Pauline Pearce: “Why I am not running for Lib Dem president”

Until yesterday, there were four candidates for the post of Party President, which will become vacant later this year when incumbent Tim Farron’s term of office expires: Sal Brinton, Linda Jack, Liz Lynne and Pauline Pearce. However, Pauline has now withdrawn from the race – as she explains in this five-minute video:

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  • Meral Hussein Ece 17th Aug '14 - 10:17am

    I’m saddened that Pauline feels she wasn’t supportered. It’s not easy being one of a few black activists in a political party. I’m pleased Pauline is staying as a member, and feel she has an awful lot to offer, working with us from inside to change the face of the party in making it more representative, inclusive, & to change the culture to enable this. I along with many others have tried to do this over many years. As former chair of EMLD we initiated and laid the ground for the Leadership Programme, and worked hard to headhunt and support BAME people. We need to redouble these efforts, to include people from diverse backgrounds at all levels. On a personal note, I was asked by many members to consider standing as candidate for party president, but felt given my role in the Lords and other commitments, it would be better if grassroots candidates came forward who could devote more time connecting with our members at all levels. But I’m grateful for all the people who urged me to stand.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 17th Aug '14 - 10:44am

    I would hope that people absorb Pauline’s words for she has raised many points that need to be resolved if we are truly going to become a Party that reflects the diversity of society.

    I am also pleased that Pauline has chosen to remain on the ‘inside’ where she can influence change, and I would also commend Pauline to become actively involved in some of the SAO’s that if listened to, can assist the Party to dismantle the unwarranted barriers that exist to the recruitment, retention and progression of members and candidates who happen to be Women, BME, Disabled, Gay, and/or not Middle Class and Graduates, etc.

    I am sure that the remaining candidates will continue to challenge the issues that Pauline has raised and are more successful than those who have previously held the position do President in putting laudable words into action, for we are now in the 21st Century, and our Party needs to reflect this.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

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

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 10:59am

    Dave Page

    What is the problem with accessibility?

    I am abroad with work and have managed to access it okay….are you sure the problem is not at your end?

    This is the second time in as many weeks that you have made accusations or, if I may say in this case, snide comments about the original posters

    You may not agree with the content, that is your right, but you seem to have a habit of playing the person and not the ball.

    I, for one, admire this lady who seems not to have let circumstances and her past prevent her getting involved in activities

    Her comment on ‘second chances’ is particularly apt looking at the view of the PM on this point…..

  • Rabi Martins 17th Aug '14 - 11:08am

    Pauline was brave to put herself forward for Party President although I must admit I was a little surprised that she did because she has not previously served on any of the Federal Committees I suspect this was one of the reasons that some members might have been moved to suggest that Pauline does not yet have enough experience to take on one of the key jobs in the Party I do think that having made the decision to stand she should have stayed in the race That would have given her valuable experience , raised her profile within the Party and at the same time helped the BME cause within the Party Like Meral I too am sad Pauline feels she was not supported and would wish to know why she feels that way As someone who has worked within the Party for over twenty years and continues to push the Party to increase BME representation at every level I accept the progress has been painfully slow The pace of change needs to improve if the Party wants to appeal to BME communities That change will only come if BME members continue to keep the pressure up through EMLD and their own efforts at evey level Again as Meral says Pauline has much to offer the Party and I am glad she has decided not to resign as Party Member. Her time to serve the Party in a key role will come.

  • stuart moran 17th Aug '14 - 11:56am

    Dave Page

    That was a reasonable reason for your post but your first line made it sound pretty snide and was not necessary. If it was not your intention then I apologise but it didn’t sound that way to me

  • This is truly tragic news – she was my first choice. I know she does not have the experience of the other candidates, but the fact has not been swamped in the party’s internal politics was part of what made me think she would be the kind of candidate who could breathe new life into the party.

    Those people who made her feel this way and criticised her for past criminal record should hang their heads in shame. She has never hidden this fact and one of this party’s key policies is to not shame those with a criminal record, but help them remain as a valued part of society. If we cannot do this for our members, what hope do we have when trying to reach out to those completely ostracised from mainstream society. I have always tried to support the Party and believe despite its faults, it is generally still pushing in the right direction, but this is just truly tragic news in my opinion.

