I was expelled by the Lib Dems. Help me return and reform the party!

by Jo Hayes

I was expelled by the Lib Dems. Help me return and reform the party!

by Jo Hayes
Jo Hayes
Case Owner
I challenged governance issues in the Liberal Democrats. Rather than tackle the issues, a senior member complained against me. I was expelled under the very process I'd warned was unfair.
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Jo Hayes
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I challenged governance issues in the Liberal Democrats. Rather than tackle the issues, a senior member complained against me. I was expelled under the very process I'd warned was unfair.
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Latest: July 14, 2024

Next round: 22nd July

Now that the general election is over I can update you on my proceedings without unintended impact on the electoral fortunes of the party I helped to found and volunteered for unpaid for 34 years, un…

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I’m Jo Hayes. I ask for your help in sorrow. I was expelled from the Liberal Democrats, the party I have volunteered for and supported for more than half my life. I believe I’ve been unjustly punished in retaliation for challenges I made to poor governance: party rules flouted, members unfairly treated, confidential information misused and more.  

I am bringing a High Court claim to get my party membership back, and I really need your support.

It matters because I want the party to be the inclusive, truly liberal organisation it was meant to be. With the Court’s help, if I’m in time, I want to stand for election as Federal Party President this autumn to achieve real change in the party’s culture and governance.

I believe that if the party treats its members well, they will be loyal and work hard. And then will come the electoral success this country desperately needs.

Treating members well includes putting the complaints system under truly independent control, as I proposed as long ago as November 2020.  

Treating members well includes reforming the culture of aggressive use of complaints against members for expressing protected religious or philosophical beliefs. It’s illiberal, against the law and shouldn’t be happening in the Liberal Democrats.

I can’t recall a more crucial time in my lifetime when the country needs more Lib Dem MPs in Parliament, putting our values into practice with every vote and decision. Win we must, not just at local level but, crucially, in Parliament. For that, we need to change.

My Story

I was a founder member of the Liberal Democrats. Over the years I’ve had many roles in the party, including parliamentary and European parliamentary candidate, elected councillor, voluntary officer at local, regional, state and federal levels.  

In 2019 I was on the ballot of members for selecting European parliamentary candidates, but was excluded from the count without good cause, as the party’s Federal Appeals Panel later ruled. Realising that things were amiss, I stood for the Federal Board on a platform of improving governance and treating members well. I was elected.

On the Federal Board I challenged the Board’s decision to postpone the leadership election until after May 2021. I went to the party’s Federal Appeals Panel and won. So we had the leadership election in the summer of 2020. But I had annoyed people.

In September 2020 I was shocked to learn that a senior party member, hiding behind anonymity, was using the complaints system to get another member expelled and was spreading damaging rumours about him, forcing former colleagues to distance themselves. The respondent to that complaint was assisting the police with several investigations into suspected offenders. When I warned the senior party member of my concerns that persisting with the complaint during police investigations risked possibly interfering with the course of justice, the member reacted by filing a complaint against me.

In November 2020 I sent the Federal Board proposals for reform of the complaints system to make it truly independent. My proposals were rejected.

In early 2021 as a newly-elected regional candidates chair I asked for a place on an assessment day for a member whom I wanted to appoint as a candidate in a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner election. Time was short. Other regional candidates chairs were putting forward people for an assessment place; I wanted the same treatment for him. As soon as I mentioned his name, he was blocked. I challenged that before the party’s Federal Appeals Panel again. I won again. The ruling is published on the party’s website but came too late.

The member complained of a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which eventually upheld his complaint. Meanwhile the Federal Board was told that there was no outstanding complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. I was incredulous and said I didn’t accept that the statement was accurate. I was excluded from the Zoom call for that.

After Maya Forstater won her appeal before the Employment Appeals Tribunal in June 2021, establishing that her philosophical belief about sex being immutable was protected, a senior adjudicator in the party’s complaints system who expressed concerns about the party's definition of transphobia was sacked. This exposed the system’s lack of independence.

The senior party member who had used anonymity in 2020 filed a lengthy, sprawling, incoherent complaint against me, and used the same complaints system which I had argued was not independent to expel me. After an exhausting few months trying to defend myself, I was told I was expelled.



My case and why I am crowdfunding

I am not accepting the expulsion. I am not giving up on the party. I maintain that the party has broken its contract with me as a member. If we establish that, it will help protect all members of the party who fear consequences if they displease an unaccountable few at the centre. This should not happen in a party whose proud boast is that it belongs to its members – all of them.

