We’re Lib Dems: we need to care a lot more than we seem to about digging out the truth

by Stephen Tall on January 22, 2014

Chris Rennard on Monday, Mike Hancock today. The Lib Dems have been doing quite a bit of membership-suspending this week. Those of us who are left are feeling scandal-fatigued. Probably the public are, too.

Today has been especially depressing. Partly that’s the result of having read the redacted QC’s report commissioned by Portsmouth Council into the allegations against Mike Hancock which has been leaked online – it’s a distressing read. This paragraph in particular is damning:

“I consider that the prima facie evidence of his unwelcome sexual approaches remains unquestionably a very serious matter in the light of the position which he holds. No-one in public life should allow themselves to act in such an irresponsible and damaging way.”

(Mike Hancock, it should be noted, has issued a statement in which he calls the report “one sided” and says he was unable to present his version of events.)

But the main reason it’s depressing is that, once again, the party has failed to demonstrate any real concern to dig out the truth. At least with the Chris Rennard case I could understand how mistakes were made: those involved faced conflicted loyalties and a strong, understandable desire to see the problem ‘disappeared’ with minimum fuss.

There isn’t the same excuse with the Mike Hancock case. It’s sadly typical of the party’s ambiguous, postpone-the-reckoning response that Hancock was not suspended pending proper investigation – instead he “voluntarily stood down the whip” so no longer counted as a Lib Dem MP, though he continued as a senior Lib Dem councillor in Portsmouth.

Willingness to compromise is usually a virtue, but that’s what our enemies would call (and this time justifiably) a classic Lib Dem fudge.

It’s only human that people will want to believe the best of their friends. But at the moment we look more like we want to conceal our family secrets than achieve justice. For a supposedly liberal party that’s really not a good look.