There are some times in life when you just have to shout about the injustice of something. This is one of those times.
I am a Liberal Democrat at heart. Despite the socks and sandals jibes. I’m pro Europe, anti nuclear weapons, pro radical environmental policy. Which is why I feel enormously let down by the decision today to effectively bypass the Lord Rennard issue. To brush it under the ageing political carpet. From the party leadership, there’s an acceptance that his behaviour was wrong, that the women who came forward to accuse him of harassment had a credible case. There’s an admission that he caused them great distress.
But still, there is no decisive action.
Instead, the Lib Dems stand to lose some of their greatest advocates: the progressive, passionate and intelligent women who spoke out against Lord Rennard. Because they do not want to be part of a party that listens to women complaining of inappropriate behaviour but chooses to ignore them. A party who would rather lose their engagement than stand up to the sort of peers who continue to perpetuate this ‘outdated culture’.
It’s not outdated. It’s wrong.
Politics desperately needs women. Women are adversely affected by poverty and unemployment, and if you want to properly address those issues, there need to be women in parliament, making political decisions on behalf of other women. And this is no way to encourage women to enter politics.
What sort of message does this decision – or lack of it- send out to young people? That sexist behaviour is ok if you’re over 50 – get over yourselves girls! That the political establishment might talk about being progressive and fair, but refuses to exclude men who abuse their power in this way. That women just have to accept this behaviour or get out? MPs and peers have been prosecuted for abusing their expenses, but not for causing distress to female colleagues.
It’s 2014. I like to think that if either of my daughters wanted to pursue a career in politics, they could do so free from the threat of harassment. That it would be a safe and welcoming environment for them. That they would not need to fight for the right to a non-threatening workplace.
It’s pretty terrifying that the credible testimony of a group of highly respected women is still not enough to make the leadership of the party see that Lord Rennard has to go.
Come on, Liberal Democrat leadership. Think of those 8 year old girls, the girls who are being raised to believe they can be anything they want to be. Think of those young women who see politics as an opportunity for bringing about progressive change. Do you want them to see your party as one that stands by as an older man ’causes distress’ to some of the few women who succeed in politics, despite all the obstacles stacked against them?
To all the women who refused to just add their whisper to the general murmur of dissatisfaction, to the women who shouted; you are courageous and bold. And you are an inspiration.