Despite an air of secrecy, I am now in a position to name, tentatively, the members of the anti-audit faction who are now claiming legitimacy to run the Libertarian Party and to invite donations:
- Andrew Withers (who’s work is the subject of the proposed audit, resigned April 2011)
- Liam Hillman (former regional co-ordinator, resigned May 2011)
- Ian Parker-Joseph (former party leader, who stood down in 2009)
- Nic Coombe (former chair, also resigned in April/May 2011)
It is also possible that the “committee of four Libertarian Party UK members” includes John Watson, who has posted sympathetic pieces on the Scottish regional blog. John resigned as treasurer in April/May and was replaced by Simon Fawthrop [UPDATE: I just located a comment in the trash folder where JW denies involvement].
Of these only Andrew, Liam and Ian have posted online on their own behalf, so there is a question over Nic Coombe. In Liam’s case he confirmed for me by email that he had updated my address on the Party database. Andrew has stated he intends to put something in the post to members, so I’m pleased to have my details updated, but I am appalled Liam, who resigned membership, is in any position to modify this data which is the property of the Party.
The data should be in the care of the the officers of the Party who, where not appointed by the membership, should have been appointed by an action of the NCC at a quorate meeting. I am told by NCC members that, of course, no such meeting has occurred. The purpose of this democratic accountability is to ensure that the individuals appointed are capable of performing their duties well. The membership database is a key function of the Party and is used to determine who, at any time, has the right to vote on certain matters and hold positions. At present, this is an awesome responsibility.
Ian Parker-Joseph is at least a member, but cannot have been appointed an officer. He seems to some extent to be acting in the role of Communications Director, which is a post held uncontroversially by Ken Ferguson.
Two other members of this group have been replaced by the emergency meeting which named Gavin Webb and Tim Carpenter as leader and chair. Gavin’s membership was retrospectively disputed by Andrew Withers who insisted that payment to the bank account opened by Simon Fawthrop was not a legitimate method of rejoining the Party. This explanation does not hold moral validity and the constitution is silent on it. In my view then, Gavin is now chairman and not Nic, as is claimed.
Tim is rightfully Party leader, by virtue of a unanimous vote of the NCC which members appointed in November. I understand that Andrew Withers disputes this on the basis that he himself has not relinquished legal accountability to the Electoral Commission, a group that no member voted to appoint arbiter. Of course, the NCC have demanded he update this record, to no avail.
Andrew will claim that his position as leader is actively mandated by the Electoral Commission, by way of his name being registered as such. This would in fact be a conflict between the constitution and electoral law, which the constitution subordinates itself to. Since he has not published the “avoidance of doubt” advice received from the EC, members are left to trust his word on this point. An alternative interpretation is that Andrew remains accountable to the Electoral Commission, but is no longer in office due to his own resignation and the subsequent appointment of a replacement.