of course the great irony is that in Africa in 2014 the fastest growing Neo-colonialist power is China. As far as I am aware most ordinary Africans in many different countries are far more concerned about the Chinese buying up the continent lock, stock and copper belt than they are about the Europeans who departed years before they were born.

  • Simon McGrath 27th Oct '14 - 5:33pm

    @John – glad we are in agreement but do you think you could try and post without every one containing ( however irrelevant to the point in hand) an attack on Clegg or Browne?

  • India and Singapore were colonies too of course.

    But I don’t get Lester’s underlying point that there is something wrong with UK Liberals going to help a sister Liberal party in Africa, but nothing wrong with African Liberals coming to the UK to help a sister Liberal party here.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 28th Oct '14 - 8:00am

    I agree with Lester Holloway. Those who are contributing to this thread, need to seriously read up on the lasting and devastating effects of colonialism on continents like Africa. Read about the ‘Scramble for Africa’
    @jedibeeftrix – are you seriously suggesting in your sweeping generalisation, that all people in Africa don’t know how to use toilets, or treat women? Very insulting, hardly a ‘Liberal’ view, and should be removed from this thread. You are choosing the worst examples, which could easily be applied to other continents and societies.
    I suggest you do some cursory research into why many countries in Africa are underdeveloped, and many still living in poverty.
    A sample quote from an academic piece of research into poverty, as a direct effect of one aspect, slavery:
    The economic development of Africa was not only stifled. The slave trade from sub-Saharan Africa to North and South America, to India and Arab countries, and to North Africa depopulated Africa, disrupted economic and political organization, and interfered with internal trade. This did not occur just once. It was process that was carried out over at least four centuries. In effect, Africans never had time to recover and rebuild their own societies. The result today, according to economist Nathan Nunn, is that the regions of Africa hardest hit by the slave trade now have the lowest incomes. Thus, slavery in the past directly affects the level of poverty in the present.
    It’s no wonder the Europeans and the West, who directly benefitted from the spoils of Africa enjoy a higher standard of living.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 28th Oct '14 - 8:52am

    @jedibeeftrix – What is your name- why hide behind this if you want serious debate?
    Your comments were incredibly sweeping and yes ignorant. Perhaps take the time to formulate coherent arguments before pressing ‘post comment’
    Lester speaks as an African. I have African heritage, and made it my business to learn about my great grandfathers world and life under colonialist rule. It’s clear you have limited knowledge of this subject.
    I respect people’s views even if I don’t agree with them, and suggest you do the same.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 28th Oct ’14 – 8:00am
    “…I agree with Lester Holloway. Those who are contributing to this thread, need to seriously read up on the lasting and devastating effects of colonialism on continents like Africa. ’..”

    Meral Hussein– your statement really will not do. As one of the people who has contributed to this thread I think I can say with some confidence that you do not have a clue what books I have read or how many books I have read on the subject.

    I did take some time to look at the book to which Lester provided a link. It is a rambling, poorly edited, inaccurate rag-bag of generalised assertions which does not help Lester make his point but makes one wonder why on earth he made a reference to it.
    See my earlier comment about the sentence of the book that compares the experience of the “Maoris” of Australia to the Vikings of Scandinavia. I am not making this up, follow the link and go to page 55.

    If you agree with Lester and want to defend his view that helping out in an election anywhere in Africa is “..the irresitable urge to scratch a colonial itch..”, you should say why you think that.
    You should not assume that others who comment on this have less knowledge, or have done less reading on the subject than you.

    Are you really saying that going and helping in an election in another country is reprehensible because it comes from “..the irresitable urge to scratch a colonial itch..” ?

  • Lester: “can I ask why Liberal Democrats are not leaving it to Africans to elect their own MPs but want to send down people from Britain to help the natives?”

    This is a very unusual question, couched in very strange language. We have a long tradition of helping sister parties in other countries, at their invitation. We also have sister parties coming to help us. For example, I can remember when some of our number went to help our sister party in the Seychelles. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it!

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 28th Oct '14 - 9:39am


    Frankly I am saddened by the tone that this thread has adopted which appears to be based on ‘either/or’ stance and gives little if not respect to people who have more than intellectual knowledge, and understanding of Africa, which is itself far too small a word to use for such a vast continent with an almost unimaginable amount of diversity.

    Both Meral and Lester have a knowledge base that I for one defer to and respect, albeit we do not always agree, but on this matter I feel that some of the comments made in this thread are actually racist in nature, and I for one do take offence at the implied message that has been made.

    Surely the within the Liberal Democrat Party, we should be able to highlight the injustices that have happened historically, some of which was perpetrated by our political ancestors, for unless we learn from history we are doomed to repeat things.

    As for sending ‘well meaning liberals’ across the globe to help in democratisation and liberalisation, well it does smack of a bygone age where people set forth with a gun in one hand and a bible in the other, unless the people being sent have the appropriate knowledge, understanding, skills and ability to be of use. Sadly I am aware that Party members without these attributes are to be found ‘advising’ overseas countries, when I am certainly aware that they have little or no understanding of what inclusion means here. Our overseas brothers and sisters may well need assistance, but they do not need patronising.

