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...