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Why I am leaving the Liberal Democrats

December 27th, 2014 Posted in Liberal Democrats by

After over six years of strongly identifying as a LibDem – I can no longer do so in good conscience.

Certain issues have dominated my thoughts on the issue since August this year and this is not a decision I have taken lightly. However, the conclusion I have come to is that I would like to start the new year disassociated from the Liberal Democrats. Over the years, my direct debit to the party hasn’t always been perfectly constant – especially when I was living in America – but I’ve always thought that if I were to be a member of any UK political party I would still be a LibDem. For the following reasons that is no longer the case…

There is one predominant issue that I feel I can no longer overlook on the grounds of pure morality and humanity. Over the past two years the LibDems were tested and, in my humble opinion, they failed that test.

Liberalism is fundamentally a discussion about power.  When it came to light that an individual who had been given power by the Liberal Democrats had egregiously aggregated and then abused that power – the response was and continues to be breathtakingly disappointing. Too many questions remain unresolved. Why was this individual allowed to aggregate so much power? Why were there no checks on this individual’s power? Why was this individual both an employee of the party and an employer in the party? Why were the Liberal Democrats so reliant on one individual? Who were the individuals complicit in this individuals behaviour?

It’s not a surprise that this individual has got off scott free. He wrote the rule book for himself. However, now that the rule book has been found to be wanting  – what of the efforts to move forward and rewrite that rule book? For four months I have sat in hope that something positive will come of this. For all the talk amongst some of the more clued up members still nothing appears to have come about. The valiant efforts of the reformers remain unheeded but I am flabberghasted that some – even actual parliamentarians – don’t even think the rules or the party needs to change. This speaks volumes and says that this is not just the small matter of a single rouge individual. This speaks of a truly toxic, immoral and un-reformable culture within the party.

The main reason I am leaving the Liberal Democrats is because when it came to the big question of Liberalism – the uses and abuses of power at the heart of the party – they failed and continue to fail to come down on the right side.

The second big reason I feel compelled to disassociate myself with the LibDems, which is not unrelated to the first, is that volunteers are undervalued and sometimes mistreated in an organisation that relies almost entirely on volunteers.

I found myself stuffing leaflets through doors in the summer days of 2009 in Richmond Park. I was an unpaid intern and even paid my own expenses to get to work for the party at the same time the party were expressing their outrage at unpaid internships. My boss was an incompetent manchild and at no point did I feel valued, respected or was ever thanked for my time and effort. That is until a week after I’d resigned when my former manager left a begrudging voicemail on my phone with a handful of words which finally included ‘thanks for all your help.’ Too little; too late. No wonder that seat was lost…

The promise of proximity to power is a strong motivation for volunteers to stick at it in Labour and the Tories. Considering the Liberal Democrats don’t have that you’d think they’d be more careful, polite and grateful etc. but no…

The lack of value placed on volunteers is exposed perfectly whenever anyone defects. Someone on some blog somewhere will utter the textbook response – well, deep down they were always Labour/Green/Tory Scum anyway. But often I have seen people defect because they were maltreated, bullied, harassed or passed over for promotion on the whim of an inadequate superior. Now, most parties will trot out the “well, deep down they were always Labour/Green/Tory Scum anyway” line in public. Naturally. But behind the scenes the other parties do at the least pay some lip service to cutting the cancer out. They’ll ask themselves – hey, maybe that person shouldn’t have been maltreated, bullied, harassed or passed over for promotion on the whim of an inadequate superior? This lack of self-examination is especially unforgivable when we know now that party processes to deal with this type of behaviour have been woefully inadequate. The LibDems don’t cut the cancer out. Not even when the individuals are visible public servants.

Were Mike Hancock MP a Labour or Tory MP – ask yourself – would he be sitting on the front benches? Of course not.

Other minor gripes I have with the way the party works:

– The way the LibDems make policy isn’t remotely democratic. It’s decided by a small cabal at conference.  Why not use digital voting to reach all party members?

– Policy made in this way creates tension between the MPs, the voting delegates and the wider party members. Ministers seem to make up what policies they want anyway so why the charade at conferences anyway? There’s Vince Cable banging on about a Mansion Tax and there was me thinking the favoured form of property/land tax in the LibDems was LVT. What’s the point of voting if parliamentarians are going to make it up?

– The LibDems often have a complete lack of policy self-awareness and will happily hold two contradicting policies at once. E.g “Smoking is bad for you and should be banned.” And. “To prohibit marijuana is paternalistic and this legislation should be overturned immediately.” How one holds both these policy positions at the same time, I will never know, and yet many LibDem parliamentarians do. These contradictions matter to everyone these issues matter to and sooner or later supporters are alienated bit by bit.

– The LibDems are fundamentally small ‘c’ conservative in the way they run the party. Tony Blair let red blood flow to remake the Labour party into New Labour. The discipline showed by the Tories when David Cameron went about decontaminating the Tory brand was impressive. Were a moderniser to come along in the LibDems, I doubt he or she would get very far. I think most of the recent LibDem presidential elections prove that. The blood that needs to be let is never let and there’s a lot of bad blood.

