++ Susan Gaszczak resigns from the Lib Dems over handling of Chris Rennard allegations

Susan Gaszczak and her family have quit the party over the handling of the Chris Rennard allegations. Earlier this afternoon, Susan tweeted this, including her open resignation letter:



Update at 19:21 2/7/14
A Liberal Democrat Spokesperson said:

“We are saddened that Susan Gaszczak has made this decision which was clearly very difficult for her. She has been a devoted and passionate campaigner for the Liberal Democrat cause over many years and will be sorely missed by many in the party.

“Earlier this year Alistair Webster QC published his report into Lord Rennard’s conduct which concluded he had caused a number of women distress, that he should apologise and that he should reflect on his behaviour. An appeal to overturn that report this week and start the process again was not successful and the report’s findings still stand.

“Lord Rennard is suspended from the Liberal Democrats and while the disciplinary process continues we are unable to comment further.”

Note: Due to the sensitive matters raised by this post, all comments are going through moderation by the LDV team prior to publication.

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48 Comments

  • Richard Morris 2nd Jul '14 - 6:10pm

    A sad day for the party, you and your family will be hugely missed. I hope we get the chance to welcome you back soon

  • ErnstRemarx 2nd Jul '14 - 6:18pm

    Does no-one in the upper reaches of the party see the problem?

    She must be gutted by the way she’s been treated. It is disgraceful.

  • Cllr. Eleanor Scott resigned from Portsmouth Lib Dems this week over the fcontinuing allout from the Mike Hancock situation.

    Can the party afford to lose women over these sorts of issues ?
    What sort of message does it send to women voters ?

  • Martin Land 2nd Jul '14 - 6:59pm

    This is just so sad. Susan is an excellent campaigner and will be sorely missed. Unfortunately we are still left with the idiots in the Westminster Bubble who’s inability to properly handle this whole affair has led to her resignation.

  • thats a real shame. i’m really sorry that current efforts by the people in Westminster are really failing fast. Just seems to be more of a response when there is media scrutiny than grassroots scrutiny.

    I wish her every success

  • Andrew Suffield 2nd Jul '14 - 8:56pm

    Does no-one in the upper reaches of the party see the problem?

    What makes you think they don’t? Anybody in those positions is deliberately and carefully tied down by rules we created for the express purpose of making sure that nobody in the upper reaches of the party can meddle in internal disciplinary matters. The rules have clearly been designed to make it as hard as possible for people in those positions to have any influence here.

    They can’t make any public statements outside the process for legal reasons.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Jul '14 - 9:32pm

    @ErnstRemarx:

    “Does no-one in the upper reaches of the party see the problem?”

    Why would their approach to this problem be any different to their approach to all the others? 🙁

  • Jonathan Pile 2nd Jul '14 - 9:53pm

    Another person leaves the party. Incredibly sad to see you go Susan. Is our party fit for purpose? How does it protect women? Has it become an agent of harm ?

  • Tony Greaves 2nd Jul '14 - 10:46pm

    The party’s statement about what the Webster report actually says is not accurate, though it is difficult to challenge the statement as long as the report actually remains secret. No-one with any sense believes that the way the party has dealt with this matter has been good, not least because of the time it has taken since the allegations on TV last spring. But one fundamental thing that Liberals believe in is due process – the application of the laws of natural justice when a person is accused. It has been clear for some time that the accusers in this case (or at least some of them) are simply not prepared to accept any finding under the due processes of the party that does not support their allegations. The facts, however unpalatable to some people, are that the police investigated the complaints and found there was no case to answer in criminal law. The Webster inquiry then took place and found there was no case to answer within the party rules. He was specifically asked whether the matter should go to the next stage and he said no. This is how a fair system of justice works. There have to be rules. If the rules are wrong you can change them, but not retrospectively. Yet all the previous postings here appear to assume guilt.

    The current disciplinary procedure appears to be about whether Lord Rennard brought the party into disrepute by not apologising following the Webster Report. But Lord Rennard had not been able to see the report, contrary to the party rules, so did not know at that time what he was being asked to apologise for. It is odd that the original allegations were not thought sufficient to warrant a suspension from the party, but the lack of an apology was.

