Presidential candidates respond to Rock the Boat

rocktheboatReaders may not all be familiar with ‘Rock the Boat – Lib Dems against sexual harassment’ given our semi-unofficial status within the party. We are not a formal association or SAO and we are mostly organised through networking and a private facebook group.

Launched in early 2013 in response to the first Channel 4 allegations about Lord Rennard’s behaviour, the group was a response from grassroots members to a fervent desire that the issues raised be thoroughly addressed in the party.

It has been a long twenty months since then, with the unfolding stages of the Morrissey Inquiry and subsequent complaints and membership suspension, appeal and reinstatement of Lord Rennard as a party member. In parallel was a case of Mike Hancock MPs inappropriate behaviour toward a constituent, and long delays again in discovering who had known what at the local, regional and federal levels, and where responsibility and accountability lay.

As a party we have come some way in this time, but there is still much to be done. The recommendations of the Morrissey Report have begun to be implemented – the appointment and subsequent work of Jeanne Tarrant as pastoral care office has been important and welcome, and the recent intention to ensure gender balance at the highest levels of our organisational governance though controversial to some is a good indicator of the direction of travel.

That is why Rock the Boat felt it was so important for all the Presidential Candidates to be asked about and have the chance to demonstrate their engagement with these issues and their intentions in addressing them if elected. There is simply too much at stake in the next two years in which they will serve.

May 2015 will prove to be a testing time for the party, and it is important in the aftermath that we do not turn inwards and undo the tentative steps we have begun to take. We must become more inclusive not less; listen more not less; rely on opening ourselves up to new ways of doing things and move away from over-trusting or over-relying individuals and towards greater scrutiny and accountability.

The reform of the party’s structures to protect members – both by preventing harassment and holding thoroughly accountable those that may perpetuate it, is truly vital and must not be eclipsed by naval gazing or panic in the wake of the bad results we may see. Our next President must understand that to truly hold our nerve and endure as a political force we must live by the high standards we set. We must never again allow ourselves to be in the position where our MPs forgot or failed to deal with complaints, or local parties protected those who failed to meet the high standards of behaviour in public office.

You can read the responses of Daisy Cooper, Liz Lynne and Sal Brinton on the Rock the Boat blog, and they are all contactable should you wish to ask them further questions.

If you would like to become more involved in Rock the Boat you can request to be a member of the closed facebook group, follow us at @LDRockTheBoat on twitter or email [email protected].

* Katherine Bavage is regional secretary for Yorkshire and the Humber and Wikipedia user Leela0808

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This entry was posted in Party Presidency.


  • Joshua Dixon 3rd Nov '14 - 5:28pm

    This is really important and I’m proud Rock the Boat are leading on this. The answers certainly confirmed my vote went to the right candidate!

  • Steve Comer 3rd Nov '14 - 5:44pm

    Does anybody know why I cannot access the ERS vote by internet URL when I use Mozilla Firefox?
    I switched to Internet Explorer and the address worked so what is the problem here? I prefer not to use Microsoft if possible!

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Nov '14 - 5:59pm

    Sexual harassment should never be brushed under the carpet, but we know a minority of people in the party lean towards “guilty until proven innocent” and “punish even if not guilty” and “if guilty punish severely”.

    I too am tired of pointing out these issues, but it needs to be done. Rock the Boat needs to reassure everyone and not just look out for one group in society. I am not confident this has been achieved.

  • Daniel Henry 3rd Nov '14 - 6:29pm

    Strange – it worked fine in Firefox for me…

  • Jonathan Brown 4th Nov '14 - 12:04am

    Thanks for organising and writing this – I have found it very helpful in working out who to vote for.

  • Joshua Dixon 4th Nov '14 - 3:20am

    I’m sorry Eddie but why should RTB have to reassure anyone?! Sexual harassment disproportionately happens to women so we need a one sided response to help tackle the culture. You might be tired of pointing out your points but me and others are even more tired of apologism and indifference towards the culture of sexual harassment that makes politics unsafe and inaccessible for women.

  • Ruth Bright 4th Nov '14 - 7:36am

    Eddie Sammon – the vast majority of incidents both within and without the party affect women and are not reported.

    Sal referred to the case of a PPC she helped – the case she mentions resembles mine very closely but I did not report anything formally as there was and is no point in doing so.

  • I’m quite shocked by how little Liz Lynne wrote and what was written didn’t make me think she was the right person to get my vote. It has filled me with more confidence that either Sal or Daisy could trusted to move us on and go forward with reform of a broken system. I still have the order 1-Daisy & 2-Sal. However I wont vote until after the East of England hustings on Sat 8th in Cambridge.

  • Dave G Fawcett 4th Nov '14 - 11:21am

    I attended the N.E. hustings last night with the thought that my first and second preferences would probably go to two of the three candidates (obviously), but undecided as to which candidate would get which preference. I left the hustings in even more confusion with the third candidate back in the running for my first preference.

    This morning I read this post and my decision crystallised and I now know exactly who will get my first preference.

    Steve. I cannot access the ERS voting system on Google Chrome and like you, I prefer not to use what appears to be the only acceptable platform, Microsoft. I will post my ballot paper instead.

  • Julian Tisi 4th Nov '14 - 12:32pm

    I agree with lloyd on one of the answers – Q10, where the candidates were asked to give examples where they had personally tackled sexism. Liz gave a general answer, but the other two gave actual examples.

    However, on Q5 I’m quite concerned about what Sal and Daisy both say – both appear to both support banning Chris Rennard from party groups, despite the result of inquiries against him, all of which concluded in his favour. Daisy appears to confuse “allegations are credible” with civil proof. Sal is even worse, creating a false analogy with a man wanting to join womens’ only training or suggesting that he can be barred for causing “major problems”.

    While all 3 candidates give good answers on changing the party going forward only Liz appears to recognise that once inquiries have found someone innocent under the applicable rules and no further action is agreed, then that person should not continue to be punished. That two of the candidates fail to see this is very worrying – we are after all a liberal party which believes in innocent until proven guilty. For that reason I can’t support Sal or Daisy, so I’ll be going for Liz.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Nov '14 - 1:55pm

    Hi Joshua and Ruth. I am not part of the group so I am unable to read the responses. Justice says that both defendants and accusers/victims should be treated fairly and that is the point I am making. It shouldn’t need to be made, but I felt it did.

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