Why calling for HQ staff to be sacked is unacceptable and will not be tolerated on LDV

There have been a few snarky comments directed at me on various places on the internet because we don’t allow comments on this site which abuse members of HQ staff. We can’t always catch them all, so if you see any, please let us know by emailing [email protected].

I’ve also had a few very nasty emails calling me all sorts of names because of this policy from people who should know better. I mean, imagine if yours or your partner’s or your mum’s head was being called for on some random website. I doubt you would like it that much.

And bear in mind that you might think you have the right to inflict your opinions about individuals on the rest of the world, but they can’t answer back. That’s hardly a fair situation.

This evening, one member of staff posted this on their Facebook page. Some of you reading this will have seen it but if you are going to comment, please don’t mention their name. I did obviously get their permission before I posted it on here but it doesn’t need to be personalised.

What has been particularly unpleasant is the sight of senior Liberal Democrat figures pretty much suggesting that a particular individual should be pretty much deported.

How would you feel if that were you. Anyway, read how it actually makes real human beings feel.  They are hurting just as much as the rest of us with the added fear of potentially losing their jobs and we have a duty of care towards them as towards any other part of the Lib Dem family:

Dear Liberal Democrat friends (and friends of friends).

Can I make a request? As we discuss, as we should, the absolute disaster that was our general election result can we do so without calling for random staff at HQ to be “sacked”?

Ignoring for a second the fact that we, as liberals, would never support the removal of the employment protections such action would require, there are a lot of very good people who have either already found themselves out of work after the campaign or are extremely fearful for their future. These people probably earn about half what you think they do.

Saying someone should be sacked is a horrible thing to say and we shouldn’t do it. Since polling day I have now had four people say it about me on Facebook, and that’s just the ones I’ve seen. Three of them were in the sense that “whoever did X should be sacked” and one at least had the decency to name me. Other staff are seeing the same every day and it is extremely distressing.

I am not for a second saying that we shouldn’t have a very, very hard look at what went wrong or that people in senior positions (myself included) do not have questions to answer about how we performed so badly, but as Liberals we’re better than the macho, hang ’em flog ’em attitude that is being displayed. It doesn’t help anyone and it sure as hell isn’t going to bring any of our MPs back.

Your right to comment on this site is not a right to abuse people or add to the stress that they are currently feeling. If you want to be unpleasant about people, don’t do it on our site. I’d also prefer you didn’t do it on any other part of the internet either. I’d rather you showed a bit of human empathy.

We all have our views on what went wrong during the election. I strongly suspect some of the people who work for the party around the country have views on what they would have liked to have been different, too. Let’s express our opinions with a bit of empathy and sensitivity for the human beings involved.

We actually owe all the staff at HQ, at every level, a big debt of gratitude. These people have barely had time to do anything other than work not just for the 40 odd days of the election campaign, but for hundreds of days before, through the referendum, through the Euros, through the local elections, through by-elections and everything else. They work well above the call of duty and their commitment is to be admired.

The very least we can do is be civil to and about them. Of course, they also like sweets and cake and alcohol…

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Well said. My own ex-MP will probably have to let people go because there is no funding. The same for the party, some will go for following the policy set by the leaders but can they be blamed?

  • It was no-one’s fault except the tories, labour,, the greens, the press and most of all for believing them the electorate.

    What happens now is not our fault eiither. We have five years to recover.

  • Speaking as one of the ones who DID get made redundant, mere footsoldier as I am, I’d rather have a job than sweets cake or alcohol. But I’ll settle for sweets cake and alcohol.

    I have my views on what should happen to those higher up the foodchain than I was, especially those who were the architects of this disaster, but of course I don’t want to see them or their families suffer. Good luck to those who were fortunate enough to retain their employment. I hope they’ll spare a thought for me being unemployed under a Tory government, and work extra hard so that we don’t have a disaster like this again.

    Because while a Tory majority government is not fun for anyone, its especially not fun for the poor, the dispossessed and the unemployed. So I’d quite like to make sure we don’t see another one.

  • All of us, whoever we are and wherever we live, will have had a pretty awful experience in the GE. Our own wonderful, well respected MP has lost his seat. I doubt that he will be able to keep all of his staff or even his office as it was. We are all living with the aftermath of an unexpected and devastating result. Someone said it is like a bereavement and so it feels.
    So, who should be blamed?
    The Leadership? HQ staff? The Coalition?
    I think the truth is rather more complex and looking for easy targets to hit out at doesn’t help. Had it been just Lib Dems who had been savaged, a simple answer might have sufficed. It wasn’t. Labour was very badly hurt and may never recover. Boundary changes and the rout in Scotland, together with the loss of Labour seats to Tories all point to a humiliating defeat for them too.
    A great Liberal, Sir Trevor Jones, once told me that people vote out of fear and greed. Perhaps the clever manipulation by the Tories , a media that looked to make entertainment out of the election process, massive amounts of money and the buying and selling of our democracy is where we should look for answers.
    Rebuilding the party will take guts and determination, not blame and recrimination.

  • HQ staff have always been very very hard working dedicated and very helpful people.I agree with that view that theres no place for nasty comments.I certainly share your position on this matter.

  • It’s interesting that people don’t seem the behave on the Internet in the way they normally would in real life. Very few people who abuse others online would actually say the things they write about them to their faces in real life. I’m sure there are complex reasons for why this is, but why not just ask people to seriously consider if they would say those things to someone in real life before they write them. If everyone actually did this the Internet would still be quite nasty at times but not any more so than real life is, and this I believe would be a huge improvement.

  • Quite right. There is a review process. No-one yet has enough information to “blame” this or that individual.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 24th May '15 - 11:21pm

    I Agree !!

