Despite the troubles, LPUK will always have my support

I have only recently joined the Libertarian Party, so I am not entirely involved in the history which has led to some accusations being made against its leader, Andrew Withers. I only know one side of the story, and that is the side which has made such accusations which I do not wish to dwell on, yet I think it is important for me to pledge my commitment to the Libertarian Party, not because I have some personal loyalty to its leader or his confidantes, but because I am a libertarian, and I believe that in order to advance the cause of libertarian thinking on a legitimate political platform, the party must be united. I am new to this, so forgive me if there are things I am missing. The purpose of this piece is not for me to say that we should forget about the personal accusations made against various members, but that these accusations should be dealt with, the bad blood should be put out in the open, if not for the personal sakes of those involved, but for the benefit of the party as a whole.

I believe in libertarian ideas. For as long as I can remember I have always seen the goings on in the world from the perspective of the enhancement of individual liberty. My discovery of the party was a god-send for me who up until last year, was effectively a fish out of water when it came to political alignment. The conservatives have betrayed their Conservative roots, UKIP are pigeon-holed as a one policy party, and there is simply no other place for libertarian thinkers to turn when it comes to libertarian politics other than LPUK. Perhaps it is an overly sentimental approach to take, but through conversations I have had with other fellow libertarians, they are of the idea that we are entering a new age of libertarian politics, but with the party struggling to hold it together, there is little hope.

The only way we as Libertarians can truly change things is not through joining the libertarian minorities of the top parties (as the top rank will simply not allow it), but it is dealing with the accusations made against the leader, laying all cards on the table and simply moving on. Any arguments or disagreements that may have come before MUST be dealt with or set aside so that we as a party can move on and make true progress. The AGM is the starting point for this. Hopefully Withers will be willing to deal with questions about the various accusations made against him; if he is, then I applaud him for having the courage to do so. LPUK will always have my support because I believe in the politics, to truly change the system we must separate ourselves from the establishment parties and we must present a united front, with a voice distinct from the establishment. From a personal perspective, I have considered running for public office, perhaps for the local council at first, then for Parliament, but I would not want to run as a candidate for the Conservatives, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats, I would want to run as a Libertarian Party candidate, but the only way I could morally do that is if I have faith that not only the party would still exist in 5 years, but that the arguments and the accusations, that threaten to destroy the party, have been resolved.

All of the people cannot agree all of the time, but I have absolute faith that if we all truly believe libertarian politics has a place in the political mainstream, then we must all be willing to get behind the party in order to achieve such legitimacy. If we can get one party member in a local council, just one, then we have made the first significant step on the road to changing the country for the better.

Steven Stewart

I have always been a libertarian, but only recently discovered libertarianism. My thoughts and ideas have always fitted along the same philosophical perspective of what some would call libertarian, though I lean a bit more to the left on certain issues. You can also find my on Google+. I am an open-minded individual, and I hope that comes across in a lot of my writings, wherever you may see them. I hope you enjoy what you read. 

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  21 comments for “Despite the troubles, LPUK will always have my support

  1. Feb 27, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Hi Steven. This is an interesting position to take and certainly helps to clarify the views of those that have chosen to support the party. Thank you for sharing it so elloquently.

    As I said last night, I don’t think Andrew is being particularly brave or open by choosing to hold the AGM hundreds of miles away from the core of the community and at 10am. So the prerequisite step which we both endorsed seems unlikely to be taken.

    The problem with supporting UKLP simply because they are libertarian is that means they get automatic support despite the atrocious personal conduct of the key office holder. The onus will be on you to ensure he reconciles himself to the truth and makes a public account for himself, presenting data in support of his position. Unfortunately by claiming implicitly that it is “always” right to support him anyway  you’ve undercut the incentives that might actually persuade him to do so. 

    Eventually Andrew will want to be leader of a successful libertarian party, or make room for one by resigning, and not just be a leader of an unsuccessful party. On that day, he will want to deal with this issue, by giving him hope that he can evade this task you’ve delayed the process.

    • Liam
      Feb 28, 2012 at 7:57 am

      Simon,

      First of all, I don’t see what your problem is about the AGM. As you are not a member of the Party, where’s the beef? Where is the “core of the community”? Certainly not London. I live in the North East and I have no problem with travelling to Cleveden, and being there in good time for the meeting.

