Opinion: The week after the Morrissey Report – what will you do?

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 the PPC for Sutton & Cheam, community activist and active member of London Liberal Democrats. In her day job, she runs her own communications business.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jun '13 - 6:08pm

    I used to have a neutral attitude to diversity, but after arguing with the opposing side and realising they have a point I now have a positive one.

    I think the key is to highlight the positives of diversity in order to remove any unconscious bias, without making out that men should be discriminated against.

  • Stephen Donnelly 21st Jun '13 - 10:40pm

    Amna Ahmad you say: “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.”

    Fine. What changes do you suggest ?

  • I suggest we start out with the Morrissey report ‘s nine recommendations (summary on page 59 of the report). I was impressed with how many of the suggestions are practical and how many of them can be given momentum at the local party level – for example let’s put in a section about how to make a complaint and what the party will do to investigate that into a volunteer handbook which is given to all active local campaigners.

    And, of course, if something works really well then let’s share it as best practice with all party members.

  • Jonathan Brown 22nd Jun '13 - 12:34pm

    A timely article.

    This gives me an idea, actually. Our local party is not exactly known as a hive of dynamic activity, so I might suggest a ‘pizza and politics’ type meeting at which we can present a summary of the report’s findings, discuss the recommendations, and discuss what / how we can do in our local party.

    While not exclusively a gender issue, the candidate selection process has caused us some local internal controversy recently, so this could be the perfect opportunity.

  • Amna

    I take your points which are welcome and timely but think the goals being aimed for aren’t quite right. Instead of ensuring a complaint is handled properly, there should be no real cause for complaints in future. Women shouldn’t feel they need to survive, they can’t succeed without being stifled.

    In the case of the party, there probably now needs to be a step change in the attitudes of the party. Its not as if its a backwards or reactionary lot. Its a case of highlighting that women can feel vulnerable and do need support and reassurance. At the head is an executive commitment both switched on to this and holding itself to account as well as its membership. Not one that excels in handwringing.

    To be frank, I’ve been in the company of lib dem members at conference driving around a town and leering at young women by people (married and) old enough to know better. Its something I’ve never really forgotten although no harm was really down. I don’t believe any party can police its own perverts but it can challenge the attitudes. Stiffer redress mechanisms are a good start at deterrance but a willingness to assert that women aren’t fair game is what requires leadership.

  • Tony Dawson 22nd Jun '13 - 5:04pm

    If a significant number of our party members believe that there is some kind of link between the grossly-inappropriate behaviour of some senior party members and the failure of our party to have better female representation in the House of Commons, it might well help explain why our Party does not have better female representation in the House of Commons.

    Continue to address the wrong problem and you will inevitably never reach the right solution (unless it is by the typing monkeys-complete works of Shakespeare route).

  • Helen Dudden 22nd Jun '13 - 6:29pm

    I am a woman, and for quite sometime I have complained about the lack of interest in something very close to my heart. The lack of interest in child abduction under the Hague Convention and the Brussels 11a. I have been ignored, if that is the correct term. My MP does not listen, he says he has done enough. It is good, that I do not have the same opinion on the subject.

    Several of your MP’s will not listen or contribute to the subject, I personally know how it effects you. Nick Clegg too is very good at ignoring both the subject and I.

    I would say your party is out of touch with women, it tends to simply pretend they are not there. I have spoken in the Commons on human rights that is another subject close to heart. I also have an interest in international law.

    Very recently, I met with Stephen Timms MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Group on International Child Abduction. There are none of your MP’s in the above group. So this lack of interest runs through the Party

    Stephen is a very active member on the subject, he told me, he has a very busy time in the House.

    You simply can’t cherry pick what you wish in life, nor as a woman can I ignore the failure in society, so glad I am no longer a member of your Party.

    When we vote in an MP, we expect them to listen to us, even if we are women, I would suggest that you still have a problems with women and those who have the wishes to make things better for others as well as themselves.

  • Helen Dudden 22nd Jun '13 - 6:33pm

    @sfk If you you make the choice to be someone, that stands for something, being a woman does not always help.

    I feel that in the Lib Dems, this is one factor that needs to be looked at still. Women can achieve the same as a man and still be feminine, I must admit, it is not always easy.

  • Helen – Catherine Bearder, Lib Dem MEP for the South East, has done some very good stuff on human trafficking (which includes trafficking and in some cases abduction of children). See http://bearder.eu/en/page/people-trafficking for details.

  • Jonathan Brown 23rd Jun '13 - 1:06pm

    That’s true. We (in chichester) are not a terribly active party compared to some but we organised a min-conference on the subject last year and Catherine came along as one of the keynote speakers. It was organised mainly by one of our local activists (http://allismoss.eu/wp/) who’s also on the Euro-list for the Southeast Lib Dems. I think one of the things that inspired her to stand was Catherine’s own work on the issue.

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Jun '13 - 5:57pm

    We are not talking about the same thing. International law on child access and retention, there is more being done on the subject of retention and making this a crime.

    The Brussels 11a is further being updated and I was in Europe House very recently on the subject of crime. The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction runs along side of the Brussels 11a when it is used within the EU. Outside of the EU it is not law but a signatory. You will know the difference in law, between the two, that was one of my first basic understandings within international law. I have made comments on law, written on the subject, and I attend the next meeting on new laws in July in London.