  • There will be many good people who have devoted themselves to the cause of advancing Liberalism who will be without a job. The inevitable downsizing will be painful and personal. Those who find solace in vindictiveness should be ashamed of themselves.

    Our response should be to reaffirm and rediscover Liberalism not to indulge in illiberalism.

    Clearly there are difficult challenging questions that the Party has to face up to, it is important that those who were at the centre of operations are given a hearing in order that a balanced assessment is possible. For example, how can those of us who cringed at the centrist message fairly criticise the strategy if those involved are not allowed to explain the thinking behind it? Assuming and ascribing motivations to others is not good enough and actually means that we march to the tune of our opponents.

  • Agreed. Apart from anything else, this is a public forum, so anyone can see what you say.
    Tough questions, challenging opinions, even harsh judgements – Yes,
    Personal insults – No.
    Anyone who can’t stick to that simple formula is free to set up and run their own web forum.

  • A Social LIberal 25th May '15 - 1:27am

    I thought that LDV was run by liberals – you know, those of us who believe in freedom of expression, free speech. Now, I don’t know who in HQ has people calling for him or her to be sacked, but that isn’t the point I’m making. What you should be doing is making the case for them not being removed, not removing comments because you disagree with them (rather than them falling foul of the sites rules on posting). To do so is Stalinist and, I believe, brings the party into disrepute given that you use the Lib Dem logo as a banner.

    I expect this post to be placed in the forum in its entirity. I have recorded what I have said and if it is not then I will be reporting the site and its moderators to the party.

  • To be clear, I am not one of those who have called for anybody to be sacked, and I don’t expect to do so.

    However, the fact that we are here in this situation, having this sort of conversation, and with these restrictions put in place, suggests something very wrong with the internal dynamics of the Party. Something has obviously gone horribly wrong. It is difficult enough to think of realistic ways to put it right. It is even more difficult, now, to think of diplomatic ways to talk about how to put it right.

    The question is whether the Party is well served by having conversations about its present and future performed in hushed voices and behind closed doors. It may well be that it’s for the best; but if so, what a parlous state the Party must be in!

  • paul barker 25th May '15 - 8:17am

    Lets just try harder to be good to each other. Those who cant bring themselves to be kind might be better to say nothing.
    On those “senior” members calling for someone to be deported, they should apologise. I dont know who they are, perhaps there is a case for naming them ?

  • I would make only one criticism of the HQ staff – that there are not enough of them to do the job that we (the members) ask them to do.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th May '15 - 9:39am

    Yes, I want to be very clear that we are not publishing A Social Liberal’s comment because we are scared that he’s going to report us to the party. In fact, I was tempted not to do so just to see how far he would get with that.

    As Paul said, what we publish on this site is up to us. Nobody has the blanket right to be able to say anything they like on here.

  • I think that specific complaints about Lib Dem members of staff should be made in confidence to the chief executive of the party who can decide if there is a prima facie justification to investigate with a view for disciplinary action. When I see allegations made here I do not know what to think as I can only read one side of the story.
    The reason the party got hammered on May 7th is more to do with the strategic decisions made by the party leadership in terms of the political direction of the party. Members of staff may have made some mistakes but the scale of our defeat is not down to them. It is easy to make them scapegoats and that is unfair.

  • Hannah Bettsworth 25th May '15 - 9:55am

    Probably gonna get in trouble for this but I still think this is the best comments policy on the internet


    Or this.


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th May '15 - 9:58am

    Hannah, I love the Thousand Flowers one.

    Also, I quite like Paul Walter’s new one. http://liberalburblings.co.uk/?p=28503

  • David Cooper 25th May '15 - 10:01am

    @A Social LIberal “I will be reporting the site and its moderators to the party.”
    As a matter of practicality, how does an anonymous commentator make a report to the party? Is there now a policy of investigating any complaint whatsoever, no matter how poorly evidenced? Nice that we have the resources to do this.

  • To identify any in dividual is unrealistic as it is silly. The party will no doubt,to the delight and involvement of a minority of
    navel gazers,produce reams of paper which will have no relevance to the real world. Get out there friends develop your constituency.. if you feel that you have the answers submit what theories you have as to the performance of the party to the relevant levels of the party, but do it quickly, impersonally and then move on.

  • Peter Watson 25th May '15 - 10:14am

    It’s interesting that discussion on this thread has drifted towards a discussion of censorship on the site. For some reason the current thread on Alistair Carmichael seems to be more tightly controlled than any other I’ve experienced on LDV.
    Back on topic, I agree that it is unfair to call for “random staff at HQ” to be sacked, and no criticism of them should ever be personal.
    And at the end of the day, none of them, were responsible for the decisions of the parliamentary party over the first couple of years of coalition that cost the party members, voters, councillors, MEPs, etc. and set the direction of travel for the rest of the parliament. A football club might change its fortunes halfway through the season if it replaces its manager but not if it just hires a new team physio, and the Lib Dems chose to keep their manager.

  • Angela Davies 25th May '15 - 10:32am

    I feel a call for sacking HQ staff is ridiculous. The reason we lost so badly is because people did not vote for us. It would be a very good idea to do a thorough nation wide survey to establish why the voted as they did. I am sure we would find the answers very useful and informative.
    My one problem with our party recently is that it has become too top down. The autonomy of local parties has somehow become eroded and has caused a lot of people at the top to loose touch with the grass roots

  • As humans we always look to blame others, it is easier than accepting that at least part of the problem is down to you. My part was I left in 2010, perhaps I should have stayed and fought my corner against the stagey the leadership put in place.