      Secondly, the allegations made about Andrew were investigated and were found to be without foundation. You are dicing with a libel suit by describing Andrew in the way that you do.

      • Feb 28, 2012 at 10:36 pm

        And behold the typical response for the current party officials- threaten legal action at the drop of a hat. It is all bluster- if they think they could win a legal case then why all the stonewalling? Why not publish the accounts like asked unless there is something to hide?

        I can’t speak for Simon but the reason I’m not a member anymore is that I had no desire to give money to an organisation which I did not trust with it.

        And Steven, good luck dealing with the zombies but I fear you’ll just be wasting you’re time.

      • Feb 29, 2012 at 12:32 am

        Yeah, we all live in constant fear of a libel suit from Andrew Withers. Personally the ‘party’ can hold its AGM up the Congo for all I care, although a phone box in Dorset would probably cater.

      • pavel
        Feb 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm

        Liam,

        As an ex-member (my membership expired in December) I wrote off the LPUK to some extent: no accounts were published or other things have happened to make the party trustworthy, so I haven’t received any notifications about my expired membership (however other members, who perhaps e-mailed Mr. Withers not as often as I did, got a nice card or something like that).
        My bad – I decided it is not worth spending 15gbp to renew my membership in LPUK, which I trust currently even less than before.
        Perhaps there is nothing wrong in running AGM in Cleveden, but to make it easier for other members – make it at 4pm, not at 10am. However if you want to run AGM for 1-2 members only – 5:43am “in a phone box in Dorset” (or may be even in Dunnamanagh at 9:12am Monday morning) would work. I believe that 9:12 AGM would be even legal, I wouldn’t say the reputation of the party would be anywhere positive afterwards however.
        After all, I could donate 15gbp to http://www.parteidervernunft.de/ – a libertarian party, not in the UK – but at least with better reputation and they run campaigns.

  2. Feb 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks Simon, but I think I should clear a few things up. The libertarian party is not simply winning my support because I am a libertarian, but it is because I passionately believe that in order for us to be able to get libertarians into local council and even perhaps into Parliament is when we have a strong and stable party behind us. To do this we must display support to the party, not walk away when times become tough or when we have troubles with certain members.

    My point is that these things should be dealt with here and now. The AGM is the perfect place to resolve any issues past loyal members had, lay all cards on the table and speak frankly to one another about what has gone on in the past, and what we want the party to achieve in the future. While some may have more personal reasons for their feelings towards those at the top of the party, I feel it is counter-productive to walk away from it, rather than push it in a direction of change.

    I am not pledging my loyalty to the individuals, I am pledging my loyalty to the party and the principles for which it stands. If Withers makes the honourable choice to step down as leader, even if he still refutes any allegations made against him, who would be willing to take the reigns to correct any damage done?

    If I can make it to the AGM, I hope to see something positive come from it, but as I said, my allegiance is to the party, not to those in charge, simply because I know very little about them. I mentioned the same thing above about the only way we can change a rotten political system is by becoming a part of it and changing it from the inside. In that sense, the same principle can still be applied. I don’t know the ins and outs of the allegations and the atrocious conducts of its leaders, but I know the best way to fix any problems is to do so from inside the party, not from the outside.

    Forgive me if my response comes across a bit as if I’m ranting, but this is just because I feel very strongly about it.

    • Feb 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      > Forgive me if my response comes across a bit as if I’m ranting,

      Not at all.

      Some very good people have tried very hard to resolve the issues with Andrew and persuade him to leave or sort it out. I saw one committed activist go from patient peace-maker to frustrated cynic while trying to do exactly this.

      There are not that many active libertarians that the movement can afford to burn out it’s best people trying to rescue moderate gains. They should be loyal to libertariansm, not one institution and it is better LPUK/UKLP/whatever is forgotten and something new replaces it, and activists save their energy in the meantime. It is great that you can see past the individuals to the instution, but please look harder and see the movement as a whole as well. It’s bigger than one institution.