    I am not clear what was the basis of the appeal in relation to the Webster report, that has now been rejected, or why that decision specifically has led to Susan Gaszczak’s resignation from the party. The party’s statement does not help in clarifying this matter. How the previous posters in this thread know is not clear to me. Perhaps someone can explain.

    By the way the responsibility for dealing with matters like this rests with the party itself, not people in “Westminster”, idiots or otherwise.

    Tony Greaves

  • Joshua Dixon 2nd Jul '14 - 11:34pm

    A shame to see women leaving the party over our inability to tidy up our processes and fix the mess we’re in.

  • David Allen 3rd Jul '14 - 12:01am

    Unlike wine, organisational structures and processes rarely improve with age. Instead they ossify. Mistakes are made, and their effect is then compounded by the shielding that is put into place to protect the people who made the mistakes. In turn the shielding encourages more mistakes. It happens with donors, it happens with discipline, it happens with policy, it happens with leadership.

    Would our cause best be served by dissolving this party and starting again from scratch? (Or will the voters do that for us?)

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 12:48am

    I support Tony Greaves’ view on this matter.

  • @ Tony Greaves – “No-one with any sense believes that the way the party has dealt with this matter has been good, not least because of the time it has taken since the allegations on TV last spring. But one fundamental thing that Liberals believe in is due process – the application of the laws of natural justice when a person is accused. … By the way the responsibility for dealing with matters like this rests with the party itself”
    I agree.

    Our process is not perfect and I would like to see it changed so there is an automatic suspension from membership during the investigation and until the hearing stage unless the complaint seems malicious; so the rules state always a hearing panel of at least five members shall be appointed from the “relevant body”; so an independent investigator or team of investigators is always appointed and there should be no discretion that no investigation shall take place; and that if the complaint is upheld and the member is not removed from the party they have to apologise.

  • due process, due process, due process…

    has anyone considered the possibility that it is the process that is flawed as it has been unable to resolve this issue to the extent that people are quitting the party rather than continue with it?

    What’s going to be left of the Lib Dems? A handful of MPs, a few dozen councillors and a couple of hundred Lords, all mostly male?

  • Fiona White 3rd Jul '14 - 7:43am

    It is clear that the current party process for dealing with complaints like this has failed here. No-one can be satisfied with this outcome. We really do need a complete review of the rules so that any complaints in future can be dealt with in a reasonable time (this has dragged on for far too long) and in a way which is fair to everyone. We must never assume that every complainant is exaggerating or that everyone complained about is guilty. However, I do think that a requirement for a criminal standard of proof is over the top. The party is not a police force.
    As has been said earlier, there must never be an opportunity to brush complaints under the carpet but there is nothing wrong in attempting mediation where it is appropriate. Whatever is done must be documented properly.
    I think the whole thing has done a lot of harm in the party. I absolutely support Susan in the decision she has taken. I hope that we will take the opportunity to put in place a better procedure and that she and other people who have left over similar situations will feel able to come back.

  • Sarah Gaszczak 3rd Jul '14 - 9:04am

    It has been very sad having to go because it has been my life and everyone is so nice. However I know it is something that we need to do because the party have not done anything that makes sure that it doesnt happen again. Standing up for what is right is hard but it does need to be done sadly.

  • Jonathan Pile 3rd Jul '14 - 10:04am

    Something very wrong has happened to our party. The Cyril Smith scandal covered up. The disgusting treatment of women in the party – covered up, swept under the carpet then left unresolved. The tuition fees betrayal. HS2 being foisted on the party. Nick Clegg advertising The Sun. Bedroom Tax, Welfare Cap, Tory Immigration Policy….I’ve had to lock away the scissors in the house just in case I cut up my shiny new membership card. I’m trying hard to find a reason to stay in the party a day longer. My heart wants to join the Gaszczaks and head for the exit. Can anyone tell me a reason to stay and why our party is fit to hold office?

  • Eddie Sammon 3rd Jul '14 - 10:18am

    Well said by Fiona White. I don’t know much, but I do agree that we need to stay away from extremes and for disciplinary procedures a criminal level of proof seems too high. If I were to recruit someone and a load of people made complaints about the person then I’d want to act, even without criminal level of proof. You just have to make a judgement on these things.

