Update on Party response to allegations of sexual impropriety

The Liberal Democrats have today announced that Helena Morrissey has been appointed as the chair of the independent inquiry into culture, process and complaints within the Liberal Democrats.

The review will also look at attitudes towards women in the party, as well as the employment relationship between staff, elected officials and volunteers; training; and how to lead a wider change in Westminster.

Helena Morrissey has been a leading light in promoting women and breaking barriers as CEO of Newton Asset Management and Founder of the 30% Club, a cross-business initiative aimed at achieving 30% women on UK corporate boards by 2015. I am sure that she will make an immensely positive difference to both our party and to politics.

We will communicate the detail of getting involved in the review next week but Helena has said:

I will be talking to people at all levels of the party to recognise where there have been failings to help guide a culture shift and develop a much more equal and trusting set of standards.

Inquiries by the Metropolitan Police to ascertain whether criminal activity might have taken place continue. This is still at an early stage and there is no set time limit on when they must decide whether or not a criminal investigation should take place.

The internal investigation by the Party to establish whether disciplinary action is due under the Party’s rules is headed by Alistair Webster QC. Following advice from the police on the risk of overlap in witness statement gathering we will put this process on hold until the police have finalised their review.

In order to assist those with information, the Party has asked Public Concern at Work, a leading whistle-blowing authority, to provide witnesses with independent and confidential advice.

We have set up access to counselling support through an independent provider of qualified counsellors. Anyone affected by the allegations who wishes to use this should contact Public Concern at Work, who are acting as the gateway to this service.

Contacts:

Public Concern at Work: 0207 404 6609 or [email protected]

Police: 0208 721 4601

* Tim Gordon is Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats.

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4 Comments

  • Keith Browning 8th Mar '13 - 5:02pm

    Why are men always seen as the guilty party – this is outrageous, stigmatising one sex – in my experience women are just as predatory as men, often more so.

    Lib Dems please take an even handed approach to this matter.

  • AlanPlatypus 8th Mar '13 - 7:33pm

    While that may be true Keith the problem in this instance is one overwhelmingly caused by men.

  • I hope this enquiry / review starts to turn up issues. To my way of thinking, having observed the party for many years, the issues which have come to the fore here, and have “caused” the review, are at the “fashionable” end (ie because of Savile and other cases, ideas of sexism, sexual impropriety, even sexual abuse are high in the media at present). This is, of course compounded by the fact that anti-discrimination in all its forms is in the DNA of the Lib Dems, and there has been a long-running debate in the party about how to elect more women MPs, which ended in total failure in 2010 (there are, of course, a much higher proportion of women Lib Dems elected at other levels, Councils and Euro Parliament, but Westminster carries a ludicrously high profile comparatively).

    These are in a way, the tip of the iceberg – the whole way that party politics works – the”charisma” which takes people to the top, is often a form of bullying. The necessity to be so single minded, the perceived necessity to attack others in order to get elected etc, the creation of the “cockroach” and “nutter” mentality, and the personalities that attracts, are all issues which create public doubt, and often condemnation. Specifically the treatment of volunteers is not good – parties have an unusual structure, where some volunteers are “in charge of” many (poorly paid) staff, and other volunteers are left almost powerless at the bottom of the heap, not really understanding the “management” and where it comes from above them!

    This can, and does lead to problems, of which bullying and harassment in extreme cases are visible. If Helena Morrissey’s review starts turning over those particular stones, it will have done a great favour, but how on earth we then deal with the widespread problems which would emerge, God knows. Tim Farron, known for his “plain speaking” may just have revealed a hornet’s nest, and one which cannot, or will not, turn out as positively as he seemd to think!

    And then there are the issues where our Party seems to think it has been “liberal”, by, for example, colluding in the abolition of national standards of conduct for Councillors, in the raising of the bar and reduction of compensation from employment tribunals. These calculated to allow abuse, bullying etc to continue, and increase.

    This party has a long way to go to face in the direction of “a new politics”, let alone move towards it!

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