    I have not heard the comments firsthand and can admit I do not know many of the details, but anyone who makes her feel like a ‘token’ (whether purposefully or not) needs to really review the way they treat people. Those who cannot help her show society that your past is not who you are need to question if they are really living our values.

    I can only hope that groups like the EMLD can help her remove these elements from our thinking.

  • @Dave

    Here’s a few of the main quotes :

    “The party really isn’t quite what I thought it was when it comes to diversity and being inclusive”
    “I’ve been patronised and told that I’m not experienced, I’ve been ridiculed for my past as an ex-convict, something I’ve been very open about”
    “I realised they (Lib Dems) do have your back until you’re going for a prestigious position within the party”
    “It’s not as inclusive with diversity as it makes out”
    “It’s what I’d call underhand racism”
    “I’ll just be the token person that sits in the background”

    Found the video a bit of a blow, saddens me we’re stuck in this position when the world seems to of moved on without us; Lib Dems have become anachronistic in the name of becoming a “party of government”. Pauline would of made a great president, unfortunate the party couldn’t see that in time to help her through the process; she hit the classic elitist nonsense that keeps us down – the Establishment.

    I think he’s saying he doesn’t want to install flash player.

  • Pauline speaks of “underhand racism”, when it is evidently nothing of the sort. Surely, it’s her criminal record, that is the likely blockage, not her skin colour? Indeed I would guess that the party is tripping over its own feet to get a female BAME party president as their front of stage media face? The real problem for Pauline surely, is that she’s right in that people ought to be able to have a second chance, but the reality is that not all voters and the media, would see it that way. ?
    Assume for a moment Chris Huhne had made such a video, asking for a second chance and your support in his bid to be next party leader. Could it not be argued that he too deserves a second chance? But the party’s decision to refuse or dissuade him, would in no way be ‘underhand racism’, or any other mode of faux ‘victimhood’, moreover a pragmatic response to the low likelihood of voter and media ‘forgiveness’ to his criminal record?

  • “Assume for a moment Chris Huhne had made such a video, asking for a second chance and your support in his bid to be next party leader.”

    Poor analogy – if the party’s supporters have trust issues it’s with articulate, plausible, white men in suits specifically. Not with female BAME members. When it comes to breaking promises, breaking the law, what percentage of MPs doing so are middle-aged white males? This is a sad blow, in many ways.

  • Martin Land 17th Aug '14 - 3:24pm

    I’d feel more sympathy if she’d actually replied to the message of support and the offer of help I sent her and the support I registered on her website. Another disorganised attempt to break the mold. To then insinuate that it’s all about prejudice is disappointing.
    In my experience this party bends over backwards to be inclusive and to give people another chance, which is why we are so frequently embarrassed.

  • I remember seeing Pauline Pearce in Brighton at the end of 2012’s party conference. BBC radio was looking for a reaction from just about anyone who had an opinion on Nick Clegg’s speech and with Pauline they got a cracker of an interview. Having forewarned Tim Farron, who was standing outside the Conference Centre surrounded by communications advisers and a press officer, of the imminent broadcast of a fine performance, I was struck by the wariness shown at what appeared to be unwelcome news – although to his credit Tim did insist that somebody should make a note of it.
    Inevitably, Pauline’s interview, broadcast in full on Radio 4’s PM programme (with clips running on both national and local BBC radio stations throughout the evening) didn’t disappoint. Ironically, she seemed to have the ability to convey and communicate the most convincing reasons for continuing to support the very establishment she may now feel unworthy of her loyalty.
    Both the press officer and the senior spAd who were there that day have left the LibDems – one is long gone, the other left more recently to join other the other, both preferring to use their “experience” in pursuit of the easier pickings of corporate lobbying.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Aug '14 - 3:36pm

    We should have nothing but respect for Pauline Pearce because she has been honest and direct and I’m always interested in having honest conversations with people I disagree with. It is also hard to put yourself out in the open and admit some difficult things, around things regarding financial situation and a criminal past. People often resort to lying about these things or keeping quiet about them, which I can understand, but we should respect people like Pauline who are open and honest.