  • Jonathan
    I am afraid “cover-up” is what many (most?) organisations do to protect themselves and “their own”. Which is why however many whistle blowers, and rules and laws to support whistle blowers there are, it is very difficult for them. It also demonstrates how many people struggle with the idea of being a whistleblower, and many will only do it under the deepest of anonymous covers. I don’t genuinely believe that Lib Dems are any worse than any other parties on this. Other parties used to accuse Paddy and others of using a “high moral tone”, of which many of us approved. Sorry to bring Nick Clegg into this, but in his “move to the centre” he has tried to remove the high moral tone. That has lost him countless supporters, and was one of our USPs as a party. Unfortunately, none of us are perfect… But we should strive for good change in our society. I agree, Jonathan, we have taken a severely wrong turn.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Jul '14 - 11:03am

    Let me make two points in response to Jonathan Pile’s rather stupid remarks

    1. Neither I nor anyone else knows whether Cyril Smith committed any of the offenses he is alleged to have done. There has never been a court case and now there never can be. Cyril Smith has been tried and found guilty by the press and the Labour MP for Rochdale. If Mr Danczuk had any proof of the allegations he now makes, then he should have sought to get them tried in a court rather than wait until Smith was dead. It seems all rather convenient that Mr Danczuk waited until after Smith’s demise to make these allegations, when he could not be sued for libel and could allege what he likes without fear of reprisal. Especially when you read that Mr Danczuk is having lots of problems with his local Labour Party. One is left with the strong impression that Mr Danczuk’s allegations are much more about his own future and discrediting the Rochdale Lib Dems than about any concern about the alleged victims, or indeed the pain he is causing Cyril Smith’s family.

    2. Mr Pile lumps in all sorts of policy issues with the very real issue of the role of women in our party and the sexist behaviour of some of its men. This does not advance the case. The issue of the actions of some men against women in our party, especially men from powerful positions has not been dealt with properly and is not being dealt with. Far too many people are sticking their fingers in their ears and saying “I can’t hear you” on this one.. Susan has left us primarily in my view because we effectively told her she was a liar by not taking action. I hope this will sound a wake up call and force the party to introduce effective sanctions against anyone who sexually abuses another member, though given the current denials I’m not holding my breath. I hope to be welcoming back my friend Susan and her family before too long.

  • Sorry, Joe, a party does find it difficult, especially with high profile (either local or national) figures. Parties are striving to be elected, and those with clout make it extraordinarily difficult for others to winkle them out. Cases of bullying and abuse of power are particularly difficult to deal with. No internal disciplinary process should involve criminal standards of proof, otherwise why have them separate from the criminal judicial process? And a criminal standard would just make things even more difficult for humane management of the organisation.

  • Depends on whether you agree with Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative.

    because what is most important in dealing with allegations of harassment and abuse is maintaining philosophical purity?

  • paul barker 3rd Jul '14 - 12:45pm

    I am very sorry about this but I dont understand the timing. Its obvious that Rennard will never hold any position in The Party again, he is suspended for now so why not wait till the diciplinary procedures are finished ?
    On the question of whether it could all happen again, new structures have been put in place & have yet to be tested, why assume in advance that they will fail ?

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 1:19pm

    What does Susan suggest the Party should do to “make sure it doesn’t happen again”? And if someone makes similar allegations in future, what fair due process does Susan recommend for investigating the allegation, drawing conclusions, and taking punitive or other action?

  • I’m not convinced that in all cases what has been alleged was criminal, even if it had been proven to have occurred beyond reasonable doubt. Inviting someone to have sex with you (either implicitly or explicitly), even if you are their direct ‘boss’, is not illegal, (although, according to circumstances, it could fall under causing harassment, alarm or distress as per Section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act, especially if done repeatedly to the same person).

    Nevertheless, all organisations ought to have standards which are higher than merely remaining inside the criminal law, especially in respect of personal relations between their members. One might reasonably expect that this would especially apply to supposedly liberal political parties, which have both A: a relaxed attitude to personal sexual freedom AND B: a commitment to respecting individuals’ personal rights in sexual (and, indeed, all other) matters.