Of course I was never a ‘typical’ LibDem and I understand that many will be happy to see the back of me. I have a folder on my desktop full of threatening emails, ad hominem attacks off LDV and screencaps of bullying comments, Tweets and Facebook posts to attest to that. But I thought for years that the LibDems would be the best vehicle for espousing these views. Now, I don’t think the party is a good vehicle for espousing f*ck all. All I have to show from my time as a LibDem is six years of disappointment and an awkward but interesting phone call from the Metropolitan Police.

However, I will say that my disassociation from the party is not down to anything ideological or any particular policy. I am, always have been and will remain a Classical Liberal/Contemporary Libertarian. My personal values have changed a great deal in the time I’ve been a Liberal Democrat, that’s simply the difference between 20 year old and 27 year old me, but my policy conclusions have not. Contemporary Libertarianism has no comfortable home in any political party. It exists as an intellectual and moral movement and often intellectual and moral movements influence public policy so I am an optimist. The general trend is towards freedom and progress and I am certain my talents and resources can forward these aims elsewhere.

I’m resigning from the LibDems because of the toxic internal party culture and the fact that there is seemingly no meaningful effort to reform said toxic party culture from where the change needs to come from. Indeed, great swathes of our parliamentarians have shown themselves to be either cowardly, immoral, chronically out of date or wedded to a regime that never worked. The functionality of the party has never been great, but now for the party to have  so spectacularly failed on the issue of the abuse of power is an unforgivable sin.


17 Responses to “Why I am leaving the Liberal Democrats”

  1. Eddie Sammon Says:

    Best of luck Sara. I still think the Lib Dems are the best out of the main parties, but I understand completely reservations about endorsing the status quo, which is why I have “resigned” in the past.


  2. Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #404 Says:

    […] 3. Why I am leaving the Liberal Democrats by Sara Scarlett on Liberal Vision. Sara resigns after 6  years. […]

  3. Sid Cumberland Says:

    Good luck in your search for a party which is perfect in every way …

  4. Sara Scarlett Says:

    Eddie, thank you for your kind words and understanding.

    Sid, what exactly makes you think I’m looking for one?

  5. Andrea Clifton Says:

    Dear Sara, I am an old woman who has become a member of the Lib Dems because they helping to make our country a good place to live. Labour had devastated our future. I am sorry you are so depressed but I think your reasons are other than someone saying thank you. You ought to see your GP and receive professional help. What you did for the party, you wanted to do. You really should have expressed your need for attention before you volunteered

  6. Sid Cumberland Says:

    Well, logic, Sara, if you really want to know*. You are the sort of person who might join a political party – you joined the Liberal Democrats. You left because they did not live up to your high expectations. It seems reasonable to suppose that if you found a party without the flaws you found in the Lib Dems, you would be inclined to join it.

    Perhaps I should have said ‘Good luck in your search for a party which is perfect in every way (unless you’re not looking for one, in which case just good luck)’.

    *which I doubt.

  7. Simon Thomson Says:

    Andrea Clifton, I really think the comments about needing to see a GP and get profressional help are deeply inappropriate and reinforce the points Sara is trying to make.

  8. Simon Thomson Says:


  9. Sara Scarlett Says:

    Sid – First of all, I don’t know you and there’s no need for you direct any snide comments at me that I know of. I am well aware that there is no such thing as perfect political party. What I meant was this – I am willing to entertain the idea that party politics isn’t for me…

    As for my “high standards.” I don’t regard not tolerating sexual harassment and an inadequate response to sexual harassment as having particularly high standards. In fact, I think that’s a pretty basic requirement of any modern organisation. Don’t you?

  10. Sara Scarlett Says:

    Andrea – That’s a very strange comment and not overly coherent. I’ve looked up the details of the comment ip address and email address and you appear to be posting from a care home. Since I can’t quite under the comment, I think it’s best if I don’t respond.

  11. clive trussell Says:

    Sorry you are leaving the party Sara- we need all the help we can get.
    Perhaps you had a lot of bad luck or expect too much from a political party.
    They have voted for some things that seem terrible- but coalition means they both have to hold their nose sometimes. This party has got a lot through that would never be on the books.
    To me, the Liberal Democratic way is the only way.
    Why not stay and change the things you don’t agree with- we are all reasonable people really.

  12. Sid Cumberland Says:

    Sara – I don’t know you, either – so I won’t make any snide comments.

    I agree with you entirely about standards.

    And, as I said, good luck.

  13. Huw Jones Says:

    Sara, you seem to have had a terrible time, and you have my sympathy. Some of the people you have had to put up with should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
    BUt if structural changes are needed, they will not happen if people who have experienced the shortcomings of the current system, leave the party. I think that I know a very little about the problems you faced, I guess that they were reported in the press? If so, as an ordinary member in a different region, all I know is what the press published, and we know the sort of thing the press (even the dear old Guardian) want to talk about. You hint at problems that the press didn’t tell us about.
    Please re-think your resignation, and help improve the party. That will take time, and there will be many diversions on the way to the solution you want.
    Its funny, I joined the party in the 1960s when I was still at school, and have stuffed and delivered envelopes, put up posters, canvassed, sat on committees etc until the point about 10 years ago when caring duties rather clipped my wings. The Party has changed over the years, not always in directions I liked. For example, when I joined it was an idealistic party, a party of ideas, and distinct from the other main parties in that it sought to represent individuals rather than businesses or unions. The greed for power seemed to come in with the Social Democrats, but the Libetarian aspect was one that I thought was restricted to the Australian Liberal and Country Party, then, a sort of Ossie UKIP.(Though it was much more powerful, and its xenophobic views had horrible consequences for at least one family I canvassed, whose daughter – a nurse in Australia _ had a Chinese husband who disappeared….its a long story)
    But in spite of the apparent change to our party that attracted you, I remain a member. What has nearly forced me out is the callous way the coalition has treated the Government’s own employees, first sacking millions of them, then implying that they are not “hard working people”, before forcing them onto food banks, and accusing them of being greedy for accepting charity. The coalition has also been very busy centralising Government in spite of lot of hypocritical talk of localism. I think that I would agree with you about the hypocrysy of banning cigarettes and arguing to liberalise the law on other recreational addictive poisons. (Please ban all cigarettes including in the home! Most of my family are asthmatic, but 10% of our income goes on tobacco, smoked by one individual. The house stinks, the paint, books, display screens, ornaments and soft furnishings yellow, and much time ( and petrol) is wasted on extra journeys to the tobacconist – you can see how libetarian I am!)But I digress!
    There is a lot that we need to do in the party and in politics in general, please stay and put your experience (good and bad) to good use! Make it worth putting up with what you have had to.

  14. Mike Biden Says:

    Have you found any happiness in life? I rather suspect nothing is perfect. If you are referring in your complaint to the behaviour of Lord Rennard then I reject your complaint absolutely. He was investigated by the police, he was investigated by the party, there was no harassment of any individual. There were instances given when his behaviour made some women feel uncomfortable, but very few came forward to give evidence and none ever did so at the time. No woman was approached more than once. I have spoken with women in my local party about this and one who knows him well just said it was all ridiculous and that he “was a sweety”. The prime instigator of the complaints had already left the party and taken up a post as a lecturer in politics at Oxford Universitty, hardly an innocent and certainly someone with an agenda of her own.

    And the party has made a decent job of learning from the incident, because we were all concerned about what might have happened or might happen in the future. we have had the Morrissey report, we have new standing orders and everyone has had letters and been briefed.

    What I can’t understand is why your blog post should have been given the prominence it has.

  15. Sara Scarlett Says:

    Mike – Generally, I am a very happy bunny.

    You may reject my complaint but based on my experience, I still have a great deal of issues with the investigation. I don’t think it was adequate. Perhaps you and I have different information.

    I don’t think the party has changed an iota and I still think young women aren’t safe in it.

    As for the prominence – I don’t know who exactly has given this article prominence. But this is my blog and I’ll write what I want to on it.

  16. Lotus 51 Says:

    Well done; good for you. I hope you keep blogging though. It seems you’re the only one left blogging on this website. It would be a shame if it didn’t continue. I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts, ditto Angela Harbutt.

  17. Sara Scarlett Says:

    Thank you to those of you who have made kind comments. They are warmly received and appreciated. I will now be closing this thread.

    I wasn’t going to have the comments open on this post because posts like these attract the crazies, but I’m glad I did since this comment thread has made me feel wholly and utterly vindicated in the words I written.

    For speaking out against sexual harassment, I have been accused of ‘needing professional help,’ not being a happy person and of being some wide-eyed pollyanna devastated to learn that things in this world aren’t perfect.

    One commenter has even gone as far as victim shaming and accused this individual of having an agenda. I respectfully remind the commenters that the claims of the accusers were found ‘broadly credible’ by an independent investigator.

    In addition to my own experiences and information of this matter, I believe I’m am very right not to think the accused is the sort of Saint as one commenter has portrayed him.

    I am not leaving the LibDems because they’re not perfect. On the contrary, I have stayed with the LibDems quite a while despite being aware of their failings. Why I leave now is because when things do go wrong the processes the LibDems have in place have been shown to be unfit for purpose and no effort is being made to radically overhaul them in a meaningful way.

    The fact that so many members and parliamentarians believe that nothing is wrong is shocking. If a young woman were to come up to me and ask me if joining the LibDems was a good idea, I couldn’t in good conscience say yes. So why, as a young woman can I stay in the LibDems myself? I can’t any longer.

    Thank you.