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Ros Scott and the disappearing disappeared blog story

June 8th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized by

rosThe palaver over Ros Scott’s now-deceased blog seems to have died down, and I can half see why: “Politician decides not to blog” provokes palpitations in only the geekiest of chained-to-laptop types.

Surely it’s up to her whether or not she writes a blog, some might say, in what seems a pretty damned obvious point prima facie.

Yes – but the problem is that this really isn’t the issue. Rather this is just a headline that there-under lie several other facts; facts that leave a slight feeling of discomfort, to say the least. Let’s take a butcher’s in point form:

1.    Censorship: it seems as if many reasonable comments from party activists were blocked from Ros’s blog, certainly during the Rennard affair. The ever-reasonable Alex Wilcock has reported that this happened to his comments, as have several others.

2.    Broken promises: apparently Ros’s manifesto made big play of communicating with activists and included a specific pledge to do this through a blog. “Keep in touch with the membership through regular e mail bulletins, my blog…”

3.    Cover-up: according to comment-leaver Herbert Brown, the manifesto has been taken offline, along with the blog. Why remove all trace of activity to date? As he says, this “smacks of having something to hide.”

4.    Attack dog: following criticism from prolific blogger Paul Walter, Mark Valladares was quick to intervene—by publicly calling Paul “an idiot” (three times in one post, no less). Naturally we should never judge someone for the actions of their other half, but at the very least we should question Mark’s unnecessary belligerence which has simply made this whole episode even more unsavoury.

5.    Rennard: the very crux of this business, as analysed in a post that all Lib Dem members should read on the Agent Orange blog. Is Ros powerless to act over the allegations against the departing Chief Exec? We’ve still heard nothing substantial whatsoever from the party over this. Was our CE culpable of poaching £41,000 as claimed by the News of the World, or not? Anyone investigating?

This affair will not go away and continues to erode our message on cleaning up politics. If we’re to preach transparency, let’s have a bit in practice – starting now.

7 Responses to “Ros Scott and the disappearing disappeared blog story”

  1. Mark Valladares Says:

    Julian,

    Fascinating piece. Mostly conjecture and supposition, but fascinating nonetheless.

    I can only really comment on points 1 to 4 – I’m afraid that I know as much about the Rennard position as you do – probably less. However;

    1. The comments weren’t published – if you’re planning to close a blog, why bother publishing?

    2. Ros has published her reasons for deleting the blog. Either you believe them, or you don’t.

    3. The campaign website was indeed shut down. It was linked to a quite complex back office database (which I frankly never understood). Therefore, it was, as I recall, suspended to prevent any risk of hacking into the data. Don’t hold me to that statement, but that is my recollection.

    Given that 60,000 copies of it were issued to members, this hardly smacks of a cover-up.

    4. Yes, I attacked Paul – he was annoying me. Should I have done it? Probably not. Life’s like that. I have a hot-blooded streak, which I manage remarkably well, all things considered. I am touched by your concern though.

    The issue of how the Party should respond to the allegations against Lord Rennard is not one that I’m qualified to contribute much to, so I’ll leave your readers to ponder over it further…


  2. Joe Otten Says:

    Who has the power to act against Rennard? I don’t know, read the constitution, mate.


  3. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Excellent piece Julian.

    As for Mark V’s comments that this is “mostly conjecture and supposition” ..I see little evidence that this is either – though I confess that I thought the point of blogs was to put your thoughts out in the ether..

    Mark V is probably right that I do have Ros Scott’s manifesto lurking somewhere – good point – I will find it. But I will suggest to the Party that it is appropriate that the President’s manifesto goes up on the Party website. It should certainly be somewhere public.

    Also I note that Ros’ interview with Lib Dem Voice is still up on their site http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-presidential-platform-1-ros-scott-for-president-4699.html

    About two thirds of the interview is about the importance of communication. If we judge her on that basis she is not living up to her promises. Amongst other things in the interview she says:

    “In my view, one of the key jobs of the Party President is to represent the views of members and activists to the Leader and to the paid executive”…

    “…Our future success cannot be assured unless we maintain a healthy internal party democracy, where members feel involved and informed about decisions made by the Party.”