Success in my case would enable me to stand for election as President and if elected, press on with making the complaints system independent and put a stop to sanctions on the ground of protected religious or philosophical beliefs, that the Forstater case has established should not be happening.

We desperately need to reform party governance. Ensuring that the complaints system is independent is key. This case, if successful, will bring about that change.  

What I am crowdfunding for

I am crowdfunding for expenses to pay for legal representation to take my case to the High Court, challenge the expulsion decision and get my party membership restored. If done as a matter of urgency, I can stand for election as President and campaign for the reforms I have described.

We are raising an initial £5,000 with a stretch of £100,000. 


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Update 18

Jo Hayes

July 14, 2024

Next round: 22nd July

Now that the general election is over I can update you on my proceedings without unintended impact on the electoral fortunes of the party I helped to found and volunteered for unpaid for 34 years, until I was ousted. 

The upshot of the Defendants' application, decided on 8th May, was that their two barristers persuaded the court to strike out parts of my claim. I think it was wrong, and I now have a pending application to the appeal court about that. 

On 22nd July I have two applications listed to be heard, though I think they should be deferred until after my pending application to the appeal court is dealt with, as they are all intertwined.

  • One is for ordinary party members to have separate representation on the basis that the Defendants shouldn't be representing them because they are in a conflict of interest - despite in theory representing them all. There are procedural rules that enable the court to deal with this. To the best of my knowledge, most members have been told nothing about these proceedings or how much of their money is being spent on them. I have filed evidence from some members who are aware and are not happy about it.
  • The other is to amend my claim to ask the court to declare the terms of the membership contract, to which many thousands of people, as members who have paid their membership fee, are parties. I contend that the Defendants have led the court into error and confusion about it in a way that's harmful to the party. 

As a separate matter I have taken steps to protect my rights under the Equality Act 2010 in respect of discrimination, harassment and victimisation I have experienced. More about this soon.

Thank you for reading this, and even more so, thank you for past and any future support. 

Jo

Update 17

Jo Hayes

April 8, 2024

Who represents the interests of the rank and file?

The hearing on 11th April is approaching. The court will hear the Defendants' not one but two barristers argue that most of my pleadings should be struck out and the court be restricted to considering whether the panel who heard Mark Pack's complaint against me slipped up technically and procedurally. 

What holds the party together is the membership contract. The members own the assets. The executive has to use the assets for the party’s purposes in accordance with the contract. Each member has individual rights, in common with the other members, to ensure that the executive complies with the contract.

I maintain that the membership contract contained a term that the complaints system would be independent of the executive. The Defendants say that the membership contract contained no such term. How is denying the contract term in the rank and file members' interests?

Last month I discovered that the party had given a commitment to the Committee on Standards in Public Life that its complaints system would be independent. A party official disclosed this in a video posted on YouTube. How can this be reconciled with the Defendants' stance?

Breaches of the membership contract in the conduct of the party's affairs are part of my case. The Defendants say I've no right to complain. If a member who raises concerns can be ousted and then told it's none of their business, is this in the rank and file members' interests? Particularly if the rank and file had elected the member to the Federal Board.  

At the moment, in the proceedings the Defendants represent all the members of the party except me, the Claimant - in theory. But in reality they don't, because some members don't agree with the Defendants' stance; they agree with mine. There is a conflict of interest here if the Defendants' stance is not in the interests of the rank and file members. 

There are procedural rules that enable the court to appoint someone to represent these members. This would be an attractive solution from my point of view. Are there any volunteers?

At the least, I think the members should be informed about these proceedings - indeed, about all proceedings on which their money is spent. As far as I know, they have not been told or given an opportunity to express their wishes.

Thank you for reading this, and even more so, thank you for past and any future support. 

Jo Hayes

Update 16

Jo Hayes

March 12, 2024

An unexpected recusal, and what led to it

I prepared my witness statement and it has been filed in answer to the Lib Dem leadership’s application for parts of my pleadings to be struck out.

Meanwhile Maya Forstater, founder of the organisation Sex Matters, commenting on the social media platform X (better known as Twitter), referred to my claim as a “gender critical case”. Ms Forstater's comments led to a judge recusing herself from my case.  

