Reforms to tackle bullying ‘must go further’

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Constitutional reforms to the Liberal Democrat party rules on bullying, harassment and intimidation have been criticised for not going far enough.

Tessa Munt, Vince Cable’s Parliamentary aide, told the party conference further changes may need to be made when delegates convene again in the spring.

The MP for Wells spoke out in a debate about Party President Tim Farron’s changes being implemented and Helena Morrissey’s review into the Liberal Democrats in the wake of allegations against former chief executive Lord Rennard.

The inquiry examined attitudes towards women in the party; the relationship between staff, elected officials and volunteers; training; and how to lead a wider change in Westminster, and made a number of recommendations, including the appointment of a pastoral care officer to look at issues such as access to counselling.

Mr Farron told conference the report had been difficult but essential reading on events which had been uncomfortable for the party, though he did not refer explicitly to the Rennard claims.

And he admitted: “Essentially (the report), proved we had not always lived up to our values. I’m in no mood to be defensive about that.

“My view is we take that on the chin and we decide we are going to move forward.”

Ms Morrissey had sharply criticised Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Lib Dem Ministers Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson over the party’s handling of complaints against Lord Rennard when he was the Lib Dem chief executive.

It emerged in February a number of woman activists and party workers had made allegations of unwanted advances but when they reported the claims little action was taken.

Ms Munt, PPS to Business Secretary Vince Cable, said standing orders should also include a duty to act if bullying or intimidation is seen.

“Our constitution should go further, so I’m supporting this constitutional amendment but I give notice that if a wider change cannot be achieved in other ways, we should return to this matter at our spring conference with another constitutional amendment which requires us to take action to combat unacceptable behaviour.”