Lessons for the Lib Dems from cricket and the Green Party

Two stories, two very different professions but one lesson.

First, cricket:

England pace bowler Ollie Robinson has been suspended from international cricket pending an investigation into historical racist and sexist tweets.

The posts from 2012 and 2013 were revealed while he was making his England debut during the drawn first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s. [BBC]

Second, politics:

The Green Party has withdrawn its candidate from the Batley & Spen by-election after it was revealed he made a series of “highly offensive” homophobic tweets as a teenager.

Rugby league international Ross Peltier, 29, had been selected by the party to contest the 1 July vote. [BBC]

I have no special knowledge about either case, so I’m not in a good position to judge whether these are cases of genuine repentance over a foolish youthful act or an unpleasant person being caught out. Either way though, having this only come to light after selection is bad all round.

It’s not good for the genuinely repentant individual. It’s bad for the party/sports authority involved. It can also be deeply unpleasant for those who are on the receiving end of such nastiness week in, week out, to see that such behaviour isn’t a bar to getting so far in politics or sports.

For everyone, including those who are contrite over past behaviour that they now abhor, it’s much better if such problems are spotted pre-selection. That gives the chances for the unpleasant people to be dropped and for others to learn from their mistakes, take appropriate corrective action and adjust their behaviour.

Of course, the Liberal Democrats haven’t been immune to similar problems ourselves, most recently last year. That’s why it’s good news that the result of the review into the London Mayor selections has been a significant improvement in the checks the party runs on would-be candidates.

Such checks are never going to be perfect, and it’s important that people are given opportunities to explain and, if appropriate, apologise. It’s also sadly the case that asking people directly if there’s anything that may be an issue has repeatedly resulted – whether due to naivety, ignorance, forgetfulness or evasion – in people saying ‘no’… until a journalist comes calling with questions.

That’s why we need better and earlier checking.

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3 responses to “Lessons for the Lib Dems from cricket and the Green Party”

  1. It’s easy to say that we need more checks, but not as easy to do. I was working as a volunteer in the Candidates and Diversity office at HQ when the new application form including a question on social media was brought in and was only ever asked to run a check on one candidate, and that not at the time of application. Even just checking one social media site for several years takes hours of work; in principle one might need to go back up to 10 years on several sites. You have to have at least as much patience as someone with hostile intent.

    Unless the Party can mobilise an army of volunteers to do this, I cannot see see checks occurring without there being already some suspicion about the candidate.

    • Good thing that a new team of volunteers has been recruited just to do this! (The adverts went up a couple of months ago. If you’re still interested in doing this sort of thing, drop me an email and happy to put you in touch with the team.) Plus also it’s possible to semi-automate some of the task, so that humans can concentrate on content that needs consideration rather than having to spend lots of time shifting through photos of people’s breakfasts.

      • Mark, as a Lib Dem approved candidate, a semi-automated check was recently undertaken, as part of an initiative aimed at all approved candidates, so part of what you advocate in your piece is happening. Good thing, I’d say.

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