Though I would not call my claim a “gender critical case”, my claim does touch upon gender criticality, in that my pleadings refer to senior Lib Dems’ actions leading to the co-chairs of the party's Disciplinary Sub-Group dismissing, or purporting to dismiss, a senior complaints adjudicator who had recommended that the transphobia definition the party was using in its complaints process must be amended in the light of the ruling which Ms Forstater obtained from the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Additionally, my pleadings refer to a paper I wrote the previous year, in November 2020, which urged the members of the Lib Dem Federal Board to abandon the definitions of misconduct (including, by implication, that of transphobia) that the Board had adopted, on the ground that such definitions were not within the Board’s powers.

My objections were ignored at the time. But the following summer, in June 2021, Ms Forstater won her appeal before the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The Tribunal decided that her gender critical beliefs were protected philosophical beliefs under the Equality Act 2010.

It was not long afterwards that one of the party's senior complaints adjudicators recommended amending the transphobia definition, after which the co-chairs of the Disciplinary Sub-Group, two of the three authors of the definition, purported to sack the adjudicator.

There’s a great difference between advocating that the party has to obey the law and advocating changes in the law. The existing law (as stated on the Forstater appeal) is that, because gender critical views are a protected philosophical belief, an employer (or association) subjecting someone to detriment because they hold or are associated with such views is an actionable wrong for which they can obtain damages. It doesn’t matter whether the court agrees with the protected belief or not. The court will not form a view on that.

Thus, the senior adjudicator was making a point about legality.  

When I previously urged the Board to abandon the definitions, I was making a point about governance

The party’s federal constitution gives the Board power to make procedural rules for dealing with complaints.

My point was the same whatever misconduct the Board tried to define: the Board had crossed a boundary from making procedural rules to substantive ones. That is Conference’s job, by constitutional amendment. 

So there are two points here. First, the senior adjudicator’s point about legality. Members are entitled by law to have protected religious or philosophical beliefs, and express them, without being treated detrimentally by the party because of it, and if their right is infringed, they can seek damages. Members have to find ways to disagree agreeably. Second, my point that each party body must stick to its own job and not interfere in other party bodies’ jobs, and if it crosses a boundary, it should step back. 

Neither of these points is remotely transphobic. But they do support the current struggle of members who hold a religious faith or a gender critical belief to resist efforts to silence and marginalise them. 

Some individuals in the Lib Dems have spread a rumour based on nothing that I was transphobic. These individuals included the third author of the party's transphobia definition, who is a former convenor of the Scottish party. I have the evidence. I have little doubt that the collaborative effort to hound me out of the party was partly because of this gossip.

If you have backed my case, then thank you, as ever, for your support. I hugely appreciate it. If you agree with my objectives but are not in a position to donate, you can still help by spreading the word, for example by sharing on social media, or talking about it with your friends, family and wider circle of contacts.

Jo Hayes

Update 15

Jo Hayes

Feb. 17, 2024

Two high-profile women leave the party

Last week two high-profile women left the Liberal Democrats. Liz Webster, known to many listeners to James O'Brien's show on LBC as "Liz from Cricklade", announced that she was resigning. Separately, Joyce Onstad, member of the Federal Board, also announced she was leaving. 

Liz Webster is an able and eloquent performer on mainstream media and social media. She stood for election to Parliament and as a police and crime commissioner. A farmer herself, she founded the Save British Farming campaign. She has tirelessly warned of the dangers Brexit meant for farmers and Britain's food supply. She has long been urging the party to campaign to rejoin the EU. She stood for election as president in the party's deeply unsatisfactoty federal election of 2022, during which she was bullied and harassed by some party members.

On 13th February Liz told viewers on her LizWebsterSBF X (Twitter) timeline that a conversation with James O'Brien on LBC earlier that day had forced her hand and she had decided to resign her membership. The party's stance on Europe, the stifling of debate, the culture of bullying and the recent furore over Ed Davey's role in the Post Office scandal had been factors. Last but not least she could not defend the austerity that the party had enabled in the coalition of 2010-2015, which had been the wrong thing to do, when the government should have invested instead. She said she was not prepared to defend the libertarianism shared by some Lib Dem members with some wings of the Conservatives. 

Joyce Onstad stood for election to the London Assembly and to Parliament. She attracted support across the party membership that got her repeatedly elected to the Federal Board; she served as one of its vice-chairs during its 2017-2019 term. She also served on the party's international relations committee and as a party representative on Liberal International. She was expected to contest Southend West in the next general election. 

