Tag Archives: harassment

Sal Brinton urges us to THINK about our language

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent days about the language we all use in political discussion and debate.

Today, Sal Brinton has emailed all party members to urge us to play our part in being thoughtful and sensitive in what we say.

Here is her email, reproduced with her permission:

I chair the all party parliamentary group on bullying. We focus on helping young people and we know many schools now use the THINK acronym to teach good communication (Is it True; Is it Helpful; Is it Inspiring; Is it Necessary; Is it Kind?).

As a party, I think we need our own version of THINK:
Is it True
Is it Hurtful
Is it Illegal
Is it Necessary
Is it Kind?

Why am I talking about this now? Over the last few weeks and months, the tone and language of political discourse has become increasingly nasty, hurtful and – for too many politicians – dangerous. We have MPs (of all parties, whether supporting leave or remain) who have been targeted by trolls of the worst kind, who use language to harass and intimidate.

Women, people of colour, LGBT+ people and those with disabilities are particularly targeted and in a clearly hateful way. Diane Abbott is constantly trolled, Caroline Spelman has had to have police support and is standing down, and our own Christine Jardine was unmercifully targeted by SNP trolls.

As Liberal Democrats I hope we all abhor such behaviour. I am sure, like me, you believe that the language we use as Liberal Democrats speaks to our values. But we all need to check our own language because it is far too easy when insults are thrown at us, to respond in kind.

Two years ago, on behalf of the party, I appeared before the Committee for Standards in Public Life as they took evidence about the intimidation and harassment of parliamentary candidates in the 2017 General Election.

I was not there to tell of how many of our candidates had been on the receiving end of such intimidation and harassment – we had witnesses who spoke for themselves with shocking examples.

No, I was there to explain to the Committee what actions our party takes when we discover that a party member has behaved inappropriately, or worse, committed a hate crime. You can see the Committee’s report here. It is depressing reading. But, frankly, things are now much worse.

You will all have seen the debate in parliament last week which has forced us all to think about the language that we use in politics. And earlier this week, Jo Swinson was amongst party leaders who met with the Speaker of the House of Commons, and they agreed this declaration:

“Everyone is entitled to have a view – be they parliamentarian, journalist or a member of the public – and their right to safety cannot in any way be dependent on what that view is or the course of political action they take.”

It is important to remember that as members, under our members’ code of conduct, we have responsibilities as well as rights, and I would ask all of you to think carefully about what you say.

If you are on the receiving end of trolling often the best way to go is to say nothing at all – walking away could help you avoid making a mistake. Never post in anger!

There’s an old football adage “play the ball, not the person”, which is a good starting point, but we also need to think about the boundaries. Have you been upset by language used by an opponent? Is there anything that you have posted that could have been received in a way to upset the recipient, beyond the usual exchange of views? Or make them feel threatened? Or made them feel so worried that they need to go to the police because they fear for their personal safety?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 6 Comments

Can you help us make our new disciplinary process a big success?

Have you watched in horror as one organisation after another has got itself into hot water when an owner, a member or an employee has behaved in an appalling way?

The impact of the #MeToo Movement has really highlighted the need for every organisation to get this kind of issue right. We are proud to say that the Lib Dems will be rolling out our new and upgraded disciplinary process in 2019. In order to become an effective, inclusive and diverse organisation this is absolutely vital.

Whilst Brexit is grabbing all the headlines, we are going to need help from members to make this Lib Dem project a big success.

Lord Macdonald started the project with an excellent review and set of recommendations for the new Disciplinary Process. It was then adopted by the Federal Party at the Brighton Conference last September. The English Party has agreed to implement the new process and the Scots and Welsh Parties will look at doing the same at their Spring Conferences early in 2019.

So that means we need volunteers across all three State Parties to get involved and make this a reality. Experience you have from outside the Party may mean you are just the person we want! It might mean you could help us by getting involved as an investigator, or by sitting on a disciplinary panel. Please look out for an email coming to all members in the New Year. It will have links to more information and details on how to apply. In the meantime please click on this link and go to https://www.libdems.org.uk/macdonald-implementation-signup

We are really keen to hear from people not otherwise involved in the Parties’ structures. Investigators and the people on the panel may stand as candidates for the Party or hold office at a Local Party level, but can’t be on other committees.

If you think you could be one of the independent people we need to run a fair and equitable internal disciplinary system, please get in touch today!

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

Everyday Sexism – a child’s experience

As the mother of three girls, I am constantly aware of the sexism they face. It is endemic in society.

Last week, having tea with the family, my 12-year-old daughter asks for another drink, and the waiter says, ‘Right away, young man.’ It happens to her constantly – she has a very short haircut, but that’s all.

On holiday in San Francisco last year, the same child was allowed to (dangerously) hold on to the bars of a streetcar, half hanging out the door, having the time of her life, with the staff …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 12 Comments

More women in elected office will help tackle harassment and bad behaviour

Women have faced sexual exploitation and harassment since time immemorial. But today, something different is happening. Sex pests, gropers, untamed rapists, physical and mental abusers are being ‘outed’ and exposed by media outlets as they are named and shamed.

So, Michael Fallon has fallen on his sword. If all of the gossip is to be believed, then more will follow. It brings not only the individual into disrepute, but the system too, that allows those individuals to behave as they do, with impunity.

He says his behaviour of ten years ago is not acceptable today. I have news for him. It wasn’t acceptable then, either.

The abuse of women is a deep seated problem in our politics and our society. It is no wonder that so few women choose to stand for elected office at any level, as a recent report by the Fawcett Society pointed out.

Parliament, the centre of law making designed to protect the innocent, the young, the vulnerable from sexual  abuse, has shown itself incapable of protecting those within its own walls. The Westminster Village, where power and access to power seems able to protect perpetrators and where  party whips seemingly refuse to take action to curtail inappropriate and sometimes criminal, behaviour, has to change.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 13 Comments

The building blocks of #metoo

Jared O’Mara is hardly the first MP to have been caught out expressing prejudiced views. It just goes to show that if you are known to have said something dodgy on the internet over a decade ago, it is likely to find its way into the hands of your political enemies.

For Liberal Democrats, though, it’s all a bit galling. O’Mara beat our Nick Clegg in a particularly cruel twist of fate in June’s General Election. His victory meant that Parliament was deprived of the most expert voice on Brexit. Where Nick fought for equality, O’Mara’s views as an adult have been far from civilised.

My first thought was to write a piece saying that he must stand down from the Women and Equalities Committee in Parliament. Thankfully pressure was brought to bear on him and he resigned this evening as our Paul Scriven had demanded. Sadly that committee still has Philip Davies on it. He, you might remember, thinks that he and other men are voiceless and being drowned out by these feminist types.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 24 Comments
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