Wednesday, January 10, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Bullying & Mismanagement at LibDem HQ

Earlier today I received an email from someone who clearly knows their LibDem politics. It was sparked by the intemperate reaction to THIS and THIS post among the LibDem supporters who commented...

Dear Iain, I read your blog with interest regularly. As a Liberal Democrat I
don't always agree but find you measured and entertaining. I know Penny [who resigned as Vice Chair of the LibDems Candidates Committee] well
and have sat with her on the committee she has just resigned from. I'm
disappointed she isn't well enough to continue, but sadly the reaction to
the post on your blog is really missing the point, going into diatribes
about objections to processes. I'm disappointed that the fundamental issues
in Penny's letter and its non-printing are being lost in the debate about
mechanisms. I have first hand experience of a letter in the past that was
also ignored by Liberal Democrat News about funding for small party bodies.
The email then goes on to raise questions about the centralising tendencies of LibDem HQ in Cowley Street and the senior management in particular. It accuses them of "consistently undermining autonomous campaign groups, and constantly trying to centralise all funding, regardless of party structure". I am also told that there have been many attempts to reduce the resources given to Women Liberal Democrats and the so-called Diversity Fund. The email continues...
Steve Hitchens was appointed [to run the Diversity Fund] with no reference to any federal body to an unconstitutional body. It angered many many people, but the bullying culture within the party was such that the implication was given that if you dared speak out you'd be ex-communicated. The real failure is the failure to progress as a party. Instead of looking forward and being different, the party has regressed in the last three years - and no-one seems to dare to ask the reason why very loudly. Anyone who has half a brain knows that theresults in 2006 and 2005 were really rubbish and far worse than even Simon Hughes predicted at 'only 70 odd seats'. Yet they were spun as a great success. What codswallop.

I was in a PCA meeting in which we tried to ask questions about the levels
of support I, and other candidates who were in so-called target seats in 2005
got or rather we did not get. One close friend of mine was a candidate in a seat
which was a decapitation seat and was treated disgracefully. And I suspect
probably 90% of ordinary members believe that it is utter rubbish. However I
have been appeased by some initiatives - I think the diversity fund is a great
initiative but it seems to be developing into something that is not being
presented as quite right. Our campaigning techniques are now so predictable that
you and the Labour Party can predict the leaflet we will release the next day in
by-elections suggest we have a huge problem. I voted for Ming, but he needs to
look and fast at the real problem facing us.

The way people are 'appointed' within the Liberal Democrats needs some
looking into - and as for equal opportunities within the organisation - well it
doesn't exist. Like many other members of the party I'm too frightened of the
bullying that I've experienced first hand to speak out any more. Like Penny I'm
tired and fed up with it. Yet it isn't the party as a whole that is bad, just a
few individuals. We need to look outside more into the real world inhabited by
most people, inside of up our backsides in the Westminster bubble where I've
seen so many decent people discriminated against that it still makes me angry
that no-one has the guts to stand up to bullies.

I've not got rid of my membership of the party. Nor do I want it removed. I
have helped in every by election in person since goodness knows when, and even
though I have experienced first hand in the last few months the complete
inadequacies of our process when not run properly I shall carry on. But not like
I did before. I also wish to say that I regret not speaking in favour of proper
funding for some of the party orgnisations who are vulnerable just now when I
had the chance a few weeks ago and for that I am sorry.
Make of it what you will. I don't feel the need to add my own comment.


Anonymous said...

It's a very good point about the predictability of LibDem campaigns. The party are improving at anti-LibDem campaigning partly because of the template formula of their campaigning.

Anonymous said...

'Steve Hitchens was appointed [to run the Diversity Fund] with no reference to any federal body to an unconstitutional body.'

Can anyone explain, preferably in English, what this sentence means ?

Praguetory said...

Iain - as I think you may know this e-mail merely scratches the surface based on the mixture of fact and rumour I have heard recently. This is why Suz's blog is on my must reads at the moment. I don't know whether you're being deliberately oblique.

Anonymous said...

What's the bet this doesn't appear on LibDem Voice

Fib Dem said...

We will of course hear from the Norfolkblogger who is not aware of anything imperfect in neverland.

I contrast this with Conservativehome where it is not hidden and an open debate happens.

What really beggars belief is how the "senior" female MPs let in go on. The head of their diversity team is only "acting". Acting since Sept! Someone wake Ming up from his afternoon snooze. zzzzzzzzzzz

javelin said...