    BME members of our Party should be able to discuss and challenge matters that impact on themselves and wider communities without being needlessly and personally attacked if we are going to create the inclusive Party that we claim to desire.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • Simon McGrath 28th Oct '14 - 9:55am

    @Ruwan – Lester may well have a knowledge base about Africa but he has given no evidence of it here, indeed his only ‘evidence’ is an absurd marxist tract.
    You say “BME members of our Party should be able to discuss and challenge matters that impact on themselves and wider communities without being needlessly and personally attacked if we are going to create the inclusive Party that we claim to desire.” by which you appear to mean that they should be exempt from the same process of dialogue and questioning which we would apply to non BME people.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Oct '14 - 10:05am

    I woke up this morning to see a complaint about the comment made by Jedibeefitrix late last night. After some discussion, we have decided on this occasion to leave it in place. This is not because we think it is in any way acceptable. Any further such comments will be removed on sight. To make such sweeping generalisations about people from a particular part of the world is clearly racist and needs to be challenged as so.

    We will not tolerate racism on this site. This comment crossed a line.

    Part of the reason we decided to leave it in place is that it was challenged so effectively by people. Part of the concern I had about No Platform way back in the 80s was that it just pushed stuff under the carpet with no deeper discussion. That, I firmly believe, is why we have UKIP now and why their casual racism is so appealing to some.

    There are limits, though. I as one of the editors of the site have no wish to be associated with blatant racism and any other such comments in the vein of that one will be removed.

    We can’t see every comment that’s made. It’s too big a job for a small, volunteer team. If anyone has concerns about any comments, please raise them with us at [email protected].

  • Tsar Nicolas 28th Oct '14 - 10:05am


    My previous two posts were as on-topic as others, were not (to my knowledge) rude or offensive and made points pertinent to the discussion. What have I done wrong?

  • Lester, you ask:
    “Who gets a say on which parties we’re backing?”
    It’s members of Liberal International who we help, and who help us. BMD are observer members of Liberal International:
    It is absolutely right that we are active members of Liberal International, which is what this activity in Botswana was part of, and I don’t think there is any question that Victoria Marsam has great experience of elections and campaigning.

  • Tsar Nicolas 28th Oct '14 - 10:08am

    Re: My previous two deleted posts, there was no racism or anything like that – they made perfectly reasonable points about African integration into the western financial system and the west’s overthrowing of African governments to keep it that way, yet they were deleted. I am surprised.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 28th Oct '14 - 10:09am

    Simon McGrath,

    You choose to miss the point yet again, and as we all know there is actually little point in engaging with you, for you merely repeat a very tired cyclical tale which although sounding inclusive, remains exclusive and changes nothing.

    Some of us, are engaged in trying to change things in the ‘real world’, and as such a theoretical liberal approach based on ‘evolution’ or ‘turn the other cheek’ is simply not effective or quick enough.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • Simon McGrath 28th Oct '14 - 10:43am

    @ruwan – i’m afraid I have no idea what you are talking about. I asked Lester a perfectly reasonable question to which he responds by posting a link to an absurd document. What point am i missing ? Nor does your comment about ‘turning the other cheek’ make any sense.

    It seems a little rich for you to say “Some of us, are engaged in trying to change things in the ‘real world’” when you are supporting Lester who specifically doesnt support Liberals trying to help change in Botswana !

  • I want to be the first person in this thread to say I don’t understand and I’m under-educated in this topic. So, if words fail the people that claim to understand, what hope have I got? I suspect most of us want similar outcomes and this sort of dialogue and mistrust isn’t going to help that. Several BAME members here feel that Lib Dems helping in African elections has colonial undertones. I haven’t considered Lesters view until now, perhaps he’s right about this, but peoples noses are out of joint because they feel like he’s calling them racist and nobody likes that (except JBT and his Alf Garnett impression). I’d like to read an article by Lester that sets out his objections to party involvement with Liberal International and African elections; I don’t think he’s presented his argument as well as he normally does and the link did more harm than good (it seemed a suspicious source of info to me too).

    >Good Western liberal intentions aren’t always appropriate, as the history of Missionaries shows.

    Aren’t missionaries predominantly Catholic and, as such, hard to categorise as liberal? Would Liberals really run around telling people not to use contraception because Jesus doesn’t like it? Just one of the many factors on this page I find hard to understand. I think we’ve all got a bit emotive and its made for poor communication; big up all that kept their head, didn’t descend or ask for posts to be banned!

  • Duncan Borrowman 28th Oct '14 - 2:07pm

    I’ve trained and helped parties (usually in London) from Latvia to Mongolia. I have never been aware of it being for any other reason than them asking to be trained or helped. Certainly when I have done it overseas I have left my bible, pistol and safari suit at home.

  • “If Britain hadn’t underdeveloped Sierra Leone in colonial times they would have a health system that wouldn’t require British help now.” [Lester Holloway 27th Oct ’14 – 12:39pm]

    Like the airbrushing out of 50+ years of post colonial history that includes military coups and a decade long civil war; these have obviously have had no impact whatsoever on Sierra Leone’s ability to care for its population…

  • Duncan Barrow man

    “I’ve trained and helped parties (usually in London) from Latvia to Mongolia. I have never been aware of it being for any other reason than them asking to be trained or helped”

    I’m sure that was the case with Victoria Marsom. I have no idea why Lester Holloway, Meral Hussein Ece and R Uduwerage-Perera think the story is about the exploitation of Africa. It’s a story of a LibDem campaigner going to another country helping their Liberals fight an election. How De Beers raping Botswana to put diamonds on LibDems wives fingers came into it I have no idea.

