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“It is better that ten women be groped than that one man lose his place on a committee.”

Forbidden from using any other yardstick than out-and-out criminal behaviour, Alastair Webster QC’s inquiry aimed for an outcome that respected the principles of natural justice within the constraints placed upon him. He came to the conclusion that Lord Rennard had behaved in a manner which caused distress to women in his own party, and that an apology was in order. It is past time for Lord Rennard to either demand a hearing to clear his name, or to make that apology.

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The Lib Dem disciplinary procedure is a Harasser’s Charter. It needs to change.

The long running sexual harassment story in the Lib Dems has crawled across a milestone from one phase to another. Having failed to reach a clear conclusion, the Lord Rennard story will carry on. At the heart of it all is the party’s disciplinary process, and the culture surrounding it. In adopting the standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, we Liberal Democrats would appear to consider ourselves equal to a criminal court. This is an arrogant conceit; it cannot be left to stand.

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Being safe, sound and free: surveillance needs monitoring, too

Privacy is something we take for granted. We lower our voices, close doors and curtains, and simply expect that trusted friends and colleagues would not think to reveal private information. Even trivial things, perfectly legal, can be embarrassing, or even damaging to our reputations and livelihoods. They can provide the dirt for mud-slinging affecting processes from civil claims to democratic elections. Until the human race is entirely free of prejudice and unconscious bias – don’t hold your breath – this will remain the case.

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“Banished for questioning the Gospel of Guns”

You could argue that special interest magazines are so dependent on their advertising revenue that they will never challenge the stereotypes of their audience. But this story about the summary sacking of a respected Guns & Ammo columnist illustrates how damaging can be to public debate when pandering to an audience.

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The importance of trust

Paddy Ashdown has inspired an editorial via an interview in The Times today (Links: £), on the subject trust. I largely agree with the point being made – trust is important. This is a non-partisan point. Trust is part of the fabric of society. If you are of Thatcher’s “no such thing as society” view, then as she said shortly after that, “life is a reciprocal business”. However, The Times goes a bit astray if it meant to actually engender trust. Read more

2013 – The Good, The Bad, and the Funky

As 2013 draws to a close, I am hoping to use the break to kick-start the writing habit. Here’s a few brief reflections on the year gone by, from Mandela and economy, to tales of abuse, to gigs and gadgets. For those who don’t get to enjoy the break, especially those suffering floods or worse – may 2014 be kind to you. Read more

Reading Lib Dems celebrate 25 years of party history

On Saturday, the Reading Lib Dems gathered to commemorate 25 years since the party formed in 1988 – and to look forward to more years to come. European election candidates Catherine Bearder MEP and Antony Hook both came along, and also Newbury PPC Judith Bunting. Catherine and Antony give a couple of excellent talks on the importance of the 2014 elections, emphasising that we are a party that engages with the rest of the world, which recognises the importance of Europe to our economy.

It was also great to see all the leaflets and newspaper clippings that activists have kept over the years. Here’s a gallery selecting just a few. Read more

Today is Reading Pride

It’s a fantastic sunny day for Reading Pride today. Great to see a lot of people out, and if you’ll forgive some partisanship, a good Lib Dem stand where we’re both celebrating the progress on equal marriage, and getting a lot of names for our petition on defending LGBT+ rights in Russia. Here’s a few photos from the parade, noting milestones both local and national. Read more

#TwitterSilence and #InspiringWomen

Caroline Criado-Perez received an all-too-common wave of abuse and rape threats for her campaign to having a woman on a Bank of England note. This weekend just past, there were a couple of Twitter hashtags to protesting the abuse of women online: #TwitterSilence and #InspiringWomen.

Twitter is a commercial service, not an open medium. When the idea to just not tweet for a day popped up in whatever article I was reading (#TwitterSilence), it caught my eye. Not using a company’s product, a company that will have extremely good traffic monitoring – that company just might notice! Twitter did indeed respond to the issue, after the idea of a #TwitterSilence was put out there. Maybe it worked, maybe not. The same issue saw a lot of commentary, some who didn’t like the idea of a day’s silence. So some people stayed quiet for a day, some chose instead to praise #InspiringWomen, some just tweeted as normal. Everybody wins!

Hopefully, Twitter will successfully find a mechanism that isn’t as slow, heavy-handed, and famous-cases-only-please as relying upon police intervention to deal with viciously abusive behaviour online.

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Tom Watson’s Resignation: First Draft

Just as Ed Miliband’s notes for PMQ recently found their way into the spotlight, I’ve happened to come across Tom Watson’s first draft of his resignation letter. Here’s what was on his mind before bashing it into shape: Read more