Dear Vince Cable & Sal Brinton:
I am a long-time supporter and activist of our party, and I am writing to express my concern about recent problems with the way complaints about sexually inappropriate behaviour by party members towards others have been handled by the party.
During your Channel Four News interview, I was dismayed to hear the way you appeared to dismiss the campaigning activities of Lord Rennard. Your description of him as an “ordinary member” and defence of being photographed with him campaigning earlier this year came across as complacency.
Regardless of where you, I, or the party, stand on the complaints made against him, it is simply not true that he is an “ordinary member’” — in the sense that most members of the public would understand the term. He is a member of our Parliamentary Party in the Lords.
You and Sal have stated (and correctly so) that we must address gender and power structures within our party.
The platform Lord Rennard continues to enjoy is an example of male privilege and power, and it goes against the good intentions and hard work being made by our party to address gender and imbalances of power.
The perception that these issues are still not being taken seriously enough has the direct consequence of preventing women and victims of abuse and harassment from coming forward. This should deeply concern us, especially in light of the fact that the Morrissey Report concluded in recommendations which have still not all been carried out.
Liberty is not simply a personal experience, our party seeks to promote and enact policy which delivers autonomy without affecting the freedom of others; liberalism cannot co-exist when impinging on the liberty of others, and it is to the liberty of those in our party who have been victims of abuse that we should now look.
We must seek to address members’ concerns over our internal procedures, and I am happy you and other parties are currently in discussion about having independent people that victims can speak to.
We must roll out, within our own party, processes that answer the concerns of rape victims who have of late come forward with their experiences. We need to have an anonymous complaints procedure which believes the victim and welcomes investigation. To sustain the current position that a police investigation informs our internal procedure is putting victims of serious crimes off declaring what happened to them; this in turn results in a greater likelihood of future crime, creating the vicious cycle that we see now. It is time to break this cycle once and for all.
As a relatively new leader I have full confidence that you will seek to succeed, taking us on whatever path, even the hardest one, to the best outcome for victims. As you and Sal are well versed in, and as is usually the case with being a Liberal Democrat, the path to victory is often the most challenging.
This letter is not simply my own attempt to spur us into action, but is also written to relay the concerns of many activists I have spoken to so that we can join up the pre-existing dots and create a coherent procedure which seeks to put marginalised voices at the front of our activism. I should mention, from a personal perspective, that this was why I joined the party in my youth — to assist those who largely go ignored or forgotten.
I, and those others undersigned, share the concerns addressed above and would like to express our solidarity to Bex Bailey, Jane Merrick, and all activists/women across party and institution who have suffered at the hands of sexual perpetrators. It is with great sadness I know many of the undersigned are not only ordinary members, but are in fact victims too.
I hope that we will implement a procedure which benefits women and marginalised voices within the party which seeks to put in practice the basic principles of our party. As the preamble to our Constitution states:
‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.’
I, along with those others undersigned, ask that:
1) We publicly consider this as a crisis, we reach out to survivors and make the position clear that we are listening to all allegations, and to put the discourse previously out there into coherent practice. This means not just improving our stance in the media, but clarifying that position again to each local party and member of the Liberal Democrats. Members need to know they are supported and where to go if they feel they need advocacy.
2) We re-evaluate the current process. Our internal grievances procedure needs to be updated and should address the recent calls for anonymity. This needs to happen as a matter of urgency and should work with the current steering group who are in process at addressing the concerns around the alleged perpetrator being informed of the alleged victim’s name.
3) We are concerned where the Morrissey report’s findings have not been fully implemented. We accept that some measures have succeeded and some have not. It is contrary to Section 8 of the summary (censure of the alleged) to have a high profile member of the party who has had allegations against them described as ‘credible’ by a QC continue to speak often and publicly under the party’s brand. We ask to make for clear a statement as did that Lord Rennard will have no role in the party or its campaigning under your Leadership
4) We must make more effort to publicise the support offered by our party to activists who have suffered. We must make clearer the services on offer to those who need it, and ensure that members’ feedback on whether those services work properly is acted upon and taken seriously. Each member needs to be aware of what support is in offer as and when they require it.
If you would like to meet with me instead of writing a reply I will make myself free as I am determined to assist in ensuring our party makes progress on this issue. I am sure we are in agreement that inaction is not an option.
April Preston - Director of the Radical Association, Vice Hon President of Young Liberals, Vice chair candidates of Manchester Withington, Secretary of Withington, Old Moat and Burnage. Executive member of LibDem Expand.
Sophia Nash, Lambeth. Isabelle Cherry, Medway, Former Fed YL Campaigns Officer (2015). Becca Plenderleith, Dumbarton. Charley Hasted, Lambeth, Treasurer LDDA, LY Welfare and Access Co-Officer (‘15–16), PPC Swansea East (2017). Charlie Kingsbury, Ceredigion, Secretary of the Ceredigion Liberal Democrats and former Chair of the Young Liberals. Dipa Vaya, Watford, Executive member of LibDem Expand. Shaun Keen, Torbay. Sam Campling, North Devon. Dr Timothy J. Oliver, Hull & Hessle. Chloe Hutchinson, Rhydd Ifanc Policy Officer (2014–17) current Co Youth Rep to Lib Dem Women. Andrew McGuinness, Manchester Withington. Sam Foulder-Hughes, Kingston and Surbiton. Tristan Gray, Vice Chair (Campaigns) Scottish Young Liberals, PPC Edinburgh East, Edinburgh North East and Leith. Daniel Cook, Elmet & Rothwell, Hermione Rose Peace, Wimbledon. Matt Downey, Manchester Gorton. Dan Schmeising Cardiff Central, RhI Cymru Comms officer. Katherine Bavage, Selby and Ainsty and Yorkshire and Humber rep to the English Appeals Panel. Simon Lepori, Trafford, membership officer. Jake Broad, Broxtowe. Luke Graham, Caithness, Sutherland, and Easter Ross. Jake Short, Co-Chair Sutton Young Liberals and President, Royal Holloway Liberal Democrats. Patrick Crosby NPO Young Liberals. Maarten Jackson, Co-Chair Sutton Young Liberals, Former President, University of Hull Liberal Democrats. Marjorie Bark, Babergh Lib Dems, Exec Officer. Natalie Jester, Bristol South. James Bliss, Southport. Huw James, Young Liberals Events Officer, Will Wilshere, Co-Chair Hertfordshire Liberal Youth, James Baillie, South West Norfolk, Hannah Bettsworth, Lib Dems France, former Co-Chair Scottish Young Liberals, Joe Toovey, West Hertfordshire. Evan Mortimer, Harrogate and Knaresborough. Tom McGrath, Secretary of the University of Sheffield Young Liberals. Kat Stark, Liverpool. Aaron Daniels, Chair of Winchester Student Liberals. Tom Johnston, Epson, NPO of the English Young Liberals. Victoria Scott, Ealing, Welfare and accessibility officer and co-chair of Ealing Young Liberals. Joshua Gladwin, Brussels & Europe. James Cox, Bristol West, former PPC North Warwickshire. Cllr Chris Booth, Tauton Deane. Jack Clark, Berwickshire Roxburgh. Charlotte Hooper, Colchester. Peyman Hewitt, Bristol West. Joseph Johnson-Tod, York outer. Kyle Lewis Jordan, Holborn and St Pancras. ictoria Evans, Harrow, Secretary LDDA. Cassie Fraser-Shanley, Yorkshire and Humber, Regional chair Sheffield Central. Andrew Crofts, Hitchin and Harpenden. Campbell Buckeridge, Bristol West. Hannah Kitching, Vice Chair Rotherham & Barnsley Lib Dems. Maya X. Hewitt, (BAME — Leicester Young Liberals). Stuart Wheatcroft, Harrow, Vice Hon of Liberal Youth. Micheal Dono, Sunderland Central. Alex Warren, Manchester Withington, Exec member. Jonathan Martin, Manchester Withington, Asst Data Officer Manchester Withington, Withington Exec. Alex Zonneveld, General Secretary of University of Nottingham Young Liberals,. Nottingham South. Philip Manktelow, Northampton South. Emma-Louise Rose, Bournemouth West. Hannah Land, Broxtowe. Natasha Chapman, Chair of Lincoln, Sleaford and North Hykeham Lib Dems. Harry Matthews, Leeds West. Will Corbett, South Staffordshire. Cassie Fraser-Shanley, Regional Chair of Yorkshire and Humber Young Liberals. Rebecca Crofts, Hitchin and Harpenden. Cassie Fraser-Shanley, Regional Chair of Yorkshire and Humber Young Liberals. Lucy Tonge, Harrow. James Arrowsmith, Bristol North West, Treasurer UWE Liberal Democrats. Charlie Kennaugh, Birkenhead. Peter West, Stockport. James Vivian, Guildford. Emma Brindley, Greenwich, Lib Dem Women Exec. Jennie Coggles, Bassetlaw. Gianni Sarra, Enfield North. Chris Small, Eltham. Kevin McNamara, PPC for Thurrock and Hon VP of Young Liberals. Andy McKay, Oxford West and Abingdon. Peter Hull, Hammersmith. Matthew Genn, Chesterfield. Chelsea Annett, Blaenau Gwent. Alexander Brewis-Berwick upon tweed. Alexander Howarth, Oxford West and Abingdon. Simon Allan, Wells. Ollie Bradfield, Bristol North West. David Gregg, Sheffield Hallam, Chair of Sheffield University Young Liberals. Fraser Graham, South Edinburgh. Aleisha Stansfield, Newcastle North. Andy McKay, Oxford West and Abingdon. Natalie Bird, Hazel Grove. Sharon Cullen, E Hants, Branch Sec. Max Hoyt, West Dorset Liberal Democrat’s Youth & Student Leader. Bradley Hillier-Smith, SLF/LD4SOS Council Member. Ben Simmons, Chair of the Halifax Liberal Democrats. Daniel Sadie, Welwyn Hatfield. Eleanor Kelly, Rochdale. Sam Wilson, Trafford. Jamie Lawson, Birmingham. Ross Stalker, Convenor of Paisley and Renfrewshire Liberal Democrats. Christopher Dwane, Southeast Cornwall, Adam Higgins, President-Elect, Oxford University Liberal Democrats. James Hopkins, Edinburgh. he Lib Dem lead on the LGA Stronger, Safer Communities Board, Lisa Brett, LGA Champion for abuse and exploitation, Chair of, National FGM Centre Advisory Board, Deputy Group Leader on Bath & NE Somerset Council. Vijay Chopra, Treasurer EMLD. Dan Bassford, Broxtowe. Robert Blackie, Dulwich & West Norwood. Brian Stokes, York Central, former YL England Exec, York Central Exec member.