According to the BBC, the party (that is, the Senior Adjudicators Team) suspended Joyce's party membership after complaints were made about tweets she had shared or reposted criticising the Netanyahu government. Suspension is a theoretically neutral act which in practice is anything but. It instantly terminates all the member's roles in the party. It is the standard method for getting rid of candidates who displease the party hierarchy. What the members in Southend West thought we do not know, since they had no vote on the matter.

I served on the Federal Board with Joyce from 2020 until I was forced out. Her contributions to discussions were invariably thoughtful and free of groupthink. Her demeanour was calm and diplomatic. 

As a person of Black Kenyan background, Joyce has experienced racism. Perhaps it is outside most of the overwhelmingly White party leadership's experience. Joyce has been a human rights campaigner most of her life, campaigning to end apartheid in South Africa and thereafter continuing to campaign for the freedom and dignity of Palestinians. She is a peace campaigner. Her views are controversial; no doubt about that. She herself tweeted that "certain people in the party" had "conflated my anti-Zionist position with antisemitism". 

There is authority to back Joyce's contention that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are not the same thing. On 5th February 2024 the Bristol Employment Tribunal (Regional Employment Judge Pirani and two assessors) delivered a decision in the case of Miller v University of Bristol, to the effect that the claimant's anti-Zionist beliefs qualified as a protected philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act 2010. Joyce's case poses the question whether the party has unlawfully discriminated against her.

The party similarly took action against the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, an associated organisation of the party. (There was also a Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel. I believe that both are still active.) The Federal Board, before I joined it, suspended the LDFP amid allegations of antisemitism which to the best of my knowledge were never substantiated. The suspension was later lifted.

Suspension is a deeply undemocratic procedure in which rank and file members have no say. In my own case there was an attempt to suspend my membership without my knowledge, which failed. I was informed of it later. If they thought I would resign they were disappointed. For the following six months I served on committees facing people who had thought they could oust me from those committees without notice. I have every sympathy for others who have experienced this.

The party is supposed to be rules-based and belong to its members. I found the reality was otherwise, but there was no way to reform governance from within, as no doubt others before me have found. The choice was to give up or apply to the court.

Update 14

Jo Hayes

Feb. 9, 2024

I have to file evidence by 1st March

Nearly 18 months ago a complaints panel of the Liberal Democrats purported to expel me after 34 years of membership. I was a member of their governing Federal Board at the time. I’m taking them to court to have the decision ruled invalid. My case is that the complaints system was weaponised against me in retaliation because I tried to do what I think a member of a Board ought to do: improve governance, challenge misbehaviour and refuse to join in groupthink.

Yesterday the High Court sent out sealed copies of the directions order made on 15th November last. The wheels of justice slowly turn. As I mentioned in my last update, the Court has listed a hearing to take place on 11th April, to consider the Defendant Lib Dems’ application to strike out most of my particulars of claim. I have to file evidence by 1st March in answer to their application. 

Thank you to everyone who has helped and contributed financially thus far. I would be most grateful for further help with the inevitable costs of the approaching hearing on 11th April.

Another way in which you can help is to share this update with your contacts, and mention my case to your friends and family. 

In one respect, the case of Alan Bates and 600 other sub-postmasters against the Post Office, which led to the current public enquiry and the recent ITV docudrama, has something in common with mine, because in October 2018 Mr Justice Fraser heard an application by the Post Office to strike out more than 160 paragraphs – between about one quarter and about one third, depending whether one counted the challenged evidence in pages, paragraphs or lines – of the factual evidence served by the six Lead Claimants for a trial due to start early the following month. The total number of passages under attack was in excess of 160 paragraphs. 

On 17th October 2018 the Judge delivered a stinging judgment, which you can find online under the name Bates v Post Office Ltd (No. 2). The Judge said: “The application by the defendant to strike out this evidence appears to be an attempt to hollow out the Lead Claimants’ case to the very barest of bones (to mix metaphors), if not beyond, and to keep evidence with which the defendant does not agree from being aired at all.”

The Judge expressed puzzlement at the attempt to strike out such evidence at that stage. He agreed with the Claimants’ counsel that the application appeared to be an attempt by the Post Office to secure an advantage at the trial by selectively tailoring the evidence which the Court was to consider.

The Judge dismissed the Post Office's application and added that he suspected that in the background to this application the defendant was simply attempting to restrict evidence for public relations reasons. He went on to say: “Whether this “generates adverse publicity” for the defendant is not a concern of the court, as long as the evidence is properly admissible under the [Civil Procedure Rules] … The court is not a marketing or PR department for any litigant, and the principle of open justice is an important one.”

