It's been a while since I resigned as a matter of conscience from the Portsmouth Liberal Democrat machine - well, to be honest it was less of a well-oiled machine at that point and more like a charabanc with the wheels coming off - and it's been many months since I particularly had cause to think about it.
But in the last few days I've been reading about the Football Association's (mis)handling of the Mark Sampson case, particularly the allegations of his poor conduct involving women, and the saga has perhaps inevitably planted elements of the Hancock debacle at the forefront of my brain again.
(For those who may not know much of the Hancock / Lib Dem debacle, I've written about it previously on this politics blog. Here's my introductory post.)
Many of the themes of the FA/Sampson narrative are tantalisingly familiar:
- the apparent inability of those in senior and responsible offices to get their stories straight
- rumours of inappropriate behaviour being 'common knowledge' among colleagues and senior figures
- senior people saying that they had heard of the allegations, but hey, they didn't realise that they were supposed to, um, actually do anything
- senior people blaming systems and procedures for their inaction in the face of serious allegations
- senior people claiming that they only knew parts of the story, when they should have made it their business to dig deeper
- senior people wriggling behind others and deflecting
- senior people arguably attempting to discredit complainants and to 'victim blame'
- senior people who arguably failed in their duty to act attempting to adopt 'victim status' themselves
It seems to be a pattern of dysfuntion. When I resigned and alighted from that Portsmouth Lib Dem charabanc, the toxic air within the bus was painfully obvious. I suppose I do remain surprised that not a single other Lib Dem joined me in resigning - but I guess that instincts of self-preservation and self-justification run deep. Indeed many Portsmouth Lib Dems continued to support Hancock - and their letting him run for the city council as an Independent unopposed by a Lib Dem candidate in my own ward where I live really stuck in my craw. They wanted him to win. They victim-blamed. And then they blamed me too, for all sorts of things that they really should have owned and laid at their own doors.
The Lib Dem Party failed to investigate a single one of my written complaints and concerns, despite assurances from as high up as Tim Farron and despite the findings and recommendations of the Morrissey Report from 2013. They remain uninvestigated to this day, with no explanation.
And then the Lib Dems - particularly a number of them in Portsmouth - tried to play the 'victim card' themselves. 'But he lied to us'. Boo hoo. You knew about those texts. You knew about 'the best deal we could get'. You knew he'd told us, that 'some of it's true'.
Listen up, Lib Dems: I knew as much as the rest of you, but was able to choose to do the decent thing. I don't have special powers of telepathy or clairvoyance. I knew what you knew. In fact, let's be realistic here, I probably knew a lot less than a few of you in the 'inner circle'. But still I managed to choose to to do the right thing.
It's just all a bit crap that supposedly democratic organisations - whether it's the Liberal Democrat Party or the Football Association - keep on making the same mistakes over and over again, and failing to learn lessons over and over again. Openness, transparency and neutrality shouldn't still be out of reach. Investigations shouldn't be shelved. There's no excuse for the continuing existence of this pattern of dysfunction, where women are thrown under buses that failed their ethical MoTs years ago.