    I want to say to Pauline that I do not feel she was ready for president and I think diversity matters, but I think too much emphasis is sometimes put on it.

    Having said that, I agree that there is a problem with the party making out that they support diversity more than they do. I think across politics white men are championing diversity in the front office whilst taking more power in the back office. They/we haven’t just become a bunch of selfless diversity campaigners.

    When it comes to the criminal record, I do not really think this is a problem. She has served her time, so it would be hypocritical for a party with liberal values to not support people who have served their time and look rehabilitated.

    Above all, I feel that we should be honest with all people and we should not scramble for diversity candidates if we are not going to support them.


  • Richard Dean 17th Aug '14 - 3:44pm

    The way for Pauline to resolve these issues is for her to continue with her bid for the presidency. To describe her vision for the future of the party, to explain how she is the candidate who is most likely to be able to achieve that vision, and to describe how her presidency will help do that.

  • David Evershed 17th Aug '14 - 4:39pm

    I agree with Richard Dean.

    If you stand for the Presidency you should expect some criticism and oppostion. That’s not a reason to withdraw.

    Pauline should continue to stand and make her case. The members will decide – that’s democracy.

    If Pauline loses she should put herself forward as a local councillor.

  • Please may I post a link to this blog by Lester Holloway?:

  • Paula Keaveney 17th Aug '14 - 8:31pm

    Surely the issue is about what the role of the President is for. There are certain constitutional duties and certain expected things, but outside that it is up to each President to make of it what they will depending on the needs of the party at that time. It seems to me that the next President will have a lot to do in terms of party rebuilding, morale building or rebuilding , and listening to members. It’s up to each candidate to explain what the think the immediate role will be, and how they will do that. I wouldn’t expect anyone to do this on their own. In office there is some limited HQ support. In a campaign each candidate should have a team who can support. (anyone who can’t recruit at least a basic team is not going to manage in the role anyway). Frankly politics is tough and this is a national level post. It is not unreasonable for questions to be asked about backgrounds. (After all we all put up with this when being cleared to be a local council candidate!). A criminal conviction or other “issues” shouldn’t stop someone being a candidate but it is naïve to think that it doesn’t matter at all. It matters in the sense that the individual and the party need to know how they will respond when various media, including the likes of the Mail, decide to make it an issue. Experience too matters in different ways but frankly it is up to each candidate to demonstrate that they have worked out that they have the experience that is relevant to how they see the job being done. I’d like to see the members given a good choice of candidates as this is probably the most important presidential contest for quite some time. So I think if Pauline is being put off by comments re experience or her past, she should reconsider. But she should reconsider in the light of understanding why people may think those things could matter.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Aug '14 - 9:06pm

    If diversity matters, which I think it does, then criminal backgrounds also represent diversity. They should not be discriminated against unless they appear unreformed. People learn from their mistakes.

    Criticise Pauline on specifics all you like, but when someone strips themselves down to the bare bones and just says who they are then they should be respected. Perhaps it is more likely to happen with people who have erred in the past, but I think more respect towards her should be shown.

    I broadly agree with Liberal Al. Lib Dems value rehabilitation, we can’t talk a good game about it and then not offer it to our members.


  • I agree with Geoff Crocker.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Aug '14 - 9:16pm

    The party needs to wake up to stop being so middle class. White collar crimes are treated differently to working class crimes. The Guardian doesn’t even represent the left and just represents the left of the middle class. Lib Dems should stop worshipping it so much and focus on building a massive governing party with people from all walks of life.


  • jedibeeftrix 17th Aug '14 - 9:50pm

    reading reddit i have only just realised who this lady is.

    while standing up to rioters demonstrates considerable moral fibre, has she been able to demonstrate she has the necessary technical, presentational, and networking skills to make a good party president?

    ought we not to start from this point of view where we move into the realm of macpherson style foolishness of eradicating the ‘institutional racism’ of the lib-dem party…

    has she mastered the brief? (i’m sure some considerable experience is useful)
    is a criminal background an electoral liability for a high profile post? (you can elect her, but will people vote for her)
    is she able to build a powerbase that will permit her to help lead the party? (is anyone backing her bid)

  • Please may I make another comment on this article?