    The party should now (alas, belatedly) make it clear in it’s rules that inviting people to have a sexual relationship with you when you have ANY formal relationship of power over them is unacceptable and contrary to the party’s principles. (If you really want to pursue a sexual relationship with someone, you should resile from that position of power over them, first. Do not use your position of power in order to coerce (or even SEEM to coerce) them into sex-for-favours. Do not put yourself at risk of even being credibly accused of doing so. )

    Perhaps there are people here who have not always kept to this sort of standard, and still feel uncomfortable with it. But it seems to me that keeping formal lines of accountability and power at work (and in other business relationships, such as candidate selection) separate from sexual relationships, is now a basic minimum expectation in many organisations, and political parties, especially the Liberal Democrats, should be no exception.

  • May I support what Mick Taylor has said above about the Cyril Smith case. The media seem to have accepted uncritically the allegations made in Simon Danczuk’s book, but Danczuk is in no sense a neutral/impartial figure in this particular context, and although Cyril Smith may indeed have committed some of the offences which Danczuk attributes to him, proper proof of his culpability would have been required if he was still alive, and the fact that he is now dead does not mean that we should simply assume that all or indeed any of the allegations in question are true.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 2:43pm

    Is it fair to prohibit men or women from inviting people to have sex with them just because they have some power? All that is really needed, surely, is care to ensure that the invitation is not interpreted as pressure? Given that sex and attraction are facts of life and that people are fallible, maybe the party needs to set out some guidelines on how to invite, for example, and how to recognize when a situation is becoming iffy, as well as what to do if it does start to go wrong?

  • Mick [email protected]

    In November 2012 Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the CPS said if he was still alive today Smith ‘would be charged and prosecuted.’

    It is not something Simon Danzcuk had much control over is it ? He was only elected in May 2010 and Smith died later that year.

  • I didn’t say ‘just because they have some power’, though. I said ‘a formal relationship of power OVER THEM [emphasis added)’. I meant such as being a line manager, or on a committee which might be deciding their future, such as a selection committee. (Or perhaps in a job which gate-keeps their access to resources? I accept that there needs to be debate about exactly how to draw the line, and that no such line can ever be perfect.)

    I accept also, btw, that some individuals (the CEO, MPs, the party leader?) will always have access to much indirect power, even where their are no formal, structural lines of accountability. I’m not sure it is possible to legislate for the exercise of the sort of informal influence that occurs in politics, but appropriate guidelines would of course be helpful, as you suggest, Richard.

  • Richard Morris 3rd Jul '14 - 4:13pm

    FWIW i’ve just blogged on this at the New Statesman http://www.newstatesman.com/staggers/2014/07/blaming-lib-dem-hq-over-rennard-allegations-wrong-party-members-must-step

    I’d value feedback (here or there)

  • I would ask the same as Richard Dean: what needs to happen now? Some comments above suggest that people think there is an easy magic wand to be waved, that will instantly fix all the problems.

    The culture needs to change, not just the behaviour of one person. And we are talking about change in an organisation run by over 5,000 volunteers across the country. There IS some work now getting underway by Prof. Chris Bones to roll out a programme to support behavioural change across the volunteer party.

    If the party was a company with 5000 staff it might send them all on a one day training course and hope that worked. That alone would cost about £1 million and take months to roll out. To embed change would require much ongoing HR effort.

    But, like ALL political parties, this is a voluntary organisation. Most of those volunteers have behaviours ingrained over MANY years and that will take years to change. And if we rely on volunteer trainers to roll out that change, it will take even longer. Unless there is loads of money to employ an army of trainers.

  • Tony Dawson 3rd Jul '14 - 5:47pm

    @paul barker

    ” Its obvious that Rennard will never hold any position in The Party again,”

    You may believe this but others clearly believe otherwise – and, in many eyes, there is no need to differentiate between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ roles in terms of ‘rehabilitiation’ or ‘sanitisation’ of persons found to have behaved inappropriately..

    The Party’s rules regarding these issues are utterly ridiculous; the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ issue for a matter dealt with by balance of probabilities in employment tribunals and having expulsion proceedings as the only sanction are completely bananas. They bring the Party into almost as much disrepute as the issues which we are discussing here. On the other side of the coin, the idea that Chris Rennard should not receive a full copy of the Webster Report ‘officially’ is utterly bizarre. Even DWP claimants who have been dealt with harshly by tribunals get to see what the verdict is and the reasons given for it.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Jul '14 - 6:55pm

    @Sandy.

