I have been away on holiday, and during that time there has been an implosion at the LPUK.
It would seem that for some time there are many factions at work in both trying to undermine the Libertarian Party and at a very personal level its elected leader Andrew Withers.
I have spent the last few days since returning to the UK wading through a mountain of emails making claims and counter claims trying desperately to make sense of what should have been a simple matter, the allegations that were raised by Susanne Nundy against Andrew Withers and his handling of the LPUK accounts.
What followed was an internal investigation by the NCC, which has subsequently cleared Andrew of any wrongdoing (which I shall publish below), a report that was accepted by the NCC in their meeting of 8th May, para 1.1 refers.
1.1 All accepted the report in full. It was unanimously agreed that there was no evidence of any impropriety surrounding the loan secured to cover expenses incurred during the General Election in 2010. It was, nevertheless, accepted that some of the Party’s procedures over such matters were less than clear and this was a matter which needed to be addressed
At the same time there had been a complaint made by persons unknown to the Electoral Commission, which I understand has also cleared Andrew of any wrongdoing and declined to investigate further.
That logically should have been an end to the matter, however what has transpired has been little short of chaos, a feeding frenzy of vitriol which has been used to force out elected NCC members and culminating in what I can only describe as a coup by a group of anarchists and non party members (Gavin Webb, Richard Brunton) in a hastily called meeting on the evening of 19th May. What they have done can hardly be called Libertarian.
So for those who have not had an opportunity to see the ‘minutes’ of that meeting, I publish them below.
For those who can’t be bothered to open the document, here is the text.
Minutes of NCC Meeting 19 May 2011
The agenda and pre meeting notes are copied below.
Simon Gibbs has provided me a transcript he took to the best of his ability in difficult circumstances. I would like to thank Simon for his heroic efforts.
The Conference call opened at 2100hrs. Attendees:
Simon Fawthrop Nominations and Membership
Tim Carpenter Policy
Ken Fergusen Communications
Liam Hillman NE Coordinator
Simon Slade SW Coordinator
Flemming Aarenstrup East Anglia Coordinator
Simon Gibbs Observer
Richard Brunton Observer
Richard Carey Observer
Absent: Stuart Heal. Efforts were made to contact him but the Party only has email contact
Simon F opened the meeting and set out why he had called it. (See agenda below).
Before starting the vote to elect new officers Simon opened the meeting for general discussion. A number of points were raised:
1. Liam asked why the collection of membership renewal payments were suspended.
Simon F explained that when this started he was about to send renewal emails to members. At the time he felt that if he did that members would be reluctant to rejoin and would be lost. He proposed that an email be sent advising members that they wouldn’t be expect to pay their renewal fee until after a report had been issued and they had time to consider its impact. This was agreed by Nic Coome. ( Note: I have copied the email below.)
2. Liam said that he wasn’t sent a copy of NCC’s report or aware that it was on the website.
It was generally agreed that the Party had been poor at communication and efforts would be made to improve.
3. Liam asked why Richard Brunton was observing
Simon said that he had been contacted by Richard and that he felt that he had just shown commitment by parting with money at this time he would be a good representative.
4. Liam questioned Simon Gibb’s impartiality
Simon F pointed out that Simon G was a respected party member a good representative
5. Liam asked why Simon F, or anyone else, would take on the role of Treasurer in these difficult times.
Simon F said that he was reluctant but saw no other solution and that it was to allow the Party to get organised (see more details in the Agenda notes below). There was a robust discussion and it was pointed out that nobody had stepped forward at short notice although a number of members had indicated they would be interested at some point. Flemming pointed out that there wasn’t another Party and that it was important to keep LPUK going.
6. Elections then took place:
(a) That Gavin Webb be appointed as Chairman of the Party.
Proposed: Simon Fawthrop
Seconded: Tim Carpenter
(b)That Tim Carpenter be appointed as Party Leader.
Proposed: Simon Fawthrop
Seconded: Simon Slade
(c). That Simon Fawthrop be appointed as Party Treasurer.
Proposed: Tim Carpenter
Seconded: Gavin Web
7. Simon F then said he had received an email from Andrew Withers asking for a right of reply on the Party website. The was general enthusiasm for this and it was agreed that Gavin would check the post to protect the Party’s legal position but that we shouldn’t have any editorial control.
It was then formally proposed that Andrew Withers be given a right of reply to be posted on the Party website provided that Gavin Webb is allowed to see the post first to ensure that there are no legal objection and that there is a caveat that the content of external links is not the responsibility of the Party.