    There really is a problem here, in that if – as seems very clear – the party’s strategy is primarily to hold on to Lib-Dem held seats where the Tories were second in 2010, then the constituency the party will be appealing to will be mainly white and middle-class. In those circumstances, it will be surprising if after 2015 the surviving parliamentary party is anything other than white and middle-class.

  • Peter Watson 18th Aug '14 - 8:37am

    @Chris “In those circumstances, it will be surprising if after 2015 the surviving parliamentary party is anything other than white and middle-class.”
    plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  • Rabi Martins 18th Aug '14 - 10:02am

    @ Chris – You may well be right in that we end up with an All white – mainly male Parliamentary Group But we will also be judged by whether we made any serious attempt to get a Black / Asian MP elected. To date we have two PPCs in “winnable” seats If the Party does not win either of both of these seats because it failed to give it proper resources and support there will be only one message BME members in the Party will take – that the Party s only paying lip service to wishing to elect Black or Asian MPs

    So far as the discussion initiated by Pauline Pearce is concerned I have much sympathy with the view expressed by Jedibeeftrix above

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 18th Aug '14 - 1:37pm

    I’m also one who wants Pauline to continue to stand for ELECTION and not give in to tittle tattle. I’m always being attacked for my views – and still standing up for what I believe [even after 40-50 years as a Liberal] All parties are riddled with negative people, LDs in particular when the polls are down – but we are used to it and hold to the principles of Conference. We need an open and transparent Conference now – more than at any other time – to bring us through this dreadful period of Tory-supporting nonsense. Pauline with us with would be wonderful. If that is not possible, please find a winnable seat and sock it to ’em, Pauline.

  • But we will also be judged by whether we made any serious attempt to get a Black / Asian MP elected.

    Unless there’s a major change, the only realistic way of doing that would be to get a Black/Asian candidate adopted in a seat the party already holds with a substantial majority.

  • I had similar experiences whilst a member of the Lib Dems.

    When I first joined I was lauded as a new recruit by some in the local party because it suited them politically but when those same people realised I had political experience and something to say I was ‘shut out’.

    The promises of support for local ward campaigning were never followed up and when I made the effort to attend a meeting of the council group I was asked to sit outside!

    I was treated like a pariah.

    All the complaints I raised with party HQ, Region etc were ignored.

    The Lib Dems are not a democratic party, they are an organisation run by university educated, middle class white people [predominately men].

  • When I complained about racist comments by a local councillor I wasn’t treated much better Danny. Including being told (in so many words) that I was causing trouble and assuming everyone was doing things wrong (which they were).

    Even when it got to a hearing said Councillor wasn’t thrown out but given the mildest slap on the wrists. Two senior members said if we took action against him it would lead to a by-election. And his comments were quite a bit worse than some of those made by UKIP candidates/Councillors that we made so much of a few months ago (and were condemned by both the regions then MEPs when they were told)

  • But, Paula Keaveney, I think you have to recognise Pauline’s case is not like somebody suddenly being “outed” as having a criminal past. She is someone who has had that as a feature of her public persona – very different.

  • Meral, Ruwan et al have a point that our presidency is seen as too geared to financially well-off (and as a result, often white and middle-class) members. I would dearly love a BAME, or disabled, or LGBT president on January 1st. The problem is, I don’t think Pauline is the right person for it. I would still like to see her run because we need to challenge this status quo, however.

  • Tony, I agree. The problem is that this party has always had is that they completely fail to connect with the people we want to help the most. (Ironically, the policy most beloved by our leaders, our tax reforms, typify this problem perfectly – just tax them less and they will love us! As if taxes are the thing a single mother who works for less than £8000 a year cares about the most. As if taxes are the thing a 17 year old who has just left school with no qualifications are things he/she cares about the most.)