Their manifesto is to decentralise policy but their Party policy wants centralise.

Perhaps the candidates don't understand that the Party is not the manifesto.

Because they are not a large party fewer members give the impression of higher volatilty, but this is just an impression so I think it's questionable whether more control is needed from the center to keep this in check.

Anonymous said...

Did you shout "Fire in the Hole!" when you hit "Publish" Iain?

Anonymous said...

I am not a Lib Dem, but have served at a senior level in one of the other major political parties. The predictability point is interesting and well made, but the rest of it is just self obsessed rubbish. Lib Dems need a coherent national voice and strategy if they are ever hope to break through the 100 seat barrier. This needs a national organisation with teeth (they are a joke when it comes to representative selection) and a strong national message. Of course care about the local parties, but the leadership needs to prioritise what matters and what make a difference. Winning elections is not about feeling good about yourself (Labour circa 1980's), or stoking your own teams prejudices (Conservative party 2005 : you thinking what I’m thinking?) its about projecting a national vision of leadership and understanding your party needs to reflect the society in which is operates. I wonder how much time your correspondent gives to party paper pushing compared to actually looking at the world around him/her. I bet his or her office/study/end of the bed is loaded with tedious minutes, rule books, discussion of constitutional amendments and long lost resolutions. I don't know the Lib Dem head office team, but good luck to them. If they have to face this parochial self obsessed whining day in day out they have an up hill struggle.

Anonymous said...

It would appear the Lib Dems are the authors of their own demise if they fail to respond to the accusations in that email. If you're gonna have a bullying culture, have one that produces good results!

jg said...

anonymous @ 9.14:
Not a Liberal Democrat?
Read Liberator - August edition and then November. There had to be a reply that was this predictable - makes one wonder if it's the same person who authored the template campaign. And that they do actually know the 'Lib Dem head office team' quite well. I'm just wondering who at LD HQ typed it in. My bet would be the Voice.

anon @ 7.01. It basically means that having lost his seat, and the council, and with no reference to the NEC equivalent in the Liberal Democrats that Hitchens was given a job that over rode other democratically elected bodies. And given the issues surrounding loss of an important council through infighting and de-selection of candidates, it beggars belief.

Anonymous said...

"inside of up our backsides"

Surely this Oetenesque reference should read "instead of. . ."?

Iain's posting reflects a more generally held Lib Dem understanding of the power within the hands of one or two unelected people in Cowley Street controlling central funding and support to local parties and 'target seat' canditates around the country.

The '70' target could easily have been made but several 'target seat' candidates whose 'face did not fit', in the view of these individuals, were openly starved of cash and other political support in the run-up to 2005. Only one of them became an MP, a fact perhaps not unrelated to him being a self-made millionaire who did not actually need the money in order to fight off the cash-flood employed by political oponents against him. The said 'powers that be' continue to rubbish this man in a vicious whispering campaign now he is an MP despite the fact that he has more brain power and political nous than all of them put together.

Anonymous said...

Sock Puppet warning!!!!!!

"I am not a Lib Dem...."

Of course not young sir, can you fold the white garment with the long sleeves and place it over there before you mount the couch?

"I don't know the Lib Dem head office team, but good luck to them."

with their.......

..."parochial self obsessed whining day in day out".

No sir, I am sure you don't know yourself. Now stop picking your teenage spots and go and make his lordship a cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

I know to what Praguetory refers and the SUZ Blog connection. In Islington there is a tenuous majority of one, in what was a ,"Jewel in the Crown" Coucil. A bad odour concerning the recently departed Boss Hog Hitchens would be the very last thing they need .
Frankly I fully expect to be lumbered with the Old Labour wrecking crew soon anyway because of the sheer lack of quality among the Lib Dum Coucillors .

Tell us more please

Anonymous said...

JG: And that they do actually know the 'Lib Dem head office team' quite well. "

Biblically even?

Anonymous said...

Hey Iain, you should check this story out!

Praguetory said...

9.14 - I am not a Lib Dem. I'd bet my house you are, squire.

Rob F said...

"My bet would be the Voice."

Not me, guv!

jg said...

rob f IS the voice. Have often thought Suzanne is a bit OTT on the subject. But does this not confirm the suggestion that he does have an over-inflated opinion of himself. Is he 'the Voice' in its entirety?

Rob F said...

Nope. And all the information you need is on the website, if you'd only take the time to read it :rollseyes:

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Anonymous said...

Maybe they need more women at HQ:

(see the comments thread)