Friday, March 31, 2023

The new Lib Dem Code of Conduct for Members and Registered Supporters is announced

The Liberal Democrats approved a new Code of Conduct for Members and Registered Supporters at their spring conference, which was in York earlier month.

It was announced to those members and supporters last night in the briefest of emails - though it still managed to misspell the name of the party.

Most members don't attend conference and probably weren't expecting this new code, so it would have been good to have received an email that explained why it has been produced and what it is designed to achieve.

The code is potentially draconian, but it would be wrong to condemn it before there is a body of case law to show how it is being interpreted in practice.

Last September, Liberator reported a trenchant preliminary ruling from the party's Federal Appeals Panel (FAP):
Among a series of robust comments, it states: "A Liberal party cannot be in the business of policing the thoughts or beliefs of its members", and "no person has a right never to be offended by other people’s speech, or to have others agree with their point of view".
It called compelled speech "an affront to freedom of conscience and expression, and contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights", and went on to say the party "may not compel its members to express beliefs (including about gender) that they do not hold, nor to use language or grammar that they do not wish to use".

The report concludes: "The Liberal Democrats' formal disciplinary process is not set up to punish people for being unsympathetic or unkind characters. Nor is it designed to deal with 'political' policy disagreements, personality clashes, inadequate job performance or skills, or minor slights or discourtesies."
But things did seem to be improving:
The document does show the complaints process is not now being used for denunciations and score settling on a scale reminiscent of Stalin’s Russia. Complaints peaked at more than 300 in 2020, but are now "consistently under 100, and still declining". 
In the past year 184 complaints were received of which 133 were dismissed and just eight upheld, although 10 of those dismissed received warnings.
Let's hope the new code of conduct will see this trend continue.


Mark Johnston said...

One reason the Article 23 case load may have fallen so significantly since 3 years ago is that party membership today is only half what it was then.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I wonder if it applies to me? I have been a member of the merged Party since Day One, but that was in a pre-email age, and so they don't have my email address. The Party (nationally and locally) hasn't been in touch with me for years, not even by post, and I certainly don't get emails from them. They still take my money via a direct debit, but can I be bound by a Code if I am not officially aware of its existence?

Anonymous said...

The process needed reviewing. It was being used maliciously (2% of the 300,
6 separate complaints, were about me and after 2 years they were all dismissed.)

Anonymous said...

The complaints procedure is clearly being used to settle scores from petty disputes. I don't see how making it more draconian and more restrictive will help. There already seems to be a policy of suspending people based on unsubstantiated allegations. One wonders why anyone would be a political volunteer and risk their professional reputations with rules like these.