In my own case the Defendant Lib Dems seek to strike out parts of my pleading, to prevent the majority of the issues I have pleaded from being tried at all, and since evidence relating to those issues will not be relevant if the issues are struck out of the pleadings, they seek to prevent me from filing evidence I believe the Court should have before it. It will be the Court’s task on 11th April to decide whether I am entitled to raise those issues. 

Since writing the above, I’ve seen a report from the BBC that Dr. Shahrar Ali has won his claim against the Green Party. The latter's management removed Dr. Ali from his post as spokesperson for policing and domestic safety. He claimed that his removal was because of his protected gender critical beliefs. Though I haven’t seen the judgment yet, the BBC reports that the Court held that the Green Party had improperly dismissed Dr. Ali because it failed to identify any breach of its Spokespeople Code of Conduct, and the judge, Judge Hellman, could not rule out the possibility that the unfairness had been due to his gender critical beliefs. An award of damages was made.  

All three cases – Dr. Ali’s, the sub-postmasters’ and mine – are disputes between an organisation and members or former members of it who plead that the management has ridden roughshod over their rights. I have heard this called managerial capture: the organisation’s management behave in ways that are hierarchical and undemocratic leaving the rest of the organisation with little or no say in decisions that affect them. In the Post Office case the management apparently set off down the road of concealing defects in the Horizon software system. Why they did so is unclear to me. But they would not turn back. Something similar, I believe, has happened in the Green Party and the Lib Dems: in each case the management was captured by a particular interest group, who have landed the organisation in court because they would not admit mistakes. The pity of it is that the costs fall on those who challenge the interest group and on the organisation as a whole.

In each of these cases the management has hijacked the claim to represent the organisation. But it seems to me that Mr Bates and his colleagues represent the spirit and ethos of the organisation better than the Post Office executives who created this scandal. Dr. Ali and his supporters represent the political movement that is the Green Party better than the activists who allegedly collaborated to get him sacked.

At heart I am Lib Dem. I was a founder member of the party. I wholeheartedly support the party’s aims and values declared in its Federal Constitution and I support those many, many party colleagues with whom I worked through the years, who battle to live those values and uphold them. To my mind, they are the party. Their rights and interests must be fairly and properly treated. It seems to me that the members who chose to collaborate on Mark Pack’s mega-complaint against me, instead of addressing the issues of governance I raised, are not the party, since they have chosen an illiberal, undemocratic path.

It is difficult for outsiders to know the truth. Ed Davey found this when as minister for the Post Office in 2012 he was assured by management that the organisation was not at fault. It took the determination of 600 sub-postmasters, a legal team, years of battling, a huge amount of money and the acuity of Mr Justice Fraser to expose a gigantic scandal. It went on for so long partly because the Post Office invoked confidentiality to withhold information, keeping individual sub-postmasters isolated in their fight to defend their livelihoods and good names. Thus each one was unaware that many others were fighting similar fights. Confidentiality has had a similar isolating effect on individuals caught up in the Lib Dem complaints system, perpetuating the poor governance.

The party management is using expensive lawyers and running up big costs bills which it hopes to recover from me. I am trying to minimise costs and one option I am considering is continuing without legal representation, but I hope to avoid that. 

Thank you for your interest and for any help you can give. 

Update 13

Jo Hayes

Nov. 17, 2023

Directions have been given. What next?

At the Case Management Conference yesterday, 15th November, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the Court gave the case a Category A listing, in recognition of its element of public interest or importance. This means that it will be listed before a High Court Judge, not a deputy.

The Court has fixed 11th April 2024 as the date for hearing an application the Defendant Party wants to make for Orders which would prevent parts of my claim from being tried, would allow the Party to avoid wide-ranging disclosure and would put me at severe disadvantage financially:  

  • The Party wants to restrict the trial to the narrow question whether the complaints process made mistakes in my case.
  • It wants to avoid disclosure relating to the wider problems I had attempted to raise and get the Party to address concerning governance failings, problems with the so-called independent complaints system and issues with treatment of individual members.
  • It wants me to pay a large sum of money into Court.

I allege that the people who moved to get me expelled did so in retaliation for my questioning the status quo. The Board is responsible for directing, co-ordinating and overseeing the work of the Federal Party. I believe it was my responsibility, as a Board member, to ask questions and raise issues. Throwing me out solved nothing. 

