Reading Lord Rennard’s candid statement today, I was embarrassed on behalf of my party, the Liberal Democrats.
That Chris was put in a position where he felt he had to make candid admissions about depression, illness etc is, frankly, appalling. He shouldn’t have had to do it.
The women affected have been through severe stress and anxiety for several years, as well as going through the pain involved during, and immediately after, the actual events.
The party really has made the most almighty balls-up of this whole affair from the word go.
I have found myself agreeing with Chris and Lord Carlile in so far as the basic operation of natural justice goes.
At the same time, I trust Alistair Webster when he said the evidence he received was “credible”. I do not believe anyone is lying or dissembling here. I see how this issue has become totemic in terms of diversity in the workplace, which I truly support, being a husband, the father of a daughter, a workplace manager in a global corporation, an enthusiastic and active supporter of a woman PPC and a member of Women Liberal Democrats. It is shameful that this controversy has been portrayed as a battle between two extremes, old and young, men and women. Well, hey, hello! There are a lot of us staggering around bewildered in the middle, like me, who deeply and passionately believe in diversity and equality in the workplace but also believe in the operation of natural justice. We haven’t seen the details of all this and, quite frankly, don’t know what the hell is going on.
Having sat through or read interminable discussions and documents about due process in the Liberal Democrats, who are punctilious about procedure, it is just unbelievable that we are here. The party of process has well and truly screwed up. Big time.
But screwing up in terms of delaying some committee report or action is one thing. But when you screw up people’s lives in the process then that really is profoundly shameful. (And by “people” I mean everyone affected by the situation, including the women involved, Chris and Ann).
This whole thing should have been resolved through mediation years ago. Instinctively, I feel Chris should apologise. I have told him this. But I understand his reasons not to. He has been virtually destroyed by this. I do not seek to diminish by one iota the very serious importance of proper workplace behaviour. The women involved have been in long-term torment and had their lives turned upside down by all this.
But we shouldn’t be here. There should have been proper resolution through the disciplinary processes. It is crazy. To use a modern phrase: It is “bat shit crazy”.
I’ve supported the Liberal party and the Liberal Democrat party since I was ten years old in 1970. I’ve been a member for around 24 years. I intend to remain one until I die and have “The Land” sung lustily at my funeral, hopefully in a long time, God willing.
I still love my party and think the world of it and everyone in it.
But I have to say that this episode has demonstrated very clearly that, collectively, there are isolated occasions when we couldn’t organise the proverbial piss-up in a brewery, even if our lives depended on it.
Amended 25th January