The ongoing scandal around allegations against Lord Rennard has left many party activists battered and bruised, but leaving would not help fix the problem.
I said in the Independent on Sunday that it had been a gruelling few days for Lib Dem members, and yesterday’s developments have not really helped lift that. Quite a few people have asked me why I stay a member of the Lib Dems, given how angry I feel about how the party treated women who made serious allegations.
Lib Dem membership can often feel like a bad relationship, you want to change your partner instead of leaving them.
I totally understand why Bridget Harris has left the party. Had I personally been treated as badly as her and her fellow accusers had been, for as long as they had been, I’d have been out the door too. It hardly diminishes her loyalty or achievements for the party either. As she rightly says in today’s London Evening Standard:
“I’m perfectly loyal to the Lib Dems and their policies and Nick Clegg and the Coalition Government – I’m perfectly loyal to the Liberal cause.
Having thought long and hard about this, I concluded that for the rest of us we owed to it ourselves (and perhaps also our friends and colleagues caught up in this,) to fight for a more female friendly party. We should stay and demand that our organisation is not one where the behaviour alleged can go on unchallenged for so long.
Call it masochism, call it stubbornness, but the truth is I won’t quit because I don’t want those who I believe to be in the wrong to win.
What a grotesque irony it would be were Chris Rennard to remain in the party, while some of the rest of us left.
The excellent work of the Rock The Boat group has shown what can be done when you are a voice in the party and are prepared to use it. I hope we can all use those voices to make the party become one that Bridget Harris and the other women once again feel happy to be a member of.
Now, more than ever the Lib Dems need men and women who are prepared to change it for the better.