      By the way, these are not mere personal differences, in fact they are only personal for perhaps one or two people out of about twenty or more. Andrew was accused of serious misconduct and responded with bullying, threats and by putting up ridiculous walls around himself. To be really clear about this, we were all trying very hard to get members of the public to place money into Andrew’s control in the form of party donations. It is not a “personal reason” or “feeling” at work when we decide that when he is accused of taking that money, and refuses to account for it in an internal forum, we should stop encouraging others to give him more. Even if the evidence is precisely nothing, you can’t just put out of your head the idea that you are helping to direct others into harms way.

      Imagine what goes on in your head when you turn up at a protest (such as Rally Against Debt) where there are 200+ sympathetic people and you can easily have a go at some fund raising, yet you cannot trust where those funds would go and you simply cannot lend any assistance to that cause, which others are still persuing right in front of you.

      Perhaps what occurred needs to be documented more thoroughly than this, but I’m not going to do that in this comment.

      • Liam
        Feb 29, 2012 at 8:19 am

        Simon,

        The “peacemaker” called an illegal meeting, at which non-members were present and given a vote, and the then NCC was leaking like a sieve, because certain members and non-members did not have the interests of the Party at heart, and indeed at least one person involved was even a Common Purpose graduate. The Libertarian Party of the United Kingdom is not and never will be an anarchists’ collective, which is the way certain people were pushing it.

        The allegations against Andrew were made on a blog by the owner who is frankly barking mad. Her story did not hold water upon close inspection and her time-line was as twisted as her mind is.

        Ignoring due process and making defamatory, unsubstantiated statements about people is NOT Libertarian behaviour. In fact quite the opposite – it is Lynch Mob behaviour and has no place in ANY civilised society, Libertarian or otherwise.

        • Feb 29, 2012 at 1:28 pm

          I wasn’t thinking of Simon F, who’s actions I admire, but it’s pretty clear from his recent letter that he was pretty burnt by the whole thing as well.

          I don’t want to hear all the same tortured point and counter point stuff again, but you’ve muddied the record so I will attempt to correct it. Malcolm Saunders who was indeed sent on a short Commom Purpose course in his role as a senior officer in the fire service, did not vote in favour of the new NCC’s appointment. The only person on this thread that did vote at that “illegal” meeting was you (for newcommers: Liam Hillman, a regional co-ordinator) and you voted in favour of all the people proposed. That includes Gavin Webb who had sent his membership fee to a bank account set up by Simon F that Andrew W did not agree to recognise as legit. I know how you voted because I was observer on the conference call. I assume that you, like everyone else, was doing their best and acting acording to what they knew at the time. I point this out to show that this “illegal” meeting was not anything outlandish or conspiratorial and that everyone involved believed that Simon’s meeting was a reasonable step, given that Andew and Nic had both resigned.

          In addition, the only allegations of any actual importance were not made by Anna Raccoon. They were made by Ken Fergusen, though on the same blog. Frankly I don’t think it is very important that Anna Raccoon’s personal loan was not paid back, or that mentally ill people once represented the party, or that a process for renewal notices never got set up, or that another loan didn’t have an end date on it, or that contact details weren’t available, or Tim took 24 hours to reply to something etc. There was not even much noise made about that stuff. I do care that Andrew Withers failed to deal with the second more important set of allegations about his expenses. I also care that he threatened to sue at least two of his own activists, myself included, on which the party relied for it’s success.

          ALL: I will be closing comments on this thread late tomorrow afternoon, at a time of my convenience. I do not want this topic of conversation to suck the life out of this community all over again. Treat this as a time-boxed opportunity to say whatever you feel genuinely needs to be said. Moderation remains on, and will work as usual. Using calm language and consistent credentials helps the moderation software to ensure the conversation flows smoothly until then. Afterwards, rights of reply etc will be honoured via the other channels, advertised above under “Contact”.

  3. Ex-Member
    Feb 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I’m an ex-LP member (like many). I’d like to ask any member, ex-member or otherwise whether a) they want a libertarian party at all and b) if so why allow those two (PJ & Withers) stand in the way. If people think that starting a party was an error and we are better off without one for the foreseeable future then I could understand the policy of Keep Calm and Carry On; if on the other hand people want there to be a libertarian party why don’t we start one? I have been keeping-up with LP related news and it seems like there are people both willing and capable to get something done (Gavin Webb in particular comes to mind). Are people waiting for the current LP to fold – releasing the name? Are people expecting Withers to be voted out at his AGM in a shoebox? If there really is a desire to maintain an LP, why not simply start a rival organisation? The current LP is useless and it has no competition, we like competition don’t we? What does it take to start a party after all – a website, some policy discussion, it’s not even necessary to register with the Electoral Commission until you actually want to stand for office; hell it’s not even necessary to register with the Electoral Commission EVER, people can always stand as independents. And if in the long run there results two or three different LPs on the register each with slightly different names – who cares? There are loads of socialist parties on there already, why must there only be one LP? Regardless, I hope that Libertarian Home continues to grow.

