Saturday, June 19, 2010

Liberal Youth and the (lack of) respect agenda

It had all been going reasonably well. Lots of candidates out there making the case for their election, plenty of interest, my e-mail had been pretty quiet, and I was just beginning to relax... Big mistake.

The most frustrating part of last year's round of Liberal Youth elections was the sense that individuals felt themselves free to write and propagate attacks on opponents, bystanders and, to be honest, anyone who took an interest. Leaking selectively to a prominent Conservative blogger (although not always accurately), endorsements made on behalf of groups without even the faintest veneer of proper consultation and a widespread lack of consideration for the feelings of others were just some of the 'highlights'.

It wasn't big, and it wasn't clever, and it sent out a signal that this was an organisation not to be taken very seriously, an organisation so mired in personality clashes that it would be unable to function without continuous infighting. And so it turned out, with virtually every member of the newly elected Executive having to be replaced at one point or another.

I had hoped that the lesson would be learned. Clearly, it hasn't been. So, putting aside my Returning Officer hat and replacing it with my 'old enough to be your father' hat, here are some suggestions for Liberal Youth members...
  • Why not, if you are endorsing a candidate, or making the case for yourself, talk about your strengths and qualities rather than frame the discussion in terms of the perceived failings of others?
  • Remember, what you place in a public domain is just that, public. It can be used, abused and recycled endlessly, and regardless of whether you, or your chosen candidate win or not, it will limit what you can achieve and with whom. In any event, it hardly marks you out as a potential team player.
  • Do you enjoy being slagged off by your peers? If not, how do you justify slagging off other people? If you do, on the other hand, there may be other ways of satisfying that...
  • Indeed, do you really mean to come across as rude and vaguely unpleasant? Do you look like an adult? Wouldn't it be better to sleep on it before you press the send button?
I think that I've said enough. I can't and won't discipline individuals for behaving like idiots, although the rules on defamation etc. still apply. I would be happier, however, if some of the more trigger happy members refrain from intimidatory threats of legal action (I judge that to be likely to represent a breach of Article 9.15 (g) of the Liberal Youth Constitution).

All of the above said, Liberal Youth is the property of its members, and as such, individual members have a right to behave as they see fit. It will be for others to judge whether or not that is a good thing. However, as John Donne might have put it;

No SAO is an island, entire of itself...any SAO's death diminishes me, because I am involved in the Liberal Democrats; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Good evening, Liberal Youth, and God bless...


Duncan Borrowman said...

Well said. I have taken no interest in this year's deliberations. Last year I felt I should take an interest and regretted it. I though it was looking more mature this year, though having taken such littl interest, I know not of the instances you refere to.

Foregone Conclusion said...

As a rank and file LY member, amen.
Although some of the spats are certainly pretty enlightening for the average uninformed voter, I'd prefer if they didn't have to argue in the first place!

Martin Shapland said...

Hi Mark

I totally agree with your post, and was heartened by the good nature of the current contest.

I hope that this contest doesn't descend into infighting, as it did last time, and for my part have stated my intentions here, if anyone is interested.

Martin Shapland
Candidate, Chair of Liberal Youth!/note.php?note_id=438672980086

Left Lib said...

The problem we have these days is that electronic communication is the devil. If you are angry with someone and want to give them a piece of your mind, and you see them face-to-face, that makes a difference. Any misunderstanding can get cleared up very quickly.
When you write an email or a comment, it is the easiest thing the world to cause offence without being corrected. Once that starts, the whole thing escalates.
That said I do remember when I was a YL that it was often the case that there were some dreadful personality conflicts, often because of ideological disagreements, sometimes because "he doesn't do anything".
However this is a voluntary organisation, not an episode of The Apprentice. A culture of blame may work in Amstrad, but in politics if people do not like you, they will not vote for you.