    “Simply electing rafts of committees doesn’t, in itself, achieve this. For genuine democracy to exist we need clear accountability – the “who decides what” and better communication with the membership of what the issues are and what their views are”

    “I would keep in touch regularly, through my blog, articles in Party publications and using e mail. We can make much more use of on-line surveys and email communication to take very rapid soundings on items up for decision”

    “Part of the President’s job is to make sure that the voice of the members and activists does not disappear into the Westminster bubble”

    We can of course still email her: ros.scott@libdems.org.uk


  4. Mark Littlewood Says:

    It’s a desperate and sad situation for Ros.

    I have a lot of time for her and certainly wouldn’t question her sincerity. But I sometimes question both her sense of proportion (e.g. screaming blue murder when Chandila ran for President) and in the case of the last FE, there has been a failure of nerve.

    It’s not a question of whether you believe her – it’s a question of whether you think her arguments hold a drop of water even if you believe her 100%.

    I’m afraid that the whole fiasco of the last FE meeting and the non-handling of the expenses issue rather prove to me what a total farce the supposed democratic elements of the party’s constitution really are.


  5. Jenny D Says:

    Who can do anything about Chris Rennard?

    It depends on the role, and part of the problem is that he has effectively two jobs here.

    With regard to his Parliamentary role:
    1. The Parliamentary authorities can take action if they feel that something has happened which is against the Parliamentary rule book.
    2. The Chief Whip in the Lords should also investigate the matter and can choose to suspend him from the Parliamentary Party in the Lords pending investigation. A neutral but powerful act, which gives out a message of no nonsense. The Labour Whips have used this against those who have been accused in their Parliamentary Party, as a neutral act whilst investigating. Certainly the accusations would seem to be serious enough that it would not be unfair to consider suspension whilst facts are established. The Parliamentarian remains a Parliamentarian, only Parliamentary Party privileges are affected.

    At present an unnamed independent investigator (at least I haven’t picked up the name yet) was to be appointed immediately after the last FE meeting to investigate any offenders in the Lords Party, in partnership with the Chief Whip. We await more information.

    Regarding the ‘day job’:
    1. All HQ staff have a Line Manager who ultimately reports through various managers depending on their seniority to the Chief Executive. Any disciplinary matters should in the first instance be handled by the Line Manager, then escalated appropriately through the management pyramid.
    2. The Chief Executive was appointed by a panel appointed by the FE in 2003. The FE constitutionally has the ultimate power to decide on the matter, but devolves it through the constitution to the FFAC (Federal Finance and Administration Committee). My understanding is that operational line management is through this Committee. This is where the ultimate responsibility lies – Rennard’s Line Manager (who is a volunteer) and their line manager who has overall responsibility (the President) and their respective Committees.

    Other options:
    1. Anyone who feels aggrieved by this situation has every right to bring a motion to suspend/revoke membership of an individual who they feel has brought the Party into disrepute. Certainly a member of a council group who has such allegations would normally be suspended from the group and most likely the Local Party would also follow suit to at least suspension pending investigation. Hopefully the allegations would be refuted successfully and therefore the indivdidual re-admitted to smiles of relief.
    2. Any individual could bring such a motion to the individual’s Local Party or Regional Party. Admittedly in this case it could be awkward to determine which these are!

    So it really is possible for any individual to directly influence this. It also would have been possible for a decisive set of actions to come out of the FE meeting, assuming the FFAC Chair and members were consulted, and appropriate employment process was followed.

    Having voted for Ros it does seem that she is not prepared to be the trailblazer she promised to be. And I agree with Mark L’s last post – it does come down to nerve. I think there is an underlying issue within the Party not just linked to Ros but linked to some very powerful individuals who perhaps seem to command an unhealthy amount of awe.


  6. Julian H Says:

    Who has the power to act against Rennard? I don’t know, read the constitution, mate.

    Hence why that point links to a lengthy blog post providing one interpretation.


  7. Jenny D Says:

    In the case of Rennard it isn’t just about the Constitution. The Constitution can deal with membership issues.

    The Constitution also provides the framework for Line Management for staff. Given he’s the most senior staff member it becomes a volunteer line management issue, and the Committee structure (as defined by the Constitution) is the only way to deal with it, but they also have to take into account employment law as well as party niceties. However – just a personal opinion – in plenty of other roles, allegations of this nature would at least have led to immediate suspension and if no evidence to contrary was found within a farily short space of time dismissal.

    The Constitution doesn’t deal with the Parliamentary authorities and doesn’t directly deal with Parliamentary Parties (as it doesn’t – yet – deal with council groups) although it should clearly.

    But everyone is right. An awful lot more could and should have been done.