I hope the parts of my claim that relate to wider governance go forward to trial. It is important that the Party should be properly governed. It would be so much more effective if it was a happy ship. The country needs it to be. But when last I heard, Party membership had approximately halved since 2019, and the Party is languishing at 10% or below in the opinion polls, failing to benefit from the Conservatives’ unpopularity. 

Since the claim was served nearly all the legal expenses have been met from my savings. Times are hard, but if you can help, please donate to my Crowdjustice fund. I would be immensely grateful.

Please spread the word: by talking to people, by forwarding this email to sympathetic friends, by mentioning it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

If you have supported me, thank you. And thank you for your interest, and for reading this update. 


Update 12

Jo Hayes

Nov. 14, 2023

A Case Management Conference tomorrow.

Since my last update a stay and a mediation have taken place but failed to resolve our differences, so the Court directed a Case Management Conference to take place tomorrow. 

The Party’s legal team intend to apply for orders that would prevent parts of my claim from being tried. The Party’s application will take too long to be heard tomorrow. We expect that the Court will direct a later hearing. 

My case could be halted by the financial burden becoming too much for me, but it will not be halted for lack of will to see it through. I have spent a large amount from my own savings on this case. My heartfelt thanks go to those who have donated to my CrowdJustice fund. Some of you have donated more than once. I know how hard times are, but please keep donating and spreading the word.  

At the time when a hearing panel decided to expel me, I was serving terms of office in two senior positions: 

  • I was an elected member of the Party’s governing Federal Board. Like a non-executive director of a company, I had governance responsibilities. I had a democratic mandate to work to improve governance and how members were treated. When I tried to do that, I encountered groupthink and resistance. I feel those governance responsibilities still. 
  • At the same time, I was the duly elected Regional Candidates Chair for the East of England. I had a democratic mandate to get local parties in my region selecting their candidates early, to get active and build their teams and recognition as shadow MPs. Almost as soon as my term of office began, so did the obstruction and interference by people exceeding their roles. 

My mandates are unfinished business.  The expulsion decision prevented me from completing my terms of office or seeking to achieve these aims in a democratic way by standing for election as Federal Party President. My case alleges that there was a collaborative effort to victimise and drive me out as retaliation for my proper efforts to oppose poor governance, wrongdoing and disregard of the law by the Party. 

People ask why I persist in my aim to return to an organisation that is in the bad state I say it is. A big part of it is indignation, some for my own sake personally, and the rest for the sake of other members who have suffered mistreatment at the Party's hands. 

More than that, the country needs a party with a strong liberal voice contributing to political debate, policy and legislation. The Party is not living its values, which millions of people support and believe in. And instead of welcoming liberal-minded members it is intimidating people and conducting witch hunts. Is it coincidence that despite the Government's enormous unpopularity, the Party's membership halved between 2019 and this year, and opinion polls find its support languishes at 10% or below? I am not prepared to see the Party I helped to found fail. 

Thank you for your support thus far and your interest. Please donate if you can. And please spread the word.

Update 11

Jo Hayes

June 21, 2023

Four surprising pleas from the Lib Dems' Defence

Apologies for the delay since my last update. The judge gave the Defendants until 28th April to file a defence, which they did on the last day. 

My side has filed a Reply document, plus information the court requires for case management decisions. 

The Defence contains some surprising pleas: 

  • They deny my claim that the membership contract has a term that the new complaints procedure must be an independent, stand-alone process free from interference by the executive functions of the Party. Yet the members in Conference voted for that (the debate is on YouTube), and the title of the complaints procedure and guidance declares to the world that it is "independent".
  • They deny that there is a term of the membership contract that members will be treated fairly. I should imagine that is news to members and they may have views on it.
  • They deny that the courts will intervene, calling the matters I have pleaded "internal politics of a political party". Again, members may have views on that. My view is that proper governance is not a matter of politics at all; and if a rule that the courts will not intervene exists, which I don't think it does, it should be overruled. The Party exists under the law. No one is above the law.
  • They plead that Mark Pack is Federal Party President. He is not. It's public knowledge that there's an appeal by another candidate in last year's contested presidential election. This appeal has been pending and unheard for seven months! That is a gross failure of process and breach of the contract with every party member.