    I also have made some comments on Jewish Law. You can google to find me, I also comment on human rights in the Commons, very recently on Turkey.

    If Catherine Bearder is a keenly interested in the group that Stephen Timms MP, is Co-Chair, I suggest that she joins, your one and only MP resigned recently. It can hardly be an “all party” with just two parties.

    This is for information related to Reunite and the Ministry of Justice and can cross several types of law, I need to explain little as you appear to be experts in law.

  • miranda whitehead 23rd Jun '13 - 6:27pm

    Thank you for such a thoughtful review of the Morrissey Report Amna. The party has agreed to implement all her recommendations. If that happens we may find that the Liberal Democrats find themselves rejuvenated, will appeal to more voters and will have enough members to sit on all the committees in Westminster. There is a great deal to be done, and until we have a party and a Parliament representative of the country we live in there will always be difficulties for the underrepresented groups.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jun '13 - 6:56pm

    Miranda, although diversity matters, merit is more important. You wouldn’t want to be operated on by a brain surgeon who was chosen because they were the right gender or colour and the same goes towards running the country or any other job.

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Jun '13 - 7:45pm

    I also hope that your MP’s will have interest in the subject too. If they are unwilling to write to others in the Government, this causes issues too. I had the chance to speak to William Hague on the subject.

    These groups only know the problems when information reaches them, I feel it is not fair to those who voted for you, if MP’s are not willing to get involved in certain issues, because they take up time.

    Most of these children are covered by court orders within our borders, some of these children will go on to have eating disorders and self harm, often very shocked at being taken from one parent. Most of them will never recover.

    I can assure you I speak from personal experience, that is why I have become a part of law, I have to fight my own corner. International law as you will know is costly, it can cost £21,000 plus to get a court order in some cases in another country. Roman Law is different to our own and so the cultures.

    I have written in one of the top law papers on the subject.

    Could I further add, this is not trafficking, this is child abduction and illegal retention. I personally would not vote for someone who has refused to answer my questions, or in the past not been pro-active.

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Jun '13 - 7:47pm

    When I campaign for my new Party having been in the Lib Dems for over 21 years, it will be made clear my interests and what I wish to improve, this is one subject, I will do my utmost to find MP’s that will act for those who need help and support.

  • miranda whitehead 24th Jun '13 - 8:04am

    Sorry Eddie ,that old chestnut that white men are chosen to be politicians, brain surgeons or board members because they are better than everyone else who isn’t a white man simply doesn’t wash. Women do better in the 11 plus, they get better A level results and now better degrees than men, so why are they not better represented in politics? It’s certainly not to do with their intelligence.

  • Eddie Sammon 24th Jun '13 - 8:19am

    Miranda, I never said that did I?

    The goal needs to be to remove sex discrimination, not double up on it and keep the gender war going on forever.

    I know I keep changing my mind on this, but I’m now being absolutely hardline against all sex discrimination in politics. It’s the only goal that both sides can and should accept.

  • @miranda
    I think you’re letting your own personal biases confuse your interpretation of what Eddie said.

    Surely the objective is to have PPC’s and hence MP’s who are elected because of merit ie. ability, rather than them being the only candidate who satisfies some arbitrary diversity demographic? As a society who therefore believes in equality and in getting the best out of it’s intellectual capital, we need to ensure there really is equality of opportunity so that a candidate’s gender, ethnicity, religion etc. are no longer brought to the fore; unlike a system based on diversity.

    Yes there is a challenge facing us in changing the established political and social order, but our history tells us that not only is this possible but circumstances can at times enable rapid change – so carpe diem!

  • Jonathan Brown 25th Jun '13 - 10:08pm

    @Roland, the problem is however the ‘neutral’ system that we’re asking all to compete in is designed to benefit white, middle class men. I accept that people reach different conclusions based on the same evidence, and that similar principles bring people to different policy ideas, but we need to recognise that systems largely designed by and for wealthy white men have an in-built bias. E

    ven if you ignore the problem of subconscious discrimination you still have problem such as few top jobs being historically very accommodating to people who want to take one or more career breaks to have a child. On the one hand you can say that ‘no one’s forcing a woman to have a child’. But this fact obviously hinders far more women than it does men, and this has nothing at all to do with ability. We need to recognise that peole are different, and that if we want the most from everyone in society, we need to rethink the way we have historically done things to enable those who’ve been historically denied opportunities to be able to contribute according to their ability.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • theakes
    Excellent question yesterday from Christine Jardine over the VAT on Private Schools and the negative effect it appears to be having in Edinburgh and within the ...
  • Paul Barker
    Thanks for a very useful article. Something like a quarter of 2024 conservative Voters are likely to die before the next General Election - that shift on its ...
  • David Le Grice
    Why the hell do we only get two questions? We got more than half the seats and votes that the Tories got, if they get a whopping six then we should get at least...
  • Peter Davies
    @Paul Yes. Most organised areas do tallying....
  • Peter Davies
    "even in London we have no councillors (and so no councillor tithes) in 19 of the 32 Boroughs" it's not really 'even'. London Boroughs have the highest proporti...