The Party Disciplinary Review

There was a recent article on Lib Dem Voice by Lord MacDonald on the review that is taking place on the Party’s disciplinary procedure. I would like to encourage you to take part if you have not already done so – I confess I only just got around to filling it in myself yesterday!

Regarding complaints, I have experienced elements of both ends of this process – having something done to me which I made a complaint about; and sitting on a disciplinary panel to decide whether charges against a party member were held or not.

My insights into the party’s complaints/disciplinary process lead me to believe there is much more that needs to be done to make our disciplinary process fair and above reproach. Too many people seem to have vested interests, and there is a problem of people knowing each other and not being impartial when situations arise. The survey makes some good suggestions which you can comment on.

I would personally like to see the equivalent of Victim’s Support within the party for anyone who experiences bullying/harassment/harm. When it is you that has been affected, it is difficult to take a decision about how to proceed with pursuing resolution. It is easier to walk away than bring a formal complaint.

And there is the worry about how bringing a formal complaint would affect the next stages of your political career. An independent ‘befriender’, who understands the party’s systems, who can listen, with you, to the advice given by the Pastoral Care Officer, and then help you decide what you should do, would be most helpful.

When someone is a victim of whatever type of situation, it is easy to have a victim mentality and not have the courage/energy/will to stand up for yourself. I am writing about the range of situations which might occur, locally, regionally, nationally, as a candidate, as a campaigner, as a member.

Now from the other side, having sat on a disciplinary panel, there seems to be a lot that happens behind the scenes in the weeks, days, hours leading up to these hearings which I think is political. The problem is that you have people with political natures getting involved in a process which should not be political. It is the politics behind the politics which concerns me.

I would hope that after the review into our party’s disciplinary process, new procedures are put in place that are above the influence of any members of the party; that are completely independent; and that are impartial to a flaw. A fully transparent system is needed, with fairness at its core.

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at www.kirstenjohnsonpiano.com.

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One Comment

  • We kind of have Victim Support in the pastoral care officer. The problem is that there is only one of her, and over 100,000 members.

    As for the disciplinary review… I don’t think there is any way you can make it non political and unbiased without taking it out of the hands of the party, but the second you outsource it you risk it being done haphazardly by people with no familiarity with party rules.

    Perhaps someone will set up some kind of overarching OfPol or something, which all political parties can subscribe to, or an ombudsman service, but until they do I think we are doomed to be stuck with an imperfect system.

    Mostly because it is a system made by and for humans, and we are all imperfect.

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