Proposed: Simon Fawthrop
Seconded: Liam Hillman
8. There was then a discussion around the organisation of the SGM. Gavin agreed to organise it and the agenda will be sent out later. It was generally agreed that the meeting be set for 18 June and would take place in central London. It was also agreed that amongst other subject fund raising would form a key part of the SGM.
9. A broad ranging discussion took place. Simon F said he would get members renewing in the next few days (afternote, a new bank account is being set up), there was a need to for the regions to become more active – Liam spoke about the apathy he had come across and that students were a good source of members.
10. Ken asked that it be minuted that Simon F be thanked for his hard work. All agreed. Simon F thanked the meeting and said it made him realise the hard work was worth it.
11. The meeting closed at around 2215hrs. Simon F asked Gavin and Tim (and anyone who wanted to listen) to remain on the call for a quick discussion of what needed to be done to get their appointments notified to the Electoral Commission).
Email Sent to all NCC members calling the NCC Meeting
I have now spoken to all addressees with the exception of Stuart and Gavin, hopefully Ken has been able to get in touch with Stuart and Gavin will get in touch with me. As you are all aware Andrew has now resigned from the Party and wants to relinquish all ties immediately, which means we need to move faster than I had planned.
Firstly, as explained to most of you, I want this process to be seen to be transparent by the rest of the Party. To that end of I have asked three members to be observers and they are copied in the CC box. For those that don’t know them they are:
Simon Gibbs. Simon is well know within the SE Party and has been an active, and activist, member as long as I have been in this post and from before.
Richard Carey. I haven’t met Richard but he did volunteer to step up to be Chairman if nobody else want the post. He has also been active in the Party
Richard Brunton. Richard is a lapsed member who rejoined the Party today. He asked to be an observer for the meeting on Monday so I see no reason why he shouldn’t do it tonight. As Richard has just rejoined and paid his money I reckon he will be as keen as anyone to see fair play.
The Constitution is silent as to whether or not we can have observers and I don’t see any credible objections for 3 reasons:
1. In our British way of life everything allowed unless expressly forbidden. I don’t see why that shouldn’t apply to a Libertarian Party
2. We are libertarians, we can hardly object if members want to watch party proceedings.
3. I have it my mind that some past NCC meetings in London were observed by Part y members so there is precedence
As observes are not defined in the Constitution I think it reasonable to treat them the same as those attending Parish Council meetings ie they can observe but they cannot take part and should remaining silent. Having said that I they believe if we are not observing the Constitution they should be free to say so.
Emergency NCC Meeting
Time: 2100hrs BST
Date: Thursday 19 May 2011
Venue: Conference call
Dial in: xxxxxxxxx
Please keep emails open in case of change of plan
Purpose: To elect new party officials and to put in place a plan start raining funds and organise an SGM to formalise all party positions
Meeting Chairman: Simon Fawthrop, Nominations Officer
Attendance: All remaining NCC members (see below)
Three impartial Party members as observers: Simon Gibbs, Richard Carey, Richard Brunton
I have a plan that needs voting on, or changing ,which I will set out that plan now to save time tonight.
1. I am standing as guarantor for the Party’s liabilities, currently c.£290. I am also prepared to underwrite any short term expenditure needed to keep the Party going on the understanding that the NCC will start actively fund raising as soon as it has control of the bank account.
2. I have spoken to a number of people about taking on a formal Party position. It should be noted that they have all stated that they will only do this if the aim is to get to an SGM organised where all these changes can be put to the full Party. These are:
a. Tim Carpenter as Party Leader
b. Gavin Webb as Chairman. Note I am still waiting for Gavin to confirm. For those who don’t know him Gavin is a former NCC member who left the Party last year for personal reasons. He has recently rejoined the Party and would like to get actively involved. He has been a local councillor and has lots of experience of campaigning and getting elected in difficult areas and in my view is an excellent candidate for the role. If Gavin is reluctant someone will have to step forward at the meeting
3. You will note that we do not have a person for the key role of Treasurer. There are a number of people who have expressed an interest in taking on the role in the future but for various reasons are reluctant to take on the position now. I am very reluctant to take on this position for a number of reasons the main ones being that I am hopeless at this type of work and I am tainted as being part of the old guard and part of an alleged cover up. However I am prepared to take on the roll under the following circumstances:
a. It is only until the SGM and no longer. Ideally I would like to hand over before then.
b. I am allowed to take over the and understand the accounts at my own pace. I am not an accountant and diligence is not one of my strong points. I will do my best but it could be slow
c. As Data Controller the NCC accepts that there are certain parts of the accounts that cannot be made public or even known to the full NCC, namely donors who wish to maintain their anonymity. It could be argued that we shouldn’t accept anonymous donors but if it has been done we should respect their wishes. Party rules can be changed later if appropriate. (Note this goes for anyone taking on this role)
4. There is another reason why I might be a suitable candidate. I live relatively close to Andrew and it would make the handover easier. I have confirmed with HSBC that if the new Treasurer meets Andrew in his local branch with the appropriate paperwork the bank account can be transferred immediately. I have mentioned this to Andrew in an email (he asked for a plan) and said that if it is me I can meet him tomorrow morning ,but there may be other complications.
5. I will pay for it but we need someone in London to set up a PO Box tomorrow. Andrew has asked a number of times for the Party to change the address from his home and it has been remiss of the Party not to do anything about it. It needs to be in London because that is where most of the Party is based and it will be easier to hand over responsibility as personnel change.
6. The Constitution requires 4 weeks’ notice for an SGM and we don’t want to be any longer than that. I propose an SGM is set for Saturday 18 June in London where most members are based. If it comes to it we could use that pub in Holborn where we had the a couple of NCC meetings
There is also some background information you should be aware of – I have confirmed with the EC that there is a process to replace Officers if they previous Officer doesn’t sign RP04. It is a bit Laborious and strictly speaking the appointment isn’t in place until the forms are lodged. However, that doesn’t stop elected officials carrying out Party business. It took two months for my predecessor to sign the paperwork.
1. Roll call and apologies
2. General discussion on the state of the Party and the plan set out above
3. Election of Party Chairman
4. Election of Party Leader
5. Election of Treasurer
6. Agreement of SGM date
7. Next steps:
a. Setting up PO Box
b. Starting funding
c. Organising regional coordinators to be appointed at the SGM
d. As required from discussion
Current active NCC members as at 19 May 2011:
Nominations and Membership Simon Fawthrop
Policy Tim Carpenter
NW Coordinator Stuart Heal
Communications Ken Ferguson
NE Coordinator Liam Hillman
SW Coordinator Simon Slade
East Anglia Coordinator Flemming Aarenstrup
North East Coordinator
email response from Nic Coome reference membership renewal
From: Nic Coome [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: 17 April 2011 18:36
To: Simon Fawthrop
Cc: ‘John Watson’; ‘Tim Carpenter’; ‘Simon.Gibbs’; ‘Robert Waller’; ‘Stuart Heal’; ‘Andrew Janes’; ‘Ken Ferguson’
Subject: RE: URGENT AND CONFIDENTIAL Membership Renewal
Works for me
Good work, thanks.
On Sun, 2011-04-17 at 17:43 +0100, Simon Fawthrop wrote:
> I need to do something about expiring members. I propose to send the
> holding email below if you are in agreement – or can someone provide
> better wording?
> Dear «forename»,
> Your Libertarian Party membership is due for renewal on «expires» (nb:
> on some email clients this date is in US format).
> As you are no doubt aware some serious allegations have been made
> against Party Leader Andrew Withers by a former member and Andrew has
> temporarily stepped aside as Party Leader whilst the NCC is carries
> out an investigation.
> It is understandable that members want to see the outcome of this
> investigation before investing any more money with the Party. The NCC
> has therefore decided that memberships will not expire until the
> results of the investigation have been published and members have had
> time to consider the conclusions and ask further questions.
> Your sincerely,
> Simon Fawthrop
> Nominations & Membership Secretary
Why has this not been published on the LPUK website? Well perhaps Ken Fergusen can enlighten, but perhaps he wanted to publish elsewhere first, as I am led to believe it was he who had been feeding confidential LPUK information to the author of the original allegations, and was the reason for the motion to have him suspended from NCC and Party. (I also understand that proof of this allegation has been circulated to all NCC members).
More updates will be published here as they become available, but I think that these 2 documents are the important ones at present, showing that LPUK has been taken over by those forces who are willing to ignore the party constitution, make ad hoc changes by suspending elements which flies in the face of the constitution and by deducing comments posted elsewhere clearly want to use the vehicle for anarchist purposes, and in light of that information I reluctantly support anyone who will propose that LPUK be wound up and de-registered with the Electoral Commission.
This car crash is now just waiting for the recovery truck to take it to the scrap yard.
If the anarchists want a vehicle, let them start their own party….