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.


My experience over many years is that leading party members shy away from tackling bad behaviour on various grounds; bad timing, would rock the boat, disrespectful to the accused, etc. It all resolves down to an avoidance of difficult issues. Those who question whether some Liberal Democrats are unfit for government have a point. There are, of course, numerous exceptions with great integrity, but the party risks losing them if it continues to duck misbehaviour.

by Alan Dean on January 22, 2014 at 10:47 pm. Reply #

This piece is worthy and honest but it’s far too bland. The fact is that the LibDems as a whole (not just those at the top) live off sanctimony as their stock in trade, yet are wilfully blind to their own failings and always cover them up when they are found out. Who seriously believes that Hancock would have been dealt with as he has been, very belatedly, today if the suppressed report had not been leaked?

Mr Tall’s loyalty is admirable but he should be less benevolent towards his party’s disproportionately large contingent of scumbags and criminals. You can’t lance this boil until you stop believing that when LibDems do this sort of thing it’s kind of excusable because LibDems are basically nice. You aren’t.

by Frederick James on January 22, 2014 at 11:27 pm. Reply #

I think most people are “basically nice”, Lib Dems included. But this sort of thing is never excusable.

by Paul Griffiths on January 23, 2014 at 9:32 am. Reply #

20 years as a Party member has taught me that it is wrong to think that all Lib Dems are inherently “nice”; but it is far more wrong to claim (and I presume without direct personal knowledge) that the Party contains a “disproportionately large element of scumbags and criminals”. By and large, party activists are honest and community-spirited, inspired by a particular philosophical approach to personal freedom and power, and with less prospect of personal reward than in other political parties. Two examples in the same week – albeit both deeply concerning – does not imply that 60,000 members also exhibit questionable motives and behaviours.

by Derek Young on January 23, 2014 at 12:49 pm. Reply #

Fair enough; I don’t doubt that the overwhelming majority of your grassroots activists are good-hearted (albeit I might think woolly-minded), decent, public-spirited people, yourself included no doubt. But yes: I do believe that at a more senior level there is a greater propensity to a sort of casual amorality than obtains in the other main parties. And do you honestly deny that your party’s reputation for exceptionally dirty local campaigns is deserved?

by Frederick James on January 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm. Reply #

All I can say from my personal experience is that no local campaign that I have run has been dirty, and no local campaign in which I have participated has struck me as dirty, although some have certainly been inept. Frankly, I sometimes get the impression that the Conservatives’ definition of a dirty campaign is one in which the Lib Dems put up a candidate against them.

by Paul Griffiths on January 24, 2014 at 9:17 am. Reply #

"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"


He stood down from the whip last June.

yesterday he had his membership of the party suspended, which means there is 14 weeks for the party to go through the proper mem ership revocation procedure.

by Paul Walter on January 23, 2014 at 4:03 am. Reply #

[…] 5. We’re Lib Dems. We need to care a lot more than we seem to about digging out the truth by Stephen Tall on Stephen Tall. “we look more like we want to conceal our family secrets than achieve justice.” […]

by Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #362 on January 26, 2014 at 7:00 pm. Reply #

Leave your comment


Required. Not published.

If you have one.