The membership contract promises properly run internal elections and if something goes wrong, an appeals process. Without those things, those in charge have no legitimacy; there is no way of knowing who has authority to be in charge of the party. That is no way to run an association. The Party would not deserve the label "organisation": It would just be a random collection of people.

I want change at the top and that is why I'm taking them to court.

Thank you for your continuing interest and support.

Update 10

Jo Hayes

April 15, 2023

We've filed an application for judgment.

Dear reader, 

Well! Things are getting interesting! The party's solicitors got cross with me over my last update because I said that the party was in default of defence, but my side thinks that's the unvarnished truth.  

As I said in my last update, the time limit for filing a defence expired on 31st March, and the party needed to apply to the court for more time to file one. That application is before the court. Two days ago my side filed evidence on why we do not think the party should be granted more time, and we filed an application for an injunction to order the party to re-admit me as a member. We have asked for a hearing. So that is before the court as well.

In short, two cross-applications are now filed, and the court will decide whether to let the party put in a defence late, or cut the whole thing short by giving me the relief sought, which is restoration of my membership status that was wrongly taken from me. 

Meanwhile, we still do not know what the party's defence to my claim is going to be! We haven't even seen a draft.

Thank you for helping me get thus far. WIthout the support of people who believe in the same things as I believe in, I might have given up. But that wouldn't be right. 

It's now five months since the provisional result of the presidential election was announced, and still the appeal to an internal appeals panel by one of the candidates is pending and unheard. The party leadership is simply carrying on as if nothing was amiss. 

I believe the party should be living its values, and to me, that includes running itself according to its own rules and the law of the land. It includes, in case of complaint, deciding via an independent process which puts justice first, no matter how important or unimportant the individuals may be. It includes defending grassroots members' rights, including their right to choose their own candidates for public elections by democratic ballot without interference from obscure unaccountable higher-ups. It includes transparency, properly recorded decisions and accountability for decisions. It includes positive action to redress disadvantage, too.

That is not what is happening, and I cannot stand by while things are amiss. I've committed too much to the party over the years to just walk away.

These developments mean yet more legal costs, including instructing counsel for the hearing of the cross-applications. I know how hard times are, but any contribution to my crowdfunder would be gratefully received

Thank you (again) for reading this. Please keep spreading the word!

Update 9

Jo Hayes

April 1, 2023

My case is served. The party's in default of defence!

Dear reader, 

I never thought I'd be typing this. The party is in default of defence! It's had since 3rd February to file and serve one, but time ran out on 31st March. Now it has to apply to the court, because I've already consented to the party having 28 days' extra time, which is the maximum that the rules permit the parties to agree. (The rule is for case management reasons.)

Thank you for helping me get this far. It's been a difficult few months. On 10th October, nominations for party president closed without me. I am shut out from party activities, Facebook groups and so forth, and I can't even vote on choosing the prospective parliamentary candidate in my area. 

The party presidential election took place without me and is still not concluded, as the result was subject to an appeal by one of the candidates which, astonishingly, is still pending and unheard over three months later.

My solicitors had commenced a claim, and on 3rd February we served the claim form on the party's solicitors, with a statement of case I had written myself, to save expense. If they thought it was all over, they were mistaken.

The standard period for filing a defence is 28 days but the party's solicitors asked me to consent to an extension of time of 28 days. I did consent, and that gave the party until 31st March to file a defence: 56 days, eight weeks. That enabled the party to defer delivery of its defence until after its spring conference in York.

On 23rd March their solicitors asked me to consent to another 28 days' extension, but the Civil Procedure Rules don't allow that. They only allow the parties to agree 28 days, and I've already done that.

So the party is out of time and in default. It is applying to the court for more time. My solicitors have said we won't apply for default judgment if the party files and serves its defence by 6th April - Maundy Thursday. 

Meanwhile, we still do not know what the party's defence is going to be.

What puzzles me is why an organisation of the party's size and resources did not simply get on with producing a defence document. It had ample time and it has many people. I hope whoever is making these decisions is not using delay tactically. 

These developments mean yet more costs. If you can help by donating, I will be immensely grateful. This case doesn't just affect me. It affects everyone who wants the party to be well governed and successful. Delay just puts off the day when the necessary reforms happen, in my view.

Thank you for reading this. Please see my video, too: a link is on this webpage. And please keep spreading the word!

Update 8

Jo Hayes

Dec. 5, 2022

We're stating our case

Thank you to everyone who has supported my case, followed its progress and sent me encouragement! 