    Members of our party have told Pauline that because she has a criminal record and is too poor to have constant access to her e-mails she is not the ‘right kind of person’ to help this party party re-correct with both its existing members and the potential members that all too often will never be, now. It is exactly because of these things that she is the right kind of person. Not because it ‘makes’ us more diverse for the sake of being diverse, but because her experiences, her ideas, her ability to connect with people, the people we currently failing (something she has proven she can do, time and time again) is exactly what this party is crying out for – and instead we shun her for it.

    No wonder this party is considered doomed by member and energy alike.

    From what I understand of her speech, she did not stand down due to racism, but due to tokenism: due to being made to feel not truly valued as a real member until she was useful for a good photo-op!

  • paula keaveney 19th Aug '14 - 10:26am

    Tim , I do understand the difference in Pauline’s case and I personally see no problem with someone with a criminal conviction still standing for office as long as all the issues around that (presentational etc) have been thought through. It may well be part of Pauline’s persona, and all power to her for speaking openly about that experience. but just because someone thinks everyone knows all about them doesn’t mean this is the case (it was news to me for example and I actually follow party news pretty closely!!) And it is dead easy for a journalist to turn something into a story even if we think it is not a revelation. The point here is that anything that could be a problem or an issue needs to be thought through and there needs to be a plan around how it is dealt with if it becomes a problem. That may be unfair but it would be a mistake for us ignore the way the so called news media works.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '14 - 10:54am

    This is similar to something that has been seen quite a few times. Someone of an ethnic minority joins the party, and is urged to stand as a paper candidate somewhere. They then get angry and leave the party, accusing it of being “racist”, because they did not get party funding and help to run a full election campaign. They did not appreciate that being a paper candidate IS about being a token, a name on a ballot paper, a face to print in the newspapers if they need one, and that’s it. Those of us with longer experience in the party understand this and have often stood as paper candidates ourselves.

    It is the nature of our party that we don’t have much funding, that making progress in it often does mean doing it all yourself. Naive new members often don’t realise this, often suppose there’s some big pot of money and support that will come their way if they start campaigning, and throw accusations when it doesn’t. This is particularly likely to happen with new members who perhaps are pushed a bit too fast into responsible roles because they have some sort of aspect which it is believed will make the party look good if they are seen to be involved with it. But I’ve also seen this happen with many new members who aren’t of an ethnic minority or of any other background where they might look good as a “token”. So often I’ve seen keen new members storm off claiming they “weren’t valued” after they found that being an active member involves a lot of donkey-work and doing what you are told as part of an integrated targeted campaign.

    I think the point that several others have made here is very relevant. There is a specific role for the Party President which means the post needs to go to someone with very long and wide-ranging experience in the party. Someone who is a relatively new member of the party and has experienced it only in a limited place is not really suitable for it. I think that also applies to the party’s Leader. As I’ve often said, I think our party is being damaged because it has a Leader who doesn’t have that much experience of grass-roots campaigning, and keeps making mistakes because of that.

    What also needs to be appreciated is that if we are talking about someone who is a public face of the party, and that person is selected through open campaigning, is that we DO then need to discuss personal aspects of them which might be uncomfortable, but in practical terms are relevant. Again, I go back to our dear Leader. When he was first being pushed forward, I felt his posh public school background wouldn’t be helpful for us. I was criticised for saying this, accused of being prejudiced. However, in purely practical terms, I think it was a valid point. There are these aspects of Mr Clegg which aren’t his fault, it’s just the background he comes from, which nevertheless are quite often thrown back at us by potential voters. I think it would have helped us if we had a Leader who had came across in a more demotic way, and to be practical I think we should have been willing to think about this and be open in bringing it up when we had the leadership contest.

  • Simon McGrath 19th Aug '14 - 11:48am

    @Ian ” For instance, it does not seem too high a bar to find someone to finance, arrange and monitor an email account.”

    Given that e mail is free and that Hackney Libraries have free internet access I am not sure why a Presidential candidate should need financial help for getting on e mail – though they may need help putting it up in the first place of course.

