The people who will make the new party complaints system work

As  Lead Adjudicator for the new party complaints system I am writing to introduce the people who will make it work. 

The great strength of successful political parties lies with their members.  In our party it is the members who campaign, make policy, choose our leaders and, to a great extent, run the party.  We have more than 100,000, but all our members are human beings and subject to human frailties.  As a result, it is a sad reality that members will from time to time do things and be accused of things that bring the party into disrepute.

After years of debate a new system for handling complaints has been created.  You can read about it in Alice Thomas’s excellent post, and I wanted to introduce you to the volunteers who will make the new system work.

The first thing to make clear is that there is no ‘complaints supremo’.  The new system breaks up the tasks involved so that each decision in the process of determining complaints is made by an independent person appointed in a way that ensures that there is no perception that panels are hand-picked or results pre-ordained.

The largest number of volunteers are the Adjudicators.  All are members of the party and they have a wide range of experiences.  At various points in the process of each complaint an Adjudicator will assess the severity of a Complaint and how it is will be handled and in most cases a different three Adjudicators will later sit on a Complaints Panel to decide whether to uphold or dismiss the complaint.  Adjudicators are permitted to stand as candidates for the Party or hold office at a Local Party level, but are barred from holding office elsewhere in the Party.

In many cases it will be necessary to decide whether to suspend the member who is complained about and in some cases, it will be necessary to check whether a complaint is ready for the ‘fast track’ expedited procedure.  Those decisions will be made by the Senior Adjudicator Team (“SAT”) comprising me and the three Senior Adjudicators – one for each State Party.  Sandra Grieve for Scotland, Neil Christian for England and Carole O’Toole for Wales.  All have many years’ service in the party and wide experience outside it.  We were appointed by the Federal Board in March and it is our duty to ensure the system is run in accordance with the principles of natural justice and without interference from senior staff and office-bearers in the State and Federal Party.

If the system works, complaints will be handled faster and confidence in the system will grow.  The Federal Board will carry out a review of the system by the end of this year and with goodwill from those involved and the hard work of the volunteers we will make a success of it all.


* Fred Mackintosh joined the Scottish Liberal Democrats in 1989.  He was an Edinburgh City Councillor from 1999 to 2007, a target seat candidate in Edinburgh South in 2010 and served on the Scottish Party’s Gender Balance Group in 2015.  He is an active campaigner in Lothian and in the European Elections he was placed second on our list in Scotland.  Professionally he is an Advocate with a practice in human rights, public law, extradition and criminal appeals.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Roger Roberts 30th Jun '19 - 9:43am

    IN sixty years as a Methodist Minister the best advice I had was not to consider any complaint unless it was put in writing and signed . I had no complaints over those years !

  • Sue Sutherland 30th Jun '19 - 1:51pm

    This is welcome news but I’m now a bit confused as to whether there is a different system for MPs and HoL members?

  • Nasser Butt 1st Jul '19 - 9:31am

    Fred – Can you clarify if the new system will handles complaints about members, employees, party organisations and any other compaints within the Party?

  • Alice Thomas 2nd Jul '19 - 1:32pm

    Hi Sue – there are disciplinary procedures run by each of the Whips offices and also various parliamentary standards bodies. Our procedure deals with the actions of members (which all of our MPs and HoLs members are) but we want to avoid a confusion or contradiction between procedures. That’s why we decided that where a regulatory body or whips office is investigating this will take priority and once they reach a decision they can recommend to the adjudicators whether a sanction is also needed against that person as a member. If a regulatory body or whips office decides not to investigate (e.g. because the complaint is about a personal matter, outside the scope of that elected official’s duties) then it can be dealt with immediately as a member complaint.

    Hi Nasser – the procedure deals with complaints against members so it excludes party organisations. For members who are also employees within the party, employment law takes priority so complaints would be sent to the employer to be considered first. If the employer decides it isn’t an employment matter, it would be referred back to the complaints system to be handled immediately as a member complaint.

  • Neil Sandison 11th Jul '19 - 8:47am

    Thanks Alison for the clarity .How do local chairs complain about the under performance of George Street particularly where it affects significant numbers of members .At the moment we are not very happy bunnies in Warwickshire as a data collection system is failing our membership and has deleted almost a whole local party allocating members to a different local party where they do not live.

  • Keith Abrahams 6th Aug '19 - 5:49pm

    I have raised complaints and been ignored. Are the Liberal Democrat’s planning to treat their members according to the principles of natural justice?

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