    You are missing the point. It’s all too easy to say what might have happened. The fact is that these allegation were only made by Danczuk after Smith died. Danczuk did not miraculously appear in May 2010. He obviously knew about the allegations but waited until Smith’s death before publishing them.

  • Jonathan Pile 3rd Jul '14 - 8:22pm

    It seems to me that many of these opinions give little hope for reform and proper conduct in the party. We need to be enforcing rules about bringing the good name of the party into disrepute by poor conduct. Clearly there have been a series of offences in the party which fall well short of acceptable conduct in modern organisations and that people should be expelled or excluded from the party for gross misconduct in the same way they would have been in other business or public organisations. It seem that the lib dem rules are so liberal they would almost let a criminal to escape expulsion.

  • Richard Dean 3rd Jul '14 - 9:24pm

    @Stephen Robinson
    Perhaps Susan or Linda would be better able to answer your question. I suggest that a first step would be to get all the information on this case into the public domain. It would then be possible for each interested person to assess the seriousness of the matter, and to identify the actual problems that need to be addressed.

  • I may be being over cynical here, Stephen Robinson, but is it likely that any of Chris Bones’s work will achieve any more than the Bones Commission on organisation in the party a few years ago?

  • Jonathan Pile
    “The disgusting treatment of women in the party ”
    Speaking as a life long member of the Liberal/Libeeral Democrats I have never seen or heard of bad treatment of women. What will you be telling everyone next-that all Unitarians are devil worshipperes or something?

  • As far as reform is concerned the main problem is nobody appears to know who is in charge. I was in a group who asked the chief exec who was in charge and from the answer we got it appear that nobody is. Not the chief exec, leader or president. We have such a complex organisation that fixing a problem gets stuck at the first hurdle.

    Someone mentioned the bones report – that was years ago and recommended change. I can’t remember any real change happening except the creation of yet another committee!

    Where I would start is the constitution and the burden of proof requirement – if we can find the right constitution and the right body to which a change can be proposed it should be done as soon as possible. The rest of the problems are so mind blowingly complex I get a headache just thinking about it, however we must try.

  • Piers Allen 4th Jul '14 - 3:14pm

    Susan’s resignation is highly dismaying, as is that of her children and parents Brian and Linda. Brian was a redoubtable councillor in Richmond for 24 years, only narrowoly losing his seat in May; Linda was a tower of strength and findraiser without equal. Susan was a terrific young activist in her youth In Richmond, who went on to bigger and better things – they will all be hugely and sorely missed, but I hope it will double everyone else’s resolve to make the party a fit one for them to rejoin after what we bery much hope becomes a “pause” rather than a permanent “stop” in their long and distinguished roles in the party, locally and nationally. Our thoughts are with you, as they have been these many past months …

  • Ruth Bright 4th Jul '14 - 4:37pm

    Manfarang – many of us have raised issues about the way women are treated in the party and have just been worn down by the lack of support until we have given up. The integrity of Susan, her family and her witness is obvious.

    If this were about race the perpetrator would have been out on his ear long ago.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 4th Jul '14 - 5:58pm

    @ Lloyd,

    But do we really want someone to be “in charge” as you put it. As liberals, we believe in diffusing power, the key being to ensure that, having done so, you know who is responsible for what. And that, my former colleague, is the problem. The English Party is notoriously poor at explaining its purpose – indeed, at communicating anything, really – and it is there that a surprising amount of decision making takes place.

    Disciplinary matters are quite interesting, as the power to discipline a member lies at Local Party, Regional and English Party levels, each higher tier having a potential role in terms of handling appeals or offering guidance. However, nobody knows much about that, and fewer care, even when a situation such as this arises. Instead, we demand action from someone, usually the wrong someone, rather than read the Constitution, which is surprisingly clear on what is required and how – the relevant sections were written by a barrister based on his experience (and that of many others) of the Party’s disciplinary processes of days past.

    So, due process is important, and taking the time to find out what that due process is, even more important. But I fear that such an obvious statement might be lost amidst the cries for something to be done. That is not to say that the processes are perfect, or that they are always properly applied, and it appears that there have been issues here, so there is a need for someone to carry out a process analysis – and for the findings of that analysis to be acted upon as appropriate.

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