  • Rabi Martins 19th Aug '14 - 11:54am

    @ Chris – For the first time in a General Election we do have a BME candidate in a held seat – Ibrahim Taguri is the candidate for Brent Central – the seat Sarah Teather is standing down in
    That is the first hurdle crossed Now I would like to see the Party and Party members get behind Ibrahim’s campaign and help elect at least one Lib Dem BME MP next May

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Aug '14 - 5:46pm

    A good article by Grace Dent about this in the Independent. As I said, I don’t think she was ready to be president, but I wouldn’t have made her feel like a token. Pauline screams real diversity and we need to listen to what she thinks more.

    She comes across as honest and genuine. Politics is screaming out for it.

  • John Dunn

    I agree with you that it is not racism, underhand or otherwise, that she is describing but I would say the comparison with Chris Huhne is not a good choice.

    If you believe in rehabilitation past crimes have to disregarded at some point in time if people do not continue to commit them. I know little of Pauline but she looks like she has not been involved in Gang crime for a long time. It also sounds like she doesn’t try and duck responsibility for her previous actions, something Huhne gives the impression of.

    The racisim thing aside the video is worrying as I have always believed one of the things we would all agree on (despite our many disagreements) was rehabilitation for at least most crimes. If Senior Liberals are not acting in that belief I am very worried.

    Look to the future there are more and more laws passed by politicians that add opportunity for young people to pick up criminal records (and the police get involved in things that would have been seen as too minor in the past). If we become a society where we hold those against young for life that will be a terrible waste. (of course we should also have fewer more sensible laws but that is a bigger task).

  • Simon Banks 20th Aug '14 - 6:02pm

    The trouble with suggestions of underhand racism (or any other kind of discrimination such as sexism) comes in seeing whether criticisms and the like are systematically unreasonable. For example, if someone is sacked for poor timekeeping after a written warning that may be reasonable – or it may be unreasonable if the culture of that workplace is casual, other people with worse records have stayed and the person sacked also often worked late. One unfair criticism may or may not have racist roots.

    In this case I’m not at all sure that criticisms about a past, openly admitted criminal record and about lacking certain useful experience are discriminatory. I’m very sorry that Pauline has withdrawn, but on the face of it both issues could have been confronted and the party members asked to judge if they were relevant or important.

  • We’ve had eight presidents since the party was founded; two were white women and one an BME male, so I’m not entirely convinced that racism or sexism is the reason for Pauline’s failure to attract endorsements. I’m disappointed if some Liberal Democrats have told her that her past conviction is the main problem, as she appears to be a reformed character, her offending was a long time ago, and it seems contrary to the party’s basic raison d’etre.
    However, lack of political and other high-level (or even medium level?) experience seems a more valid reason for not endorsing her at her the present time for this particular post. I hope she remains active in the Liberal Democrats, and continues to remain as forthright an advocate as she has shown she can be; in that way she may well ‘gain the experience necessary to serve the party in some other way’. (Believe me, you don’t have to be a black female to be told that – I was, though I went on to be a relatively successful PPC later. There must be dozens of people of all races and both genders who apply to be PPCs every election cycle who get the same message, even though they are applying for a much less significant role.)

    There is a list of the past presidents here, btw, for those too young to remember them all.

  • paul barker 20th Aug '14 - 8:21pm

    My Local Party, Camberwell & Peckham; chose its present Parliamentary Candidate from an All – BAME shortlist. A few months ago a neigbouring Group of Constituencies put up a BAME Candidate for Borough Mayor. The problem with vague, blanket accusations of prejudice is that its impossible to do anything useful with them, all they do is sour the atmosphere.

  • I hope Lady P reads these comments, here are mine.

    Dear Pauline, you should never be a token, you should never sit at the back, and you should always say what you think. We need more people like you, like the many community activists who are the backbone of the actual party where it matters. You would not have had my first vote (I’m backing Linda Jack, with whom I hope and suspect you share many values, concerns, and experiences), but you would have definitely had my second.

    Thank you for staying with the party; but don’t remain quietly, and lets build a momentum that can make our party radical once more!

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