  • Dr Michael Taylor 25th May '15 - 11:23am

    I suggest that some of those who think this is censorship should read John Stuart Mill’s wonderful essay ‘On Liberty’, which puts the whole issue of free speech and other liberties into perspective. Jo Grimond recommended that every Liberal should read this essay once a year.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 12:05pm

    Sara Scarlett 25th May ’15 – 10:12am
    “Whilst I completely understand the sentiment of this post, one of the ways this party has gone badly, badly wrong is by thinking of itself as a ‘family’ and not as a professional political organisation. This party does not handle challenges, scandals or treat volunteers and staff in a professional enough way.

    If people are being paid not just by the party but by the taxpayer too (in some cases up to six figure sums) and they do not do the job they are required to do to an acceptable standard then is it compeletly appropriate for us to wonder why they still have their job. As someone who has been sacked in the private sector, I am frequently amazed that individuals who work in organisations such as political parties and think tanks – funded by the generousity of donors and members – are held to a much lower professional standard than those of us in the private sector.”

    Can’t say fairer than that Sara.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th May '15 - 12:26pm


    Those who find solace in vindictiveness should be ashamed of themselves.

    I have spent many hours of my time over the past five years, and actually a bit longer than that, using this site to say what I think the party should be doing to promote itself. Mostly it has done the exact opposite to what I have suggested.

    I wish I had been wrong, and those who pooh-poohed my suggestions had been right, and actually my misgivings were just not being able to see how things would work out better than it seemed in the long run. However, as the election results came in, I was stunned into silence and for a long time could say only four words.

    Look, I love this party, I’ve given my life to it, and if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have bothered with all that. My criticisms were never just negative, and I invented the term “nah nah nah nah nah”s for those who were, and spent about as much time countering what they were saying as I did criticising the leadership and the public relations people responsible for the party’s national image. I have always believed in constructive opposition, meaning that if you disagree with what someone is doing you look at their arguments for it, consider what you would do if you were in their place, and only if you feel it would be different and have at least some idea if how it would be different do you carry on – and make clear what you would do if you were in their place, not just put out negative comments.

    Part of the the problem in the party was a dismissive attitude at the top towards internal critics, a refusal to listen to the voice of experience of those who had actually campaigned on the ground, of those who actually had some experience in building up the party, in winning council seats and so on. We found we were being lumped together with the “nah nah nah nah nah”s, and even on some occasions being advised to get out if we didn’t like it, we were no longer wanted in this new “party of government”.

    We must learn from our mistakes, so shouldn’t those who predicted those mistakes in advance be given some credit for it? Instead it seems we are now still being dismissed, told we are being “self-righteous” or “vindictive” for wanting that credit. I am not ashamed for what I said over the past five years. Of course, if this party had done well in the general election, if it had gone along the lines others had predicted: economy improving, grateful electorate coming back to us in thanks for that, a big bunch of new supporters coming our way because they liked the new more business-like right-wing economic “party of government” image being put forward, I would have been put to shame. That is a risk any of us takes when we express our opinion.

    I am reminded in this of the Iraq war. I felt our party was taking a huge risk in coming out publicly against it. If the overthrow of Saddam Hussein had resulted in a reasonable democratic government emerging, we would have been put to deep shame. It would forever be held over us that we were “appeasers”, that if we had had our way, the cruel dictator would still be in place. I was myself unsure on this, took no part in the anti-war demonstrations. Actually, this was the one time where my religion really did affect my political choice: the thing that persuaded me that the anti-war position was the right one, more than anything else, was the strong opposition to it from the Pope.

    The other political thing where I got it wrong was my lack of concern for the industrial destruction of the Thatcher government. I remember being annoyed by the strong support for the miners by the political left at Sussex university where I was studying in the early to mid 1980s. I resented the fact that the trendy lefties seemed to care more for higher paid workers in the north who had big unions to put their case than for the working class in the south around them, whose pay was lower and who were not able to organise in the same way. I am ashamed not to have been more sympathetic to the scale of destruction that was going on to communities up north, and to have realised the long-term social and economic consequences of that.

  • Elsewhere, Caron has posted a Guardian article written by Ryan in which he gets his retaliation/defence in first.

    It’s therefore somewhat surprising that criticism is supposed to be left to a private review process when others are being allowed to rewrite history in public

  • Matthew, you were not alone in being right about the leadership’s strategy, but you probably dedicated more time posting your carefully argued contributions than anyone else on here. You deserve respect and credit for that, but alas, a prophet is not without honour but in his own country.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th May '15 - 1:11pm

    Sorry, missed out a closing tab after “four words”.

  • Given the Tories want to repeal the Human Rights Act, shouldn’t we be attacking them, not each other?

  • An interesting topic, seems initially straightforward – people clearly shouldn’t be calling for messengers to be shot, especially by name. On this we should all be able to agree – thanks to the staff that took the party through this low ebb and got rewarded by getting the sack.

    On censorship, this has to be one of the most conservatively moderated UK political sites and this comment will be held in moderation. As a liberal, the restriction has made me much more committed to posting on here every day, forever. I believe we should be able to talk freely and openly, I’d rather read an offensive comment and argue against it than be “shielded” from it by a “higher up”. The countless lost anti-Clegg posts could of persuaded the party to act quicker and save itself, instead dissent was moderated away. I see this as akin to taking painkillers; dealing with the symptom, not the cause. I think this has done untold damage to the party, and believe many members were lost because LDV makes it seem as if the Lib Dems aren’t socially open. LDV can make conhome seem…homely… 🙁

    We’re all guests here, it’s someone elses prerogative, but I hope they realise the effect they have on the battleground. It was talking here (about Clegg) that made me lapse my membership in the first place, I never realised other liberals could be so conservative and peremptory! What I was saying was literally true, yet moderators didn’t want to hear it. Really unwise (cost thousands of votes in key marginals) – with friends like this… 😉

    In real life we’d all agree on most things, debate is forged around areas that need discussing and stifling it seldom leads to desirable results. I agree with tony123 above, we’re all to blame.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th May '15 - 2:52pm

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with questioning whether public figures in high up positions should go or not, but let’s keep it civil. The LDV staff are volunteers and should be treated with gratitude. It is an independent site, so people can always set up their own if they are not happy with an editorial decision.

  • Phil Rimmer 25th May '15 - 3:41pm

    Congratulations on coming clean about that policy at last Caron. Better late then never.

    Now, how about a statement making clear your policy on us not being “disrespectful” to Lib Dem MPs?

    You are completely wrong on both issues but, as a fellow Liberal, I acknowledge your right to be wrong.

  • Phil Rimmer 25th May '15 - 3:43pm

    @ Joe Taylor. Because we have serious problems, they need fixing, they need fixing soon. Staying silent wont fix them.

  • Sally Haynes-Preece 25th May '15 - 5:35pm

    I am a moderator on a professional internet forum…..and it never ceases to amaze me how apparently ‘professional’ people can hurl such abuse at others when they post on the internet. There is something about NOT seeing the person you are abusing which makes it so much easier to do. If you wouldn’t say it to their face then don’t say it on here.

  • tonyhill 25th May ’15 – 1:04pm
    “Matthew, you were not alone in being right about the leadership’s strategy, but you probably dedicated more time posting your carefully argued contributions than anyone else on here. You deserve respect and credit for that,”

    Absolutely, respect amd credit !

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th May '15 - 7:40pm

    @Andy Hinton: I don’t think there’s anything you’ve written that I disagree with. There is certainly a determination about this year’s FE to change that for us. Accountability is really important and needs to be an integral part of the new structure that emerges from the governance review that is about to take place.

  • I agree with every word of ChrisB’s comments above – LDV Moderators please take note and also please have the good grace to admit your own culpability in the debacle which has seen the Party reduced to 8 MPs.

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 8:49pm

    Paul Walter 25th May ’15 – 8:24pm

    Paul, I must protest at the omission of my name from the above list. Disgusted of Southport.

  • I’m sure all those people comment on many things unrelated to Nick Clegg!

  • Paul Walters there was a great crack-down on comments and a huge tightening of moderation after last year’s European elections when some brave, wise folks stuck their heads above the parapet and called for Clegg to go. That was the critical point.

  • Ruth Bright 25th May '15 - 9:26pm

    Paul – is this an all male shortlist? Please can I apply? 😊

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 9:39pm

    Paul Walter 25th May ’15 – 9:09pm
    “Making a grand total of17,598 comments published on LDV from just nine leading anti-Cleggistas.
    That is seventeen thousand, five hundred and ninety eight. One Seven Five Nine Eight.”

    My, LDV would be a lot less popular without us wouldn’t it?

    It only goes to show how much nonsense there has been for us to point out and, given what has just befallen the party, it is a pity we weren’t listened to isn’t it.

  • @Stephen Hesketh only 1268? Lightweight 😉

  • jedibeeftrix 25th May '15 - 9:56pm

    since we are all in this great disclosure-fest, may I ask how many comments i have had published, and how many rejected? 🙂

  • @Paul Walter do you have a similar list for ‘Bookers?

  • I read a comment on Labour List complaining about the way that any discussion can be turned into an attack on Blair & Blairism. Are we going to have people droning on about Clegg or “Orange Bookers” for the next 7 years ?

  • Stephen Hesketh 25th May '15 - 10:39pm

    David-1 25th May ’15 – 9:12pm
    “I’m sure all those people comment on many things unrelated to Nick Clegg!”

    No need to bring the facts into it David!

    Non-Clegg topics I clearly recall are equal marriage, FGM, assisted dying, regional devolution and government, various environmental, sustainability and renewable energy matters, jobs and industry, Cornish devolution, cooperatives, secularism – where Helen Tedcastle and myself have successfully worked towards a goal of mutual understanding, support of Caron during the mad football fan saga, mental health, bringing the Preamble to the attention of fellow members, suggesting improvements to the LDV site experience, arguing for fellow contributors to be who or what they say they are, welcoming new members … Yes, a real single issue trouble maker, that’s me!

  • @Paul barker “Are we going to have people droning on about Clegg or “Orange Bookers” for the next 7 years ?”

    I think you already know the answer to that Paul 😀

  • Samuel Griffiths 25th May '15 - 11:34pm

    What on earth happened here? Why is it I seem to miss all the interesting drama that happens. It’s a bank holiday people! You should be BBQ’n meat and your equal opportunities vegetarian alternatives, not each other. Any changes made within the parties official team will be made by direction, not lynch mob. Don’t like someone? Ensure that those responsible for building the professional team share your values. Simple.

  • By the way, I don’t call for staff to be sacked. I don’t believe in scapegoating the innocent.

  • John Roffey 26th May '15 - 6:40am

    Andy Hinton 26th May ’15 – 1:30am

    “but I do also fear that that kind of tone-policing is exactly the sort of thing that people who don’t really want to have the argument at all (in any tone, not just an intemperate one) tend to wheel out. And in my view, what the party needs right now is a bloody good argument”

    Excellent post Andy.

    Apart from what you say – if there is to be a “pick ourselves up / dust ourselves down” response to the massive election defeat -members need to be able to express their frustrations at a Party management that would not listen to what clearly was good advice from long-term members. Without being able to get these frustrations ‘off their chests’ it will be far more difficult to ‘start all over again’.

    Perhaps it is also important to remember that under the coalition – heartless, unnecessary and unfair measures were introduced, particularly against the unemployed and disabled, causing mental anguish and frequent suicides.

    Members had to endure these measures and need to express that they were ‘not in my name’ – to cleanse themselves of the actions of a leadership that supported these measures and did not speak out forcefully against them.

  • Malcolm Todd 26th May '15 - 7:16am

    So, to summarise:
    LDV: “We’re not going to publish posts that abuse people or call for individuals to be sacked.”
    Assorted commenters: “How can we save the party if we’re not allowed to say anything critical about anyone in the party ever? How dare you infringe my freedom of speech in this dictatorial fashion?”

    And the digested read, digested: “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”

  • Stephen Howse 26th May '15 - 8:44am

    “We could easily spend the next few months being terribly nice to one another, and quietly feeding comments into the internal review which then get carefully trimmed and glossed over by some loyalist party apparatchik, so that come 2016 we’ll be none the wiser, having learned only the approved lessons, but hey folks, we’ll be everso unified!”

    Well said. Does anyone have any confidence that this review will actually be worth the paper it’s written on? No lessons seemed to be learned from 2010 (when, lest we forget, we managed to lose seats).

  • David Allen 26th May '15 - 9:47am

    Paul Walter,

    Thanks for my bronze medal.

  • @malcolm Todd see the repression inherent in the system;-)

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 10:24am

    Since were on the subject of censorship and you have referred to my name as anti-Clegg and referred to my article and then deleted my post in response – perhaps you might publish this. Nobody wants a witch hunt and it is vital that the party unites around a new leader but if we are prevented from telling the truth (which does imply critique of individuals) how does free speech and democracy work in a climate of such censorship. since you published the figures on posts by such heretics as myself – please publish the number of posts censored to allow readers to see the level of censorship . Also to label me as Anti-Clegg is a simplification of my and Libdemfightback’s position. We are pro-party. We just want a return to the Pre-Clegg era.

  • Joe Otten 26th May ’15 – 9:46am

    “Does anyone believe that public witch hunts will make the review more, rather than less effective?”

    I believe your focus is wrong Joe – you are trying to keep these issues at arm’s length. Governing a nation is a very serious business that effects the lives of millions of people – any review should not be primarily concerned about how the Party failed, but should be mainly focussed upon finding out who showed themselves to have serious inadequates in the process particularly the inability to make sound judgements.

    The purpose here is not a witch hunt, but to identify those people so that – should another opportunity arise for the Party to be involved in government – these individuals are not allowed to be placed in a role where they can, again, ruin or cause the end of other peoples lives.

    The Party’s failures do not need much of a review. It just needs to identify the weaknesses in its systems that allowed NC to remain leader – probably before – but definitely immediately after the EU elections – by which time it was blindingly obvious that NC was a failure as a leader.

  • @Stephen Hesketh 25th May ’15 – 9:39pm

    To miss one clear warning of doom is unfortunate; to miss 17,598 looks like carelessness.

  • Ruth Bright
    No, I don’t think it’s a gender issue with Paul – I just think, like me, you are a more occasional commenter than some of our more active brethren!!

  • @Jonathan Pile 26th May ’15 – 10:24am

    “please publish the number of posts censored to allow readers to see the level of censorship”

    That’s a good idea.

  • Caron a few points:

    Firstly I do think the LDV comments policy is overly restrictive. In some cases they produce very perverse outcomes.

    Secondly I think suggesting that certain people should be sacked is not in it self wrong what matters is who is identified. Responsibility has to come attached to power. So last time I checked The person who was responsible for steering the LibDems through power did resign the day after the election, whether some of the criticism is justified or not the person who was as close to “power” as you get in “an absolute democracy regulated by nothing” (the comparison being the Tories “absolute monarchy regulated by regicide”).

    To take the “don’t criticise the individual” approach we wouldn’t call for the resignation of CEOs of companies when they screw up, Chief Constables when the police neglect their duty, the heads of children’s services when their departments fail in their purpose. What matters is expecting those at the top to carry responsibility for outcomes not do abuse the mid level people (who have to be held accountable by identifying their role in any failure in the cold light of day).

    Finally, could I suggest you allow the abusive posts but withhold the information that would identify their target replacing it with [removed by mod due to…] as there are some people who are very keen to attribute characteristics to people who disagree with them (“nasty”/”evil”/”uncaring”) It would be useful for them to have a record on line when they went over the top so next time they jump on someone else behaving the way they do themselves.

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 11:49am

    err Joe
    Number of posts censored Zero ?? really ??? Are we living I’m North Korea? LDV deleted my previous post and all my posts are premoderated. So I know you’re not right. Some are redacted and offending lines removed. But come off it just because it’s ever happened to you.

  • @Jonathan Pile 26th May ’15 – 11:49am

    “and all my posts are premoderated”

    I think this would be more informative – a list of who’s premoderated – or who’s not, depending on which one is shorter! It would be demonstrative of whether or not there was bias in the premoderation.

  • LDV should be clearer that even comments which are well within their advertised guidelines are not always published.

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 12:11pm

    @Joe Otten
    Firstly I see that you have stepped back from your incorrect statement that Zero posted are censored. As you and I know, many of my posts have sentences removed, and perhaps 20-30% are never published.
    “The site that does that is called the rest of the internet, and when you lose access to that, you can complain about censorship.” – Really? A very Liberal attitude. Of Course just as I and others who are calling for responsible accountability are opposed to “a witch-hunt” so are we opposed to free-for-all on LDV but good and balanced judgement is needed.

  • Joe Otten
    I do not think I have ever “whined” about having all my comments “pre-moderated”.
    I have on the odd occasion suggested that it is not necessary and simply takes a lot of time of the content moderators.

    There is a stated and rather lenghty comments policy which I do not pretend to understand other than the bottom line — which is that if I do not like your decisions I can “blogger off”.

    I would be interested to know how many people have made it onto the list with me of people who have every single comment “pre-moderated”.
    On a Liberal Democrat site a modicum of transparency and an open Liberal approach would seem perfectly reasonable.
    Go on — tell us how many people are on “the naughty step”.

  • @Joe Otten 26th May ’15 – 12:05pm
    “Bolano, the list of people who are premoderated is biassed against people who ignore the comments policy. In fact it is exclusively populated by such people. And they whine about it enough without being named and shamed.”

    I’m premoderated and proud! I am “such people”. I’m sorry if that sounds “whiny”!

  • Joe Otten
    I have had a least one comment moderated which was well within the guidelines. There was no dispute about this. The moderator didn’t claim it breached the guidelines but gave another reason why they didn’t think it should be published. I don’t suppose I’m the only one.

  • Joe Otten 26th May ’15 – 12:15pm

    Would it be possible to add a facility whereby a comment can be recommended by contributors [see Guardian’s comment system] – this should avoid significant repetition but would give a good idea of the weight of opinion.

    Thanks for not blocking my previous post.

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 12:33pm

    @Joe @ Hannah
    Just looked at Hannah’s comment suggestions . – A tad illiberal me thinks? I appreciate that moderation is a ball-breaker and wouldn’t wish it on anyone and that we don’t say thank-you enough for LDV moderators, so a belated thanks to Caron, Mark and Mary. But LDV does portray itself as THE “Liberal Democrat Voice” representing views and as such ought to reflect the wide range of liberal voices, or change it’s name to Lib Dem opinion. I do acknowledge that we brave few 9 dissenters have had a lot to say and that this might have contributed to a bunkered & dug-in attitude amongst those of another opinion which has then kept us on the path of doom we have found ourselves on.

  • jedibeeftrix 26th May '15 - 12:34pm

    @ Joe – “In fact it is exclusively populated by such people. And they whine about it enough without being named and shamed.”

    I don’t believe I have ever complained about being on the pre-mod list. I have not even so much as enquired if and when it might be lifted, and there has been no dialogue from either end even remotely discussing it.

    If you have that problem it is not from me. 🙂

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 12:47pm

    @ Joe
    I think you being a politician and not engaging with anything I’m actually saying. Not suggesting a free-for all (yet you say I am) Not calling for a witch-hunt (yet you say I am) – LDV does allow a good measure of free speech, yet at key times of debate there is an observable bias towards the leadership in moderation, articles and outright censorship. The lack of democracy and the muffling of dissent voices has been part of the problem – me thinks IMHO.

  • Joe Otten 26th May ’15 – 12:35pm

    “Jonathan, I do not step back. By your standards every publisher in the world is a censor. You are welcome to disagree with our editorial decisions and we may even condescend to publish that disagreement from time to time.”

    What LDV can and has done in the past is to allow the expression of views, to a fairly wide audience, that are not allowed expression in the MSM – it would be a great pity if this changed. This from the NUJ:

    Media ownership: power and influence in the hands of the few


    However, journalists have had to accept this in the past – but the internet has provided a much greater freedom of expression. This from 1860:

    Asked to give a toast before the prestigious New York Press Club, John Swinton, the former Chief of Staff at the New York Times, made this candid confession [it’s worth noting that Swinton was called “The Dean of His Profession” by other newsmen, who admired him greatly]:

    ” There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print.

    I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job.

    If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread.

    You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press. We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance.

    Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes. “

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 1:08pm

    @ Joe
    “the clear warning that might have been useful, though not due to moderation, but because nobody was saying it, was that all those southern Tory-facing seats would fall because we were seen as too close to Labour, and voters who wanted a continuation of the coalition didn’t want to take that risk and voted Conservative. Clearly, had we seen this coming, we would have ditched Clegg and made Jeremy Browne leader” – Wasn’t that part of the problem we were too right wing for our voters in Scotland, the North and outside of the South and too left wing for those voters in the South? Perhaps we ought to have a regional party for the South which Jeremy Browne can lead and be OB and let the Party elsewhere be true to itself.

  • Jonathan Pile
    “Wasn’t that part of the problem we were too right wing for our voters in Scotland, the North and outside of the South and too left wing for those voters in the South? Perhaps we ought to have a regional party for the South which Jeremy Browne can lead and be OB and let the Party elsewhere be true to itself.”

    I really hope that is a joke. This myth of the “left wing north & Scotland” and “right wing south” is ridiculous. There were many problems with the elections and many problems going back much further, this bizarre explanation will sow the seeds of destruction.

    A common ground (not centre ground) approach can work, though that is not all that is needed and the first ingredient is that you have to recognisably “for” something (we could start with civil liberties and move on from there), which was distinctly lacking in the recent election.

  • Paul Walter

    “That is a gross insult to southern Liberal Democrat members. I insist you take it back or I will call up a Wessex Army and invade Huddersfield at teatime.”

    Who says a Wessex army would be willing to defend the honour of the south east bit of the south…

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 2:40pm

    @ Paul Walter @ Psi
    “Perhaps we ought to have a regional party for the South which Jeremy Browne can lead and be OB and let the Party elsewhere be true to itself.” – Yes a gross over simplification and not intended as a insult to Southern members. And Yes divisive. (And jokingly House of Stark in the North will rise again against House of Lannister! ) But nonetheless a simplification that has currency with the current Labour debate and perhaps some unhappy elements in our own unhappy predicament. Truth is that the North: South divide, (and I know because I moved from the South to the North) does matter and it cannot be ignored but should be fixed. I don’t want the party to split but I do want a balanced party that works in both halves of the UK.
    Forgetting geography, but the sad truth is that the UK is fracturing. One of the strengths of Liberalism (SDP-Liberal Alliance in particular) has been the ability to have a balanced broad church from left and right. I joined as an “Alliance supporter” aged 18 something liking the Coalition that was the Lib-SDP. I agreed with David Owen on many things but was broadly Liberal. Under the Alliance and Charles Kennedy and a brief moment Nick Clegg we commanded an alliance of 25% of the voters in a broad agreement. We must go back that by rebuilding our own left-right coalition within the party.

  • EVEN SO, who is responsible then? Who is accountable for the two thousand lost councilors, the MEPS and MPs and the £170, 000 in lost deposits.
    This is a political organisation, sentimental feelings such as “family” are they relevant, families are tied by blood, by nature, the Liberal Democrat Party is just that a political party, an organisation

  • @Joe Otten 26th May ’15 – 12:49pm
    “Jonothan, Bolano spoke of 17,958 clear warnings of doom that were ignored. Do they not cover the wide range of views of which you speak.”

    I was joking, Joe.

  • When I said I was joking, Joe, I should have made it clear that I was paraphrasing Oscar Wilde. It’s not Oscar’s fault, and he doesn’t deserve to be sent to sit with me on the naughty step.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th May '15 - 6:33pm

    Paul Walter 26th May ’15 – 1:09pm
    “An intelligent alien arriving on earth and seeing this comments thread would conclude that Liberal Democrats don’t give a flying bat’s fart about employment rights and potential cyber bullying of staff but care very, very passionately about their own comments.”

    The most worrying comments on this thread are those suggesting that Lib Dems in the South East are so different to the party in the rest of the country that they need a significantly different leader and message. If this is true, then England itself is in danger let alone the Lib Dems or the UK.

    Those thinking along such lines need to do some very serious thinking about what it is to be Liberal and what it is to be British.

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '15 - 8:39pm

    @ Stephen H
    No apologies to raise the issue of regional voting trends. I’m not advocating two English parties but there has always been an issue since 1906 (even 1640) . If we are to make the UK work and the party win we need an alliance of liberal views across all the regions – not a single view imposed on all.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th May '15 - 9:35pm

    Jonathan Pile 26th May ’15 – 8:39pm

    Sorry Jonathan, we are a national party that strongly supports regionalism. That is very different to what you appear to be proposing – a different leader (Jeremy Browne of all people) and different policies for London.

    Well that should reinforce the dominance of London and compound many of our national problems quite nicely.

  • Christine Headley 26th May '15 - 9:41pm

    I feel certain that the people criticised here never (or maybe just the once) looked at LDV to see how the world outside their bunker thought of their actions. So those 17,000+ posts have educated the rest of us.
    Similarly, there are sometimes posts here from people not actually connected to the LibDems who seem to think that one person who disagrees with what they have to say means that the Entire Party is against them. Even if that one person isn’t connected to the party either.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th May '15 - 9:54pm

    Christine Headley 26th May ’15 – 9:41pm

    Christine – one of the best posts in this entire thread.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th May '15 - 10:04pm

    Jonathan Pile 26th May ’15 – 12:47pm
    “@ Joe I think you being a politician and not engaging with anything I’m actually saying. Not suggesting a free-for all (yet you say I am) Not calling for a witch-hunt (yet you say I am) – LDV does allow a good measure of free speech, yet at key times of debate there is an observable bias towards the leadership in moderation, articles and outright censorship. The lack of democracy and the muffling of dissent voices has been part of the problem – me thinks IMHO.”

    I may disagree about London Jonathan but we certainly agree about this.

    The LDV/Sheffield line convinced very few and only provoked negative reaction because we knew the Emperor was indeed naked!

  • Joe Otten thinks the answer was to have Jeremy Browne as party leader?

    The result in Taunton in 2015 speaks for itself —
    The swing against the Liberal Democrats was 27.72%

    Jeremy Browne as MP for Taunton “came out” as a very rightwing politician between 2010 and 2014.
    He wrote books establishing his position of being more rightwing than most voters would expect from a Liberal Democrat. He courted the idea of a “National” Liberal Party.
    The media frequently reported him as the Conservatives second main target amongst Liberal Democrat MPs for recruitment to their benches.

    So Taunton now has a Conservative MP with a majority 15,491.

    If Jeremy Browne as leader was the answer, one struggles to imagine what the question might have been.

  • Jonathan Pile 27th May '15 - 8:27am

    @ Stephen
    I don’t think we are disagreeing and I hope we’re not. Just to clarify it I didn’t make it clear I don’t want a southern party I was merely responding to Joe Otten’s Jeremy Browne post with a point about regional voting trends and the issues facing a United Britain. I support a Federal UK, though I think it would be interesting to debate moving parliament out of London to a city closer to the heart of England.

  • Hi Paul,

    Thanks for publishing my comment and your reply.

    >Let me just check this ChrisB: Are you saying that the moderation on Liberal Democrat
    >Voice “cost (the Lib Dems) thousands of votes in key marginals” ?

    Nearly, yes. I’m saying there have been many members and campaigners that came here to dispel their disillusion with the party and had the opposite experience, causing them to quit or disengage. I see from your disbelief you don’t credit these interactions as meaningful modifiers of outcomes, so I’ll try to explain further. I think single campaigners engaging on sites such as this can be responsible for many votes; we’re the political activists in our social groups and collectively can determine the outcomes of elections. You may think you’re having a single round interaction with an individual here, but the narrative is often conveyed amongst groups, forming part of the parties identity. I’ll bet LDV gets more hits than the official site now, it’s become the face of the party. I thought the party liberal and democratic, but this site really opened my eyes as regards the position of some members. Whilst I remain a voter, this is the first time in my life I didn’t ring around and get my mates delivering and voting – I stayed quiet so there was no local team. Can anyone enumerate this stuff? Of course not, but it would be foolhardy to dismiss such interactions as implausible too, because that’s to misunderstand the nature of the medium. I personally see this as a socially conservative site as regards moderation (to the right of Conhome), I also believe from talking to people that’s had a negative impact on the party at large. I understand that you don’t agree, it’s merely my opinion, but you seem to think there’s more insulation than I.

    >how do you know that there are “countless lost Anti-Clegg posts”?

    I’ve been here a while, watched comments get deleted and folks complain of their carefully crafted masterpiece being stuck in the bin. I’ve also watched friends post and seen their posts disappear. I’ve no idea how many of these there have been, but there were days where big chunks of threads seem to disappear without trace. It may not be countless to you, but I couldn’t enumerate it. Pointing to a thread after the euros where you “allowed” a little more dissent could be seen as an admission of a tendency to be less liberal than that (it’s amazing how spot on some of those dissenters were!). 🙂

    I’m naming and shaming myself for the premoderated list, I think it was Farron dissent this time (sorry for more whining Joe, I replied to you about that but it got deleted). To me, this thread is a good example of the problem – we have Joe saying that no posts are censored and Paul is claiming LDV has no interaction on ballot boxes. We clearly have very different views of the world and I believe these positions place the party between the ostrich and the dodo. I’d also point out that these “terrible words” and abuse have never come from me, yet every post gets moderated.

    All that said, thanks to the staff running the site and monitoring, editing or deleting every word I write – not my idea of a fun pastime. 🙂

  • What is strange is that all the folks announcing themselves as Premod’s seem to share my view. Hence us being premoderated. Hmmm….that’s very interesting. 🙂 Hopefully Paul will be back to explain how they’re not biased, they just moderate people that don’t agree with them!

    Premod Pride.

  • Hey Paul,

    Thanks for replying, I know we won’t agree, but thanks anyway. It all depends on which day of the week you post something really, sometimes I hold posts for a day knowing that one mod will ditch it, another will allow it.

  • Re being on auto mod – I am Spartacus!

  • @chrisB premod is not confined to the left

  • Matthew Huntbach 27th May '15 - 2:28pm


    I really hope that is a joke. This myth of the “left wing north & Scotland” and “right wing south” is ridiculous. There were many problems with the elections and many problems going back much further, this bizarre explanation will sow the seeds of destruction.

    Indeed. The bedrock of support for Liberal Democrats, the reason we used to have MPs in the south was poor people in those places who didn’t like the Conservatives but also felt that Labour was too concerned with urban and trendy intellectual things and did not care or even know about the lives of poor people in those parts of the country written off as “true blue”. The idea that people like that want the sort of extreme free market policies pushed by the like of Jeremy Brown is wrong, wrong, wrongitty-wrong, and the fact that some credence of that idea has been floating around in our party recently is a part of why it did so badly.

    It is very ironic that having first become interested in the Liberals having grown up on a council estate in a “true blue” Conservative constituency, thinking that the Liberals were good because they were able to put together an alternative that could take that constituency and others like it from the Conservatives while Labour never could, that very constituency where I grew up with exactly the same boundaries now as then is now the one Labour-held constituency in the whole of the south-east outside London.

  • @matthew hunt Bach demographics at work

  • @ChrisB

    Can I just complement you on a number of cogent posts, most of the points of which I strongly agree with. My own experience of being on the naughty step has been a haphazard affair before the election, which seemed to me rather appropriate at the time as some of what I was writing was in direct and strong opposition to the leadership of the party and some of the articles posted here by editors of LDV. One has to expect this kind of thing under the circumstances. Since the election the affair’s been rather less than haphazard as I’m solidly naughty rather than subject to periods of naughtiness. I’m not convinced that what I’m writing is currently any more monstrous than it was before – in fact I’m sure it isn’t.

  • Wow – as soon as I read Caron’s post I was expecting the normal free speech uproar that comes any time anyone dares to suggest maybe it’s not a great idea to say x but I wasn’t expecting that. I won’t go into the whole free speech vs right to a platform debate but after scanning (admittedly not reading all of) this comment thread I wanted to thank Paul and the other moderators – it’s always a tough job moderating and will never please everyone (or often not anyone) but without it the site would fall apart completely. For what it’s worth I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve posted or been moderated (Paul seems to have all the stats at his fingers, but they are likely to be thrown off because I normally forget to log in) but I’ve never felt it’s unfair or unreasonably censored. It seems a fairly wide range of views are expressed if it’s censored anything like as much as this thread seems to suggest.

  • @Bolano : Thanks! I’ve sympathy for strict moderation in an election campaign, you never know who’s reading and the troops didn’t need any further demoralisation (I stopped posting entirely). However, I figured now would be a good time to be open and honest, because it’s a point where things can change. I’m concerned there will be no change, we simply repeat the cycle (with a token tip to the left – you’d think I’d be happy) and at the end we’re completely wiped out.

    @Paul Walter : Thanks for the invite, I may just do that! Whatever dissent means seems to change depending on the moment – right now dissent seems to be saying anything less than favourable about Farron. It’s unsurprising that the moderator I’ve never had an issue with is the one engaging us…(I’m talking about Joe of course… 😉 ). Anyway, thanks for your work Paul – you’re one of the few that helped me keep the faith, even if you don’t understand how ideas disseminated in internet forums effect the real world yet. 😉 It may not be 4Chan, but it can and does effect the motivations of key individuals and so can’t be dismissed as a potentially important real world nonlinearity. I’ll try to think of a way to measure or get someone smarter to, will need to comb the stats you’ve published.

    @TCO : Glad it’s not just “Social & Liberal Democrats” on the premod bench! Nice to think moderators take time out of their lives to read everything we write, I think I got premodded for having an issue with Tim Farron’s stance on Google and government surveillance. The LDV answer? Surveillance. 🙂

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