We’re all alarmed at the way in which the party dealt with Emma Walker’s complaints, it’s clear that procedures weren’t followed and this is something that needs to be questioned. I’m also glad that the failures of our disciplinary system are now on the agenda of the party’s leadership- these have affected many complainants up and down the country, who haven’t received a suitable conclusion to their complaints. Most importantly, it’s clear from conversations with a number of people across the party haven’t received the pastoral support that they’re entitled to.
Yet, the question remains- why weren’t these focused on sooner? Concerns about the procedure not being followed, as far as I’m aware, has been mentioned to senior figures within the party multiple times now. When talking to some of them myself, it’s clear that some of them hadn’t even read it- with they themselves having no idea how it works. If those running the party don’t even know what complainants are entitled to, how can we expect complainants to themselves? Met with reassurances of ‘we’ll try and sort it out I’ll take it up’ when talking wears thin after a little while, it’s clear that the whole party machine never had this procedure, and fixing it, as a priority.
I’ve been working behind the scenes on writing a motion to fix some of the issues for just under a month now. And in that time, it’s become clear that even passing it is going to be difficult due to the barriers that the party put up. Being told that I can’t fix small clauses, even though they make the procedure more difficult for complainants, due to a fear of the Federal Board rejecting any passed changes, is party politics at it’s finest. In order for a (amended) procedure to be implemented, it still needs their approval, even if voted in at conference. Moreover, even gaining support is a difficult thing- with me being told that I have to network with people even if I’ve had bad experiences with them. A notable example of this is a PPC, who sent my boyfriend abuse because he is a Brexiteer.
The more networking I do, the more I realise that changing this complaints procedure isn’t actually a priority of there’s, or that they’ve been aware of it not-functioning for ‘a long time’ and have failed to take action on it despite their position. Passing a potential motion isn’t ever going to be done because ‘it’s the right thing to do.’ It’s only going to happen when it’s in the party’s best interest to do so- now that there’s part of the grassroots membership that wants to do so, it ‘suddenly’ becomes important to look into it.
I’ve been raising internal issues for the whole time I’ve been in the party (around 3 years now) and one thing that I’ve learnt is that things only change when the press get involved, or there’s a high-profile case of the procedure not working. I fear that that’s what’s happened here. This procedure is only being questioned now due to a high profile case, even thought many people within the party have been saying that it hasn’t been working for (in some cases) just under a year. However, these people have just been talked over/ignored.
The last thing that I want to mention is the fact that the safeguarding documents that Federal HQ provide were also out of date, only being reviewed last month despite being due for review in 2018. I’m glad that this was done- but it feels coincidental that it happened at the same as these internal conversations started to occur. Our published safeguarding procedures were out of date for two years, and we need to question this too.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s good that these conversations are happening and that these steps have been taken, but it’s important to also remember that these should have happened a long time ago- but instead party members’ concerns were ignored. Late is better than never, but it’s still late.
I have lots of questions, and I do want answers. But I also want you all to understand the true scale of this issue, and the most important question from my perspective to the party leadership, which is why does this all suddenly matter now when it hasn’t for close to a whole year? And to the members who are suddenly taking a stance on these issues when you were aware they existed before, why are you only paying attention now? Issues like these not being dealt with is why we’re getting talented members leave the party or become inactive. It’s part of the reason that I keep bouncing in and out.
I used to love being a Lib Dem. I’ve represented us across a variety of media platforms and on internal executives. I’ve taken part in many (successful) campaigns. Yet, I shouldn’t have to spend my teenage years fighting for a better disciplinary procedure and adequate safeguarding measures. The party has really let me down.