We now have a legal proceeding in existence. It was commenced on 6th October. It alleges that the party was in breach of the membership contract. The next stage is to state my case in a formal pleading. 

My solicitor will instruct counsel to draft the pleading (called particulars of claim), which will set out what was wrong with the party's complaints system as a whole, and in detail, what was wrong with the process to which I was subjected.  

This claim is an opportunity to put the Lib Dems' complaints system on trial

It's not just my fight. It's the fight of everyone who has had a bad experience of the party's complaints system. More than that, it's the fight of everyone who wants to see the party reverse its fortunes. It needs to attract members and supporters and treat them well. 

The party will not put its house in order until the defects are exposed in court. It has had ample opportunity to put things right voluntarily, but failed to act.

The claim has already cost me a lot of my own money. I don't have bottomless pockets to continue alone. That is why I seek crowdfunding help.  

Times are hard, but if you can spare a financial contribution, please donate. And please spread the word among your like-minded friends. Thank you!

Update 7

Jo Hayes

Nov. 12, 2022

What's happening - a recap

There's a lot of interest in the Lib Dem internal elections at the moment: 

  • Voting is in progress now in the members' ballot for the next Lib Dem president and other Federal party positions. The ballot is due to close on 15th November.
  • Mark Pack, the current president, has a challenger who's promising to bring about change. Members have an opportunity to opt for a new broom. 
  • My bid for a court order last month was a sign of how seriously I take the party's plight and how important I think change at the top is. I tried to get the court to "hold the ring" so I could take part in the presidential election and tell members what needs to change.
  • It's now in the public domain that Mark Pack was the complainant against me. It's in the public interest that members should know that presidential candidate Lucy Nethsingha and Federal Board condidate Callum Robertson were witnesses in Mark's complaint against me. They stand for more of the same at the top. 
  • I hate to see how the party I helped to found is being run now.
  • What brought me into direct conflict with Mark Pack was a complaint he made anonymously in September 2020 against another party member whom I'd never met at that time, who asked me to help. An administrative error outed Mark as the complainant. 
  • Members who've been respondents to anonymous complaints may be wondering whether Mark Pack was the complainant against them, too. Is that how you want your president to spend their time in office?
  • The judge didn't grant what I asked for. My legal team doesn't agree with the judge. Time ran out for doing any good by winning that battle (for an interim order) when the door closed on my chance to take part in the presidential election. 
  • It could have been left to the members to choose whether they wanted me as their president, but Mark Pack spent £69,000 to deprive them of that choice. I don't know what fund that came from. 
  • I've paid what the judge ordered me to pay, leaving an £18,000 shortfall which will be picked up by whatever fund paid for Mark Pack's costs. His aggression against me has led to this. 
  • Mark argued that such behaviour by the party president was OK. Evidently he intends to carry on complaining against fellow-members. Who will be his next target?
  • I'm saddened to have been prevented from completing my elected terms as Federal Board member and Regional Candidates Chair for the East of England. Apparently democratic legitimacy cuts little ice with Dr Pack or the party's unelected, obscure adjudicators.

My legal team is contending that the judge made errors of principle in his decision on the costs. We filed the papers with the appeal court on 3rd November and served copies on the party's lawyers on the 7th. I hope to get the money I paid returned, which will help me proceed with my main claim to expose the defects in the party's complaints system, and show that I wasn't validly expelled. 

My next task is to prepare my particulars of claim to accompany the claim form issued last month. The deal, decided by the members in Conference, was that the new complaints system would be independent and meet certain standards. I pointed out defects in November 2020 but my recommendations to remedy them were rejected.  If you have information concerning the complaints system please contact my solicitor, Elliot Hammer of Branch Austin McCormick. 

Meanwhile all donations will be gratefully received and put towards progressing the claim.

Thank you for reading this update.



Update 6

Jo Hayes

Nov. 2, 2022

We've started my claim

My legal team now has the claim form bearing the court seal, recording its issue date, which was 6th October. There was a delay in processing it, due to a backlog at the court office. 

Now the claim form is issued, a legal proceeding is in existence. In it, I'm claiming my Lib Dem membership back. I have four months in which to serve it. 

My application heard on 5th October was my bid for an interim order, called an injunction, to enable me to participate in the Lib Dems' current presidential election. When nominations closed on 10th October, the opportunity was lost: an order after that date would not have served any useful purpose. 

I have paid from my own funds what I was due to pay. You might like to ask current party President Mark Pack, who is seeