Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Cancellation of the Radical Association leadership hustings

The first item in my last Six of the Best read:

Ed Davey has pulled out of the Radical Association hustings because James Baillie was to chair it: "I hope sincerely that this conduct by Ed’s campaign has been a one-off which they will on reflection agree was not up to the standards to which they would wish to hold themselves, and is not representative of their wider attitude to my fellow party activists."

Today the party issued a statement that gives a different explanation for the cancellation of those hustings:
On the 1st of August, we notified both Leadership Campaigns of a proposal from the Radical Association to conduct an event.

An agreed Chair wasn’t then identified before Saturday 8th. At this stage, we were advised that the Layla Moran campaign could no longer attend the event. 

The Returning Officer’s team believes both campaigns acted reasonably and in good faith, indeed they have been notably helpful and flexible with the shifting arrangements throughout this campaign. 

We would also like to note our appreciation of the Young Liberals for including some RA questions in their event: a positive example of members working to support one another regardless of individual interests.
And see this tweet from James Baillie: Later. The Radical Association has issued its own statement on the affair. These are its main points:
We approached this entire process in good faith on the basis that we were excited to host a Q&A for our members and wanted to do the best job we could of it. 
Our biggest regret from the entire process is that the many excellent questions submitted by our members, several of which have not been asked anywhere else during this leadership campaign could not be answered. We have published the list of questions in a Google Document online in order to rebut any suggestion that we intended to conduct a biased event. 
We consider the cause of the cancellation of the event to be primarily the consequence of Ed Davey’s leadership campaign. This is on the basis that they proved slow to respond to suggestions, refused to communicate with us directly, and that they rejected several reasonable suggestions including that of an experienced chair who was publicly and privately neutral, as well as the opportunity to vet the list of questions themselves prior to the event. 
We do not consider it unreasonable for Layla Moran’s leadership campaign to have declined to proceed with a Q&A, on a day on which other hustings were already happening, due to it being confirmed at less than 24 hours notice. We also note that Layla Moran’s team showed, from the beginning, complete openness and willingness to agree to any reasonable format for chairing the event. 
Given that various other leadership election hustings and Q&As have been held with chairs who were, to varying degrees, committed supporters of one candidate or another, we feel as though Ed Davey’s campaign were trying to hold the Radical Association to a standard which they had not insisted upon for any other event. 
HQ’s statement on the cancellation of the Q&A is, in our eyes, fundamentally misleading as to the events which transpired. We are disappointed that HQ did not contact us prior to issuing their statement. 
It should also be noted that, contrary to HQ’s statement, although the Young Liberals kindly allowed us to submit our questions to their own hustings, they ended up having more than enough questions from their own members and therefore do not appear to have used any of the questions we submitted. This is, of course, perfectly reasonable on the part of the Young Liberals and they still have our gratitude. 
We consider the treatment of James Baillie in particular to have been utterly unacceptable. Whilst it is perfectly within the rights of a leadership campaign to object to a suggestion for an event chair, we do not consider it acceptable for a leadership campaign to baselessly accuse someone of bias and intended partiality to party headquarters, particularly when he was not given any opportunity to respond. The fact that several supporters of Ed Davey’s leadership campaign have doubled down on this on social media following the cancellation of the event has been extremely disappointing but should not be blamed on Ed Davey himself.

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