Response to Nick Harvey “inside leg” comment shows Party has made some progress

Last Sunday morning, I almost choked on my tea when I read something Nick Harvey had written in an article remembering Paddy Ashdown in the party’s Ad Lib members’ magazine. Nick had included an anecdote that was undeniably sexist. Nobody needed to know about his inside leg measurement at all, let alone who had measured ti. The rest of the article had some lovely memories of the Paddy we all know and love, but this was beyond the pale.

So I wrote Nick an email that, when I read it back later, was much ruder than I intended.

I was not the only one who sent him similar messages.

Even three or four years ago, anyone complaining about that sort of thing would have been basically told that they should grow a sense of humour.

What actually happened is that Nick emailed back a few minutes later very sincerely acknowledging his mistake. The offending anecdote was pretty quickly removed from the online edition of Ad Lib and an apology from Nick put in its place.

This story has now made its way into today’s Times (£).

It is also really encouraging that both leadership candidates gave quotes to the Times which were unequivocal in saying that this shouldn’t have been published and committing to making a more inclusive party.

Jo said:

These comments are totally unacceptable and it is right that Nick has apologised for them. We need to build an inclusive culture in the party to show that we can represent modern Britain, and comments like this make it harder to show we are a welcoming party.

And Ed said that the remarks were inappropriate:

Sir Ed Davey, the other candidate in the race to be party leader, said that the remarks were highly inappropriate. Sexism was a scourge on society that too many women still faced daily, he said, and those in leadership positions had to be held to the “highest standards”.

Everyone is going to screw up from time to time.  It’s how we deal with it that matters.

I think that the response to this from within the party has been as you would wish it to be – and a great improvement on where we would have been just a few years ago. The party’s leadership, both staff and elected, did the right thing instinctively and that has to be a good sign.

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

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  • David Blake 14th Jul '19 - 8:41am

    This is the first I’ve heard of the publication of the July issue of Ad Lib. Now that we’re not getting it through the post, what plans are there to make sure that we hear about it?

  • It was emailed to all members and the kind of thing that should have been spotted and removed before release. It wasn’t a restricted document so asking who ‘notified’ the Times seems like missing the point.

    He shouldn’t have said it and it shouldn’t have been thought a reasonable thing to include in a feature in a magazine where we’re supposed to be presenting ourselves in a positive light. I accept that these sorts of comments are intended to be jokes, but it’s just not appropriate and I’m pleased to see that no attempt was made to defend it once it was pointed out.

  • Greg Foster 14th Jul '19 - 5:40pm

    David – it’s been emailed to members (twice), plus there’s going to be some online ads, once the leadership election is done. It’s on the website and this is the version we do post to some folk – so about 15,000 people got a paper copy.

  • david 13th Jul ’19 – 7:34pm….I wonder who released this to the Times?…

    Shoot the messenger?

  • I only received my copy newsletter today and have read the offending article.
    It is frankly appalling and both the author and editor should have known better.
    Whilst the response may have been correct and appropriate it doesn’t excuse the lack of judgement in the first place. We can all be experts in hindsight but the fact is more than one senior person in the party failed to appreciate how insensitive the paragraph was and that I’m afraid is not good enough from people in such senior positions.

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