What Lib Dem members think about The Morrissey Report into alleged sexual harassment within the party

by Stephen Tall on August 4, 2013

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 600 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

79% of Lib Dem members support Morrissey Report

helena morrissey reportThe independent Morrissey Inquiry, set up by the party following allegations of sexual impropriety against the party’s former chief executive Lord Rennard (which he denies), reported in June. Are you broadly aware of the report and its recommendations?

    67% – Yes

    28% – No

    5% – Don’t know

How effectively do you think the party has communicated the findings of the Morrissey Report?

    22% – Effectively

    44% – Not effectively

    23% – Neither effectively nor ineffectively

    11% – Don’t know

I’ll admit I was slightly surprised by this response: almost half of those who responded felt the party had not communicated the report effectively. An email was sent to all members for whom the party has email addresses from chief executive Tim Gordon on the day of The Morrissey Report’s publication (12th June); and for that matter we covered it pretty extensively here on LibDemVoice. One comment that did worry me was the note that there had been little to no direct communication to local parties — even though part of the Report is concerned with allegations of bullying that takes place at the local rather than national level, and how these are often not resolved well or at all.

The Morrissey Report’s recommendations include the party appointing a pastoral care officer, changing its standing orders, and rules at all levels to state that bullying and harassment are unacceptable. Which of these statements comes closest to your own view:

    46% – I support the Report’s recommendations and believe they will make a positive difference to the culture within the party

    33% – I support the Report’s recommendations but do not believe they will make much difference

    6% – The Report’s recommendations do not go nearly far enough to tackle the issue

    8% – The Report’s recommendations are mostly unnecessary as I don’t think there is a major problem within the party

    1% – Other

    5% – Don’t know

Almost half party members (46%) take a positive view of The Morrissey Report: they support it and think it will make a difference. Another third, though supportive, are also sceptical, reckoning it will make little difference; something Helena Morrissey will be back to check for herself next year. Relatively few members, 6%, think the Report needed to go much further. Eight per cent of Lib Dem members view the Report’s recommendations as “mostly unnecessary”.

Here’s a sample of your comments:

Totally support the Morrissey recommendations and we NEED more communication about what’s happening. Nick needs to be stronger on this and committed to stamping out harrassment and bullying within the party.

Changing people’s attitudes is the problem and reports only highlight potential solutions. It’s how you enforce change that’s the key. People don’t like to admit their attitude is at fault.

The rules will be abused by some to pursue personal grievances. Is the party capable of distinguishing genuine harassment? Not on previous evidence.

We are an underfunded party and a lot of what we do is driven by volunteers. I don’t think we can expect a pastoral care officer to deal with all of this. However, the controversy itself will probably help reduce incidents of this kind considerably.

There seems to be a lot of emphasis on supporting party staff who might be victims of such harassment and not enough on volunteers.

The whole thing is preposterous. The ladies concerned were grown up, ambitious and articulate.

The recommendations should help, but they key thing, above all else, is that we take this seriously. Some of the recommendations apply to HQ, or to other party bodies with a similar ability to get on with change quietly. Many others require better awareness at every level, and that will inevitably be the most difficult aspect.

The recommendations overreact and impose significant overheads on largely voluntary bodies of the party that will be difficult to manage.

I trust that the party will implement them fully, but I struggle to have faith that anything will change. It really is offputting to give up so much of your time and effort for a party that doesn’t value your viewpoint.

It is excellent and we are acting on it in our local party

The recommendations are perfectly reasonable. They wont’ make much difference as the bigger issue is the culture of politics generally.

Bullying is a major issue for staff, who often come to the party very inexperienced. I have lost count of the number of organisers Ihave seen being bullied and exploited. If I had realised the Morrisset Report (which I thought was pretty good) would take the direction it did beyond sexual harassment I would have been in touch.

Having responded inadequately to the original allegations, there is a danger of overreacting now.

However, there is still a substantial section of the party that think this isn’t important and often refuse to accept that some men behave in this way. (It is sadly mostly men) Too many people think that Women in politics are able to stand up for themselves

  • 1,500 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. Just over 600 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 23rd July.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
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  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.