  • Simon McGrath 28th Oct '14 - 5:44pm

    @Lester ” I am amazed that when evidence of the impact of colonialism is presented some members continue to reject or pick holes in it rather than recognising the bigger picture that colonial powers left the nations they ruled in poverty”
    Is anyone denying that many African countries were poor when we left ? Not Me. But that is not what you said – I asked how we had ‘underdeveloped” Sierra Leone – a point you have repeatedly refused to answer apart from a link to a nonsensical text.

  • Igor Sagdejev 28th Oct '14 - 6:45pm

    @Lester: “African ships were sailing from the west coast all around the world to trade in medieval times, including to Cornwall, and there is evidence that a flotilla of ships crossed the Atlantic to the Americas centuries before Christopher Columbus.”

    I trust yu on this, Lester! The only problem is, I have heard rival versions from some representatives of other mistreated peoples: Ukrainians, and Armenians. Many years ago, in moscow, a Marxist paradise (which I will not wish any one to live in), I had an Armenian neighbour, who brought me some pieces of Armenian scholarship to read. This is when I learned that it was the Armenians, who had discovered America, invented the wheel, the metals, and, of course, fire.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 28th Oct ’14 – 9:39am
    Ruwan, I put this question to Meral and she has chosen not to reply.
    Perhaps you would ike to reply —
    Are you really saying that going and helping in an election in another country is reprehensible because it comes from “..the irresitable urge to scratch a colonial itch..” ?

  • I’m trying to make some sense of Lester’s diatribe along with its notable omissions.

    From Lester’s initial comment, I take it that Ethnic Minority LibDems (not to be confused with East Midlands LibDems) and Lester specifically, didn’t know about Victoria’s involvement in Botswana nor about what Liberal International is about.

    From the angle from which he questioned UK LibDem’s involvement, but not that of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy [1], I take it that he had not bothered to find out the basic facts before commenting, namely the UK LibDem’s (specifically Simon Hughes MP and Victoria Marsom) were invited by the ALN (Africa Liberal Network), back in August 2013, to share communications best practises; something that can hardly be described as an “irresistible urge to scratch a colonial itch”.

    Yes, I would agree with Lester and his supporters, that because of the ‘baggage’ arising from our shared colonial history, UK residents (including those who can claim African heritage) need to treat carefully and should in the main leave it to African’s living in Africa to elect their own representatives; and only contribute knowledge when asked. From what has been reported, Victoria has done exactly that.

    [1] “an independent public body sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office” – hence why some media writers have referred to this as “Lib Dem campaigning in Botswana at taxpayer’s expense”.

  • Tsar Nicolas 28th Oct '14 - 8:09pm

    I recall watching an episode of the ITV series ‘The World at War’, which dealt with children being evacuated out of London in 1939. One of the interviewees recalled white Eastend kids urinating and defecating on the floors of main rooms in the houses where they were staying. This did not indicate moral inferiority or degeneracy, merely a background of poverty which meant they did not know what a toilet was, or knew in theory but not in practise or from experience.

    Similarly, a few months back the BBC had an item which dealt with women in rural India going out to the field at night to perform necessary bodily functions, because the villages had no toilet or sanitary facilities. Again, no implication of inferiority, racial or otherwise, merely poverty.

    I certainly didn’t read jedibeeftrix’s comment as racist. If you want to be offended, it’s very easy to do so, but then people stop listening.

  • Lester:”British definition of liberalism”…but surely the fact that Liberal International has the word “international” in its title is a clue, isn’t it? As the organisation says on its website:
    “There are a number of common principles which unite all liberal parties from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe; human rights, free and fair elections and multiparty-democracy, social justice, tolerance, social market economy, free trade, environmental sustainability and a strong sense of international solidarity. ”
    And as Roland says above, there is the simple fact that we were invited to send a small delegation.
    Botswana, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Madagascar, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania. – all those countries have liberal parties who are part of Liberal International. This is not a colonial missionary organisation!

  • Richard Dean 28th Oct '14 - 8:55pm

    “The No.1 Lady’s Detective Agency” has a bit of gentle background on Botswana. And sequels. Written by a colonial, I’m afraid, but good anyway. Available at all good booksellers.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 28th Oct '14 - 9:28pm

    @ Lester,

    Not wanting to intrude on what is a quite disturbing comments thread, but I’m not sure how aware you are of the work of Liberal International or the Africa Liberal Network. These are not organisations renown for their colonialist approach. Indeed, Liberal International makes a point of encouraging the development of regional groups exactly so that they can develop best practice most appropriate to the communities of their own nations.

    The training that is offered is generally skills based, how to reach voters, how to develop policy (not what that policy should be). It is offered to parties that approach us, rather than the other way round.

    I think that you’re being unduly harsh here, but why not talk to the British Vice-President of Liberal International, Kishwer Falkner if this is of concern to you. She might well be able to put your mind at rest.

  • Richard Dean 28th Oct '14 - 9:43pm

    Jedibeeftrix’s remark, and key parts of Lester’s response, have echoed around the social media world a bit. The first I heard of it was by an incandescent email from an African friend 5000 miles from the UK.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 28th Oct '14 - 11:52pm

    “The Liberal Democrats who run LibDemVoice, however, appear to think it is acceptable to let such comments stand. Lindsay made a case as to why she has not deleted the comment despite receiving a complaint, which I happen to know was from a senior figure in the party. But it is a case that I reject. If racism on the site is unacceptable, as she suggests, why not demonstrate that stance by removing it? To say one thing and do another simply gives a green light that such racism does not cross the line.

    That is a decision made from the position of white privilege. There are many anti-racist white people, and I’m sure Lindsay is one of them, but if you are not personally the victim of racism how can you set yourself up as the arbiter of what does and does not cross the line while at the same time rejecting a complaint calling for the deleting of the comment from a person of colour who does experience racism?”

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you weren’t using my surname in a derogatory fashion. For future reference, the name’s Caron. I thought you would have realised that from the long series of emails that you were party to, but clearly not.

    Anyway, I had a long discussion with the person who submitted the complaint and the others copied in to the email. I thought that everyone was happy with the solution we eventually arrived at, but clearly not. However, the senior party figure you mention did thank me for it.

    “The fact that not a single white Liberal Democrat had any criticism to make of jedibeeftrix also speaks volumes”

    “This is not because we think it is in any way acceptable. Any further such comments will be removed on sight. To make such sweeping generalisations about people from a particular part of the world is clearly racist and needs to be challenged as so.

    We will not tolerate racism on this site. This comment crossed a line.”

    Just a reminder of my first comment on the matter.

  • Duncan Borrowman 29th Oct '14 - 12:08am

    Lester Holloway calls himself a journalist. The first basic rule of being a journalist is checking your facts. Firstly he said on Twitter that jedibeeftrix is a Lib Dem. Which is clearly not true.
    His latest on his blog is to say I am Chair of the Lib Dem Conference Committee. Wrong Duncan.
    Check your facts right Lester, it strengthens your case.
    Having realised he was wrong about jedibeeftrix he then switches to wanting the racist post removed. As a Liberal and a Democrat I believe in tackling ignorance by debate not censorship.
    In case you ask Lester. I’ve been in court as the defendant in a case where I have challenged the Met Police over excessive force in an arrest on a black person and got arrested myself on a trumped up charge. I don’t do racism.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 1:40am

    Jedibeeftrix’s remark about toilets is totally unacceptable, as is the Editors’ decision to allow it to stand. And now the Editors are threatening to remove comments that are critical of them. Wow! Whatever Lester says is just a shining beacon compared to the defences being offered here.

    The thread is doing huge damage to the reputation of liberal democrats and to the UK itself – not everyone abroad realises the difference. Does anyone think that any African is more likely to support the party as a result of this? The Editors needs to delete this entire thread, publish a sincere apology, and all resign.

  • Richard Dean asks the rhetorical question —
    “….Does anyone think that any African is more likely to support the party as a result of this?..”

    Yes I do. Any African who values informed discussion based on the facts rather than exaggeration and romantic myths would see the point of supporting the party.

    Not all Africans feel a need to bury every subject in a sort of instant outrage about a colonial past which neither they nor their parents were alive to witness.
    Most Africans my age (and I am a pensioner) and younger do not see the politics of 2014 through the prism of what happened in the 1950s and before.

    Now that I have answered your question Richard Dean, perhaps you might like to answer the question that I have put to Meral and Ruwan, but they for whatever reason have not answered. —

    Are you really saying that going and helping in an election in another country is reprehensible because it comes from “..the irresitable urge to scratch a colonial itch..” ?

  • Lester Holloway

    As this thread started being about elections in Botswana I thought you might like to read this report from Reuters.

    Which makes me wonder what your reaction is to the facts of life in that country in 2014.

    If you lived in a country that had been ruled by the same political party since 1966 under the leadership of the son of the person who lead the country before him, would you see politics through the prism of what might have happened before 1966 ?   Or would you see it in terms of today and tomorrow?

    In a country of fabulous diamond wealth but only around 2 million people, would you question why the same guys who are running the show after fifty years are doing OK but young university  graduates cannot get a job?  
    If the only power station in your country had shut down recently making your country depend on another for its electricity would you blame some European from the nineteenth century or would you blame those guys who had been in government for the last fifty years?

    You might take some comfort in the fact that Botswana has been ranked the least corrupt African country for 18 years in a row.    Would you credit that to people from before 1966 or is it to the credit of people who have been around since then?

  • Simon McGrath 29th Oct '14 - 6:47am

    Lester has now said he is leaving the party over this

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 29th Oct '14 - 8:12am

    I personally stand by the reason to leave the comment, with Caron’s warning in order to show people that lines need to be drawn, but sadly it would appear that people were ignorant of their own actions and could not help but continue their terribly liberal attacks.

    I am personally deeply saddened that people who claim to be liberal thinkers have chosen to gang up together and berate Lester Holloway, a man who credentials in the field of race equality are matched by no other person in our Party.

    The ignorance and yes, bigotry espoused within this and other threads towards Lester and other people who dare to challenge the status quo, does not demonstrate the ethics and principles that Lester, and many of us were attracted to.

    If our Party is going to succeed in the future and grow and be more inclusive, and I certainly hope that it does, it has to enter the 21st Century and open its doors to the diversity that exists in society today.

    This does mean, and I will put it simply, that just because one is white, male, heterosexual, educated and middle class, you do not have all of the answers. You actually need the rest of us, who are not members of this minority, but elitist club, otherwise our Party is doomed.

    For the sake of thee Party, GROW UP!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

  • The comment concerned was made at 11pm at night. It did not set off the auto-moderation. As soon as it was brought to the attention of the LDV team it was taken down, along with associated replies. That was around 8am yesterday. Then an email discussion ensued with several interested parties on which Lester was copied. It was thought that, because Meral and Ruwan replied so effectively to the comment, the comment and the replies should be reinstated. This was agreed and done. The complainant thanked Caron for her actions.

    The commenter is not a Lib Dem member and is now having their comments temporarily auto-moderated (two follow up comments from this person were not published).

    As far as I am concerned Meral and Ruwan spoke for me on this matter. I saw Meral speaking at our SLF conference and I was extremely impressed. She is one of our most passionate and articulate peers. Ruwan lives in my town, is one of my ward councillors, and I know him well. Meral and Ruwan are Liberal Democrat members and they spoke for me on the matter of the comment concerned. I think it would have been superfluous for me to repeat their replies in a weakened form.

    On the subject of the reinstated comment and replies, I am unavoidably reminded of the words of John Stuart Mill in “On Liberty”:

    “But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. …”

  • Ruwan
    Is it bigotry to challenge people’s views politely?
    Above there is lively debate. Lester made some interesting points and these have been engaged with and challenged.
    Aside from the comment which has caused the controversy, is there really bigotry there? I see nothing which I have not seen on a hundred LDV comments threads. Indeed, as an example, I had the temerity to suggest that Tuition fees are not the crime of the century and received a debate which went to well over 300 comments with my integrity and intelligence questioned. I only raise that example to point out that if you raise your head above the parapet here you can always expect energetic responses. It would have been very patronising to handle this debate with kid gloves.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 8:35am

    This place is not called Caron’s Musings or Tall’s Tales or Tilley’s Tattle or even Meral’s Mutterings. It is called LibDemVoice, which is a claim that it gives voice to liberal democrats and their ideas and feelings. The Editors therefore have responsibilities that go beyond those of a personal blog. One of them is to demonstrate liberal democrat values in action, and they have chosen to do this by refusing to correct a very, very serious mistake they made at 8am yesterday. There is no way that this demonstrates true liberal democrat values in action.

    The original remark was highly offensive to a large section of the community and one of its well-respected members rightly notified the Editors. Practical politics is not about fancy definitions or slick ways to argue around an error. It’s about perception, and this thread shows LibDems in a light that is worse than the worst of UKIP. Would the Editors have made the same decision if the remark had been about the LGBT community? Ruwan is being very polite. The Editors need to change their mind, delete this thread, publish an abject apology, and leave.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 29th Oct '14 - 8:49am

    I am very saddened that as a result, Lester Holloway, a respected black journalist, and one of the very few Black/African activists in our party has resigned. The comment was racist, and if it had been said of any other ethnic or faith group, there would probably be an outcry. It’s a shame we spend much time being corrected on party procudeures/ rules, and forget the fundamental principles of combatting racism and intolerance. We already know that the whole Ebola crisis has impacted on people of African heritage, and yesterday’s disgraceful comment, simply fuels this. Online abuse is now sadly all to common, but it’s how we combat it while allowing democratic debate that is the issue.
    Paul – thank you for your kind words. I too am tired of the constant abuse and derogatory comments, and have been reluctant to contribute in this site for that reason.

  • Tsar Nicolas 29th Oct '14 - 8:54am

    Than you Paul Walter for that quotation from Mill.

    I suggest Richard Dean tries for his weekend reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

    There you will see laid out before you a tale of a society where every book is banned and burned, and where authors have given up on writing books because of the offence they may cause.

    Considering this was written in around 1951, it was a very prescient insight into the sort of society we have become.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Oct '14 - 8:55am

    As someone who has previously “resigned” over what appears to be a small issue to others, but important to the individual, I can understand Lester’s decision. With these things it is often wrong to categorise it as simply leaving over one comment, because it is usually simply the final straw.

    Of course I disagree with Jedi’s comment, but I see both sides of the argument when it comes to removing it or not. When Lee Rigby was killed and the killers offered their justification to the camera I was repulsed by it, but I disagreed with those who wanted it censored, possibly because their reasons were being challenged. I have reported extremist material on the internet in the past – sometimes it is useful to censor it, other times to shine a light on it.

    I think removing the comment is neither here nor there, but even though I often disagree with Lester, I respect him as a bit of a fellow “lone ranger” who stands on principle, regardless of what others think. I hope the issue can be resolved, somehow.

  • Still no answer from Richard Dean, Meral Hussein Ece or Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera.

    Are you really saying that going and helping in an election in another country is reprehensible because it comes from “..the irresitable urge to scratch a colonial itch..” ?

    Are you all reluctant to answer because in your rush to defend Lester Holloway you chose to excuse or ignore his statement ?

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 9:26am

    @John Tilley. Your question is not relevant to the debate as it now is.

  • Anthony Fairclough 29th Oct '14 - 9:52am

    Clearly the comment in question was incredibly sweeping – and certainly could be interpreted as racist even if not intended to be (which from follow up comments I do not believe it was). I am glad to see that people have challenged it, particularly the strong post from Caron.

    I disagree with Lester about taking part in training overseas activists from sister parties. Imo it’s a good thing to support colleagues coming from a similar political/philosophical starting point, it’s also a learning and development opportunity for those activists doing the training (and I would be quite interested to attend training offered by overseas colleagues – there’s always something to learn).

    There seem to be two criticisms Lester is making of the work done in Botswana – first, that we should not be interfering in Botswanan politics, and secondly about challenging ruling parties that historically were involved in the liberation movement. On the former, there seems no suggestion that the Lib Dems were advising on policy, merely on campaigning. On the latter, I am uncomfortable with the idea that because of historic work by liberation movements, we should be unwilling to help liberal parties now against the successor liberation parties.

    I am saddened by Lester’s leaving.

  • Richard Dean

    “@John Tilley. Your question is not relevant to the debate as it now is.”

    It is very relevant. Lester Holloway’s words and there were others much more offensive than “the irresitable urge to scratch a colonial itch” set the tone for the whole debate. Meral Hussein Ece claims that Holloway is a respected black journalist and seems to label people arguing against his view as online abusers. That may well be her opinion, but I’m sure she would find many who would disagree with both those points.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 10:23am

    The tone was set by jedibeeftrix’s remarks about toilets. That is the main offence in this thread. A second offence is that the Editors refuse to acknowledge their mistake, and a third offence is the argument that freedom of expression is more important that avoiding racism.

  • Richard Dean

    Then we have to disagree. To me the arguments were already in full flow by the time jedibeeftrix made his remark. It was a rather nice story about a brittish lady helping the Botswana Movement for Democracy campaign, it was then highjacked by Lester Holloway and made worse by jedibeeftrix’s toilet remarks. Once again the Editors are between a “rock and a hard place” on this one, but I think they have done as well as they could in a tricky situation.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 12:10pm

    Then JS Mill was presumably a racist. As regards resignations, the plain fact is that the quality of this website has gone downhill ever since Mark Pack left. I’m no longer a member in part because of the racist and elitist views that appear here and appear to be supported by the Editorial team. The LibDems seem to essentially rely on support from the LGBT community whenever they get into difficulties, which is often. They have signally failed to capture the support of a large fraction of the population who are neither Labour nor Tory supporters. Anyone with any honour should follow Lester’s example IMHO. Maybe try the Greens, though they’re a bit left. Maybe set up a new party. But never again trust a LibDem to be what they say on the tin.

  • peter tyzack 29th Oct '14 - 12:37pm

    Caron’s handling of this issue was right. It is far better to have such discussion out in the open, but the right to free speech, which we endorse, is always threatened when a contributor uses a rude or aggressive tone. But we should remember that an ill-mannered tone, or racist remarks, reflect on the speaker not the reader. It is perfectly possible, with our rich language, to make a challenging comment without going over any line.
    If we want to raise the tone of debate on LDV then perhaps the administrators should insist on a full name and photograph, to avoid people lobbing grenades from behind a nom-de-plume and a silhouette.

  • Squirrel Nutkin 29th Oct '14 - 12:58pm

    It has been mixture of educational and satisfying to discover that three long-standing adornments of these comments threads are not now (or possibly never were) members of the party. On behalf of many lurkers may I thank them for gifting us so many wodges of incoherent and ill-informed pontificating and intemperately phrased bad advice that derailed or diverted so many interesting threads.

    As for Lester Holloway, I can only endorse Paul Walter’s comment above (11.42)!

  • Jonathan Hunt 29th Oct '14 - 1:10pm

    Firstly, I am extremely sorry that Lester has chosen to resign from the party. He worked exceptionally hard, effectively and intelligently, to the neglect of his own interests, as EMLD secretary helping to break down the resistance in the party to ceding full equality to black and ethnic minority candidates.

    As his predecessor for five years, I remain in awe of his ideas and energy for pushing forward a cause that can only benefit the party in an increasingly multi-racial and cultural country.

    Had I read some of the ignorant rubbish published over an amazing number of posts, would have contributed strongly before. The comment about toilets had nothing to do with ceramics and sanitation, and everything to do with spreading ignorant racist propaganda about black African people.

    I lived in east and central Africa when younger and have been in villages where perfectly acceptable sanitary arrangements other than lavatories were in place. If you are really concerned about lack of lavatories, then blame the British colonial authorities for not investing in them, while spending a disproportionate proportion of the country’s meagre income on a high level of middle-class infrastructure for whites.

    We all have our own breaking points and I am sorry that Lester has reached his. Mine almost came when I was sacked by an authoritarian council group for refusing to stop investigating and making known acts of discrimination and corruption by and within the council. And again when an incompetent regional party closed down the Camberwell & Peckham local party when we had 40 per cent BME membership and all five officers were non-white.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 1:11pm

    Squirrel Nutkin, of course, would disappear for ever if Peter Tyzack’s recommendations about honesty and openness were to be implemented. A nom-de-plume for Caron perhaps, or Paul? Anyway, the name provides a fitting conclusion to this awful thread.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Oct '14 - 1:52pm

    Squirrel Nutkin, if I am one of the commenters that you refer to I can assure you that I am always willing to recognise a good point when I see one, even if it is different to my own. I find your comment a tiny bit hurtful and it is annoying that you are able to speak about others like that without revealing your name. It is freedom without accountability and it is probably no coincidence that the main offender in this thread is also hiding their real name. I am not against all pseudo-names, but unaccountable abuse should be removed.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Oct '14 - 1:58pm

    In fact, that’s just made my mind up on this scenario. Jedi’s comment should be removed because it is unaccountable abuse. Broadly.

  • Gary Fuller 29th Oct '14 - 2:44pm

    I honestly don’t know whether I agree with the approach of LDV or not, I’m not a site moderator, and I’m certainly not qualified to comment on politics in Africa having only ever travelled to Northern France, and not even having taken a History GCSE. In fact, having read the entire thread (up to 2pm today), I’ve realised how remiss I’ve been in not expanding my knowledge of history in the wider world, and I’ll definitely be addressing that.

    That said though, it can be easy to become so focussed on winning one argument that one fails to act appropriately in dealing with another. To an extent, I think that is what has happened here. @jedibeeftrix’s argument was tackled by some members of this forum, and I’d like to think I would have voiced an opinion in support of those members had I been aware of the discussion before two hours ago. I do think though that, as perhaps would have happened in a spoken discussion, @jedibeeftrix’s comment should have resulted in a laser focus on dealing with what s/he said to the exclusion of the debate that was ongoing before the comment.

    In my view @jedibeeftrix made a blatantly ignorant comment that can only be interpreted as racist. The fact that this may have been unintended does not absolve his/her responsibility to acknowledge the offence caused and to apologise to those affected, which @jedibeeftrix totally failed to do. Unintended discrimination is still discrimination, and we all have a duty to acknowledge it and tackle it root and branch, even though we may unintentionally engage in it ourselves upon occasion. It is worth noting however that, in this type of written discussion, comments of this nature can take time to spot (not an excuse, just an observation).

  • Richard: “Squirrel Nutkin, of course, would disappear for ever if Peter Tyzack’s recommendations about honesty and openness were to be implemented. A nom-de-plume for Caron perhaps, or Paul? Anyway, the name provides a fitting conclusion to this awful thread.”

    Richard, as you well know, both me and Caron have sufficient cojones to always comment in our own name without resorting to noms de plume, thank you very much….;-)

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 2:59pm

    Do either of you now have big enough cojones to admit you made a mistake? And to now do what is right ?

  • Are you actually reading the replies to your posts and the whole of this comments thread, Richard? LDV did take down the comment as soon as we were made aware of it. We only reinstated it, with replies, after an extensive and conclusive email exchange with members of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats including elected officials, copying Lester, who agreed with the approach to reinstate the remark with replies and also, importantly, with a statement unequivocally condemning the remark from Caron as co-editor of LDV. Two leading members of EMLD, including the original complainant, agreed in writing (and I have kept the mails) that that approach was right, and indeed the complainant thanked the co-editor for her handling of the complaint.

    So, we haven’t made a mistake according to two leading members of EMLD who agreed with our approach.

    OK, I’ve only been a liberal and a Liberal for 45 years, but according to my sense of liberalism, backed up by the quotation from JS Mill I quoted earlier, we have done absolutely the right thing. It is better to show the original comment in all its ugliness, with the impassioned responses and clear condemnation, rather than make it vanish and for people, late to join the discussion, to wonder what all the fuss was about.

  • Lester Holloway posted a message which accused party members who were in Botswana of an “urge to scratch a colonial itch”. This was an unnecessary and pretty nasty comment, Ruban Uduwerage-Perera weighed into later with a similar unhelpful comment which made the same suggestion.

    Lester Holloway posts a link supporting views he has which unites both John Tilley and Simon McGrath in saying it is rubbish.

    Lester Holloway then continued in this thread to make a number of pretty aggressive comments.

    Jedibeeftrix then made an ignorant and racist comment. Lester Holloway then brilliantly demolishes this within his comment of 5.11pm. It’s a great pity that the section of that comment is not his only contribution to this thread.

    Lester Holloway also makes a comment that we shouldn’t be helping opposition to post colonial government.

    Sadly most of his comments on this thread have been ridiculous. It is quite stunning to leave a party because of an ignorant racist comment having earlier accused Lib Dem actvists of colonialism.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 3:35pm

    Oh dear, Paul, so even the EMLD don’t understand what’s wrong? Talk about a creek without a paddle!

  • Squirrel Nutkin 29th Oct '14 - 3:38pm

    Guys, guys, what made you think I meant you?

    Eddie S, if it’s any consolation I do feel a tiny bit guilty about not being more discriminating

    Sharkjumper Dean, to avoid tarnishing the reputations of people who are doing far more for liberalism than you or me, I am happy to confirm that I am not Caron Lindsay or Paul Walter. I have consistently used the pseudonym for nearly a decade of very infrequent and usually exasperated comments. And now I must get back to annoying some owls.

  • Kevin McNamara 29th Oct '14 - 3:41pm

    I think this is a great case for making it the case that anonymous commenters must first be verified as party members, or at the very least that for those others who want ease of commenting should do so publicly. Aside from contributions, we should not want non-LD members talking in our spaces, frankly.

    As for Lester’s resignation, after the hectoring and racism tolerated on this thread, I am not surprised. V. sorry to see him go.

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 3:45pm

    I got notified of this discussion by an African friend who is half way around the world from here. You are turning whole countries against you!

    People have historically used freedom of speech to justify all sorts of awful behaviour, I would have expected LibDems to have recognized that error a long time ago. Your latest excuse is that it is inconvenient to delete the offending remark. Is your inconvenience more important than respect for people?

    Most of the damage is being done in the UK, too, in places where LibDems perhaps fear to tread. Even so, perhaps someone could ask the Botswana Movement for Democracy what they think of this?

  • Paul Walter
    “… We only reinstated it, with replies, after an extensive and conclusive email exchange with members of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats including elected officials, copying Lester, who agreed with the approach to reinstate the remark with replies and also, importantly, with a statement unequivocally condemning the remark from Caron as co-editor of LDV..”

    Am I getting this right?    
    An agreement was made and Lester was copied into to the discussions that resulted in this agreement!

    So Lester has resigned from the party because of a comment which was made by someone who is NOT a member of the Liberal Democrats.

    Lester resigned from the party despite an agreement between LDV and EMLD, which Lester himself was copied into?

    And now Richard Dean, who is also NOT a member of the party, is demanding that you and other LDV volunteers resign from all the hassle involved in running LDV because he thinks JS Mill must have been a racist?

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 4:02pm

    @John Tilley. Maybe you could climb down from that high place where reality is so distorted, where fantasy and self-importance clouds judgment, and instead see the real damage that is being done here on the ground?

  • Malcolm Todd 29th Oct '14 - 4:02pm

    Richard Dean
    “I got notified of this discussion by an African friend who is half way around the world from here. You are turning whole countries against you! ”

    Your “friend” is a whole country, Richard? That’s quite impressive. Or, like much of the discussion here, it’s grade B nonsense.

  • Dave Besag 29th Oct ’14 – 3:30pm

    A very succinct and accurate summary of what has happened.

  • “Whole countries”? Two sharks in one afternoon Richard….

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 29th Oct '14 - 6:36pm

    John Tilley,

    Nope, I have not been avoiding you, merely doing the ‘day job,’ where one of my students actually has picked up on this thread and other threads regarding Lester’s resignation and asked about the background.

    Back on track, personally I am all for mutual assistance between liberal parties that genuinely share similar principles, but what I am not in favour of people with little or not appropriate skills going to such countries believing that they somehow have something to positive to offer our overseas brothers and sisters. If they are that keen to assist, then they could assist in raising funds to send the appropriately skilled person/s. Such people no matter how ‘well meaning’ come over a reflection of an unpleasant bygone age.

    As someone who used to be involved in training overseas senior police managers on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I am only too aware that there exists a desire to ‘sell’ British democracy as if it is appropriate for all places. Simply it is not! By working positively with overseas liberal parties and interest groups, we can though potentially assist them to raise their status, profile and influence, and in doing so, we too benefit, as the descendants of these countries living in the UK, will also see us in a positive light.

    As for equality matters, well I am a staunch support for equality for all, but when working overseas there is a need to understand the local ‘environment’ so that we can assist in others development in a non-patronising manner. I do feel that we need to robustly support overseas internal equality interest groups, but we also need to make sure that we are doing what we preach back here, for I can assure you that the critics will have done their homework.

    Lastly, please do not think that Lester has resigned merely because of one comment from a non-member. He concerns, which are shared by many of us, include the existence of the unhealthy culture within our Party which cannot cope with being challenged on matters of race, as well as some other equality matters. When some are challenged, they swiftly respond with such terms as bullying, or aggression by the challenger. I suspect that this desire to be a victim is merely to deflect the debate. Such a deflection is not going to work this time.

    We have lost, as a result of the unhealthy culture that exists in our Party a person with the highest integrity and ethics and a liberal through and through, who is watched by many people externally. Lester very kindly and graciously is actually still willing to work with the Party to find ways to start the process of change, for he is committed to the principles that we profess. We must learn to “walk the talk” regarding equality issues, and stop putting the onus for change on the very groups that are marginalised, for example, it is not our sisters in the Party who will bring about sex equality, but the men who overtly, or unwittingly continue to support the barriers to the recruitment, retention and progression of women, who can change the status quo. The same is true of racism as well.

    I would urge those people who genuinely feel that the culture of exclusion has to change to now to come forward, so that we can build a critical mass of members that cannot be ignored, but please let us stop blaming the messenger, and listen to the message, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

    I am this very week speaking at the National Black Police Association AGM, and I know that I will be asked about this matter. I hope to be able to stand on the stage, and be able to say that I have received an overwhelming amount of support for the need for positive change, and from the number of messages of support that I have received so far, I am pretty sure that I will be able to be immensely positive, and not have top say “no comment”.

    Please fellow Liberal Democrats, let us use this as an opportunity to bring about the change that is long overdue and which will benefit us all. We have the finest policies, and the most liberal thinking membership of all parties. If we cannot create a more equitable Party, then frankly nobody else will, and this is not why many of us are involved in politics is it?


    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion
    Vice Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 7:06pm

    @Malcolm Todd
    How do you think the information got half way around the world? Not by magic! By one person sending it on to many of his or her friends, via email, twitter, etc. By the time it got to my friend, it will have been through many people and countries, and of course I was just one on the list of email addresses my friend passed this on to.

    It’s a simple story. The Editors made a mistake. Perhaps based on inadequate advice from the EMLD, and we should remember that different minorities have different outlooks and experiences and don’t necessarily understand or like each other. The Editors then made a second mistake of refusing to acknowledge their first one.

    I guess it’s also the story of the LibDems in this parliament. Result? 6% support, and dropping fast.

  • That’s three sharks

  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 7:30pm

    … and they’re going to gobble all the LibDems up unless the LibDems start changing back into liberal democrats.

  • Squirrel Nutkin 29th Oct '14 - 7:58pm


  • Richard Dean 29th Oct '14 - 8:00pm

    What do LibDems do when they’ve lost the argument? They start imagining sharks!

  • If you say so Richard

  • Comments on this piece are now closed.


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