    • Feb 28, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Well I don’t regret my involvment as have made a number of friends, but the whole thing has soured me against electoral politics for a while.

      If I do decide to get involved again I’d either join an established party with a libertarian wing, or start a localist party (it seems to me that of all the parties founded in the past centuary, the majority of ones that have done half decently are ones with a geograpical focus rather than an ideological one)

      Regarding the multitude of leftist parties, IMO that is partly why they are not taken seriously. If we had a situation where there were libertarian, libertarian-anarachist, etc parties I’d imagine we’d have a public perception similar to the far left

      • Ex-Member
        Feb 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        I agree that Libertarian Party (Rothbardian/Objectivist/Thatcherite)* etc would be less than helpful, sadly we now have a libertarian party which regards libertarian ideology as their mortal enemy, so it has begun. A new start with some honest, inclusive and non-conspiracy-theorist founders would be nice. I wouldn’t suggest that we break into sects, just open a Sainsbury’s/Waitrose vs their Poundland, and I don’t care if all the party ever does is hand out a few leaflets.

        * Delete as appropriate

      • Feb 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm

        The supermarket sector is not disregarded because it is highly fragmented. Supermarkets are taken seriously *despite fragmentation* because they are useful and pleasant.

        Poundland is not taken seriously because it is less useful and less pleasant.

  4. Feb 29, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Steven,

    I would not waste any time with that bunch of traitors. I did what I could to get the party out of the hole it had driven into, and so did all the other members of good will, but those who control it now only cared about themselves, and not the party, and would not release their grip. There are more ex-members than members, I’m sure, and the ones I know who have left are good people and sound in principle. If a party is needed, it can be formed. The only thing that crew has is the name, and other names can be found.

    Having said all that, if you attend the AGM, I would take a morbid curiosity in knowing what went on, so go for it!

  5. James R
    Feb 29, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I am concerned by the headline in this article: “Despite the troubles, LPUK will always have my support”. Does that mean that if they become authoritarian and communist they will have your support? How corrupt would a party have to be to lose your support?

    As Richard said, all they have is the word “libertarian” – and it will be hard for any new party to use this word in their name. But if someone can come up with a reasonable name, then I’d support and fund the set up of a new party.

    Libertarians don’t like monopolies and love free markets. So let’s have a free market in libertarian political parties. In this scenario, the best survives, the worst Withers.

  6. Dan T
    Feb 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I joined LPUK soon after the party started. I attended Conference at York, Bristol & London. There were never more than 30 people at any of the three Conferences. LPUK stood 3 Parliamentary Candidates, one at a by-election in Norwich North (36 votes) & two at the ’10 GE. I was one of 8 or 9 people who handed out leaflets in Norwich & one of a handful who helped to hand out leaflets in Sutton where blogger Dick Puddlecote stood (approx. 150 votes). I never held any kind of position in the party I was just an ordinary member.

    I voted against Andrew Withers remaining as LPUK Leader at the London AGM. This was three months before the Anna Raccoon piece “Libertarian Liberties” was published. I don’t know Susanne Nundy/Anna Raccoon & I was not privy to anything she had to say about Andrew at the time. I had already seen enough to form my opinion about Mr. Withers’ leadership.

    I’m not in LPUK now & have no intention of rejoining. I say this to let you know who I am, & to point out that I was someone who wasn’t just an armchair critic. I could be bothered to hand out leaflets & attend conference at venues around England as well as the London meet-up.

    Some thoughts on LPUK:

    * Conference attendance didn’t grow between ’08 York & ’11 London. Easily a third of the membership lived within 50 miles of that conference & they weren’t squeezed into the back room of that freezing cold pub. There should easily have been two dozen people in Sutton for the GE, only a handful turned out.

    * The party never offered a decent ongoing critique of the current situation. The LPUK blogspot was piss-poor. The members forum was increasingly marginalised, intentionally or otherwise.

    * An awful lot of LPUK members online made a fat song & dance about how clued-up on libertarianism they were. An awful lot of LPUK members online spoke about slaying the sacred cows like the NHS & BBC. In reality most of them weren’t even willing or capable of speaking out to Andrew Withers & Ian Parker-Joseph.

    • Mar 1, 2012 at 6:17 am

      An ongoing critique is actually fairly difficult. I’ve had a decent go at it here and was involved with it at LPUK but the difficultly was and is that many libertarians already blog elsewhere, and the only obvious alternative to that is to pay freelance journalists or party staff to make a job out of it, and we never had funding for either.

  7. Feb 29, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    Well, I have to admit I didn’t expect (perhaps naively) this post to ignite such debate, but in a way I’m glad it did. Everyone who has posted is clearly passionate about what they believe in, some involved in the troubles and the accusations have clearly been soured by their experiences and the opposition to my own personal declaration of support for the party is entirely understandable but I think I must elaborate on my position somewhat so as to not appear as if I am taking sides.

    When I first joined the party a few months ago, I received messages from a former member telling me about the problems the party had faced, the accusations made against Andrew etc and that I should just be careful because of that, something which I entirely respected and appreciate.

    I had only discovered the party’s existence a few months before by coming across the website entirely by accident. The blogpost page was disenchanting to say the least, it was filled with constant negativity and what appeared to be bickering at a time of what will have been the height of the difficulties and accusations. Needless to say, a few months down the line, I did join because the Tories had proven themselves to be just as borderline fascistic and nonsensical as the last lot but with different coloured ties so I thought “to hell with it, I’m Libertarian, so I’m going to join the Libertarian party.”

    The rest is history as far as that’s concerned. I don’t pretend to be “in the know” about what went on last year, or what is still ongoing. I am an outsider looking in, so perhaps I am looking at the party and its future with rose tinted glasses, but I support the party because I want it to succeed.

    I want to see the announcement one day that LPUK has its first Member of Parliament and see legitimate libertarian ideas discussed in Parliament for what will have been a very long time indeed. While I may come across as a bit like I’m fantasising about a wonderful libertarian future full of roses and happiness, I think this is only possible if the party has its committed activists behind it. My commitment is not to individual members it is to the idea of the Libertarian party, and the philosophy of libertarianism encompassed within. As far as I’m aware, LPUK still represents libertarianism, and for as long as it does, I will stick with the party.

    I have exchanged only a few emails with Andrew, and frankly, he came across as a sincere and professional person. But admittedly, for all I know, he may be the biggest arsehole (sorry about the swearing) in existence, but that is purely down to a matter of opinion, and until I meet him, I will retain an open-mind and make my own judgments when I get to know him a bit better.

    Simon, I’m sorry if I’ve brought up a lot of bad blood with this post, as it was genuinely not my intention. It was simply a means of expressing my reaction to the recent news of the AGM venue through stating my support for the party. You have given me a great opportunity on this site to share my own thoughts and ideas from a Libertarian perspective, some of which have been very well received by regular visitors to this site, and for that I am grateful.

    Anyway, forgive the long response, just wanted to get in my piece before comments are shut down 🙂

    • Mar 1, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Thanks Steven. I think that overall, the debate has been useful. So I’m pleased you contributed this article. Comments will close after tonight’s drinks, which will be very late. I’m also open to input on the policy, which I plan to bring up with the other authors tonight. If you can’t make it, then email is the best option for that conversation.

  8. Mar 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Steven,

    “The rest is history as far as that’s concerned. I don’t pretend to be “in the know” about what went on last year, or what is still ongoing.”

    The thing is; no one’s ‘in the know’ except Andrew Withers, because that’s the way he ensured it would be. I don’t consider LPUK to be a party, libertarian or anything, rather a strange cult, where the only rule is ‘never question the leader’.

    One reason I finally gave up on it, which you should consider, was not to do with the bust-up, but rather the constitution, which I don’t think is fit for purpose because it contains clauses that cannot be changed without a unanimous vote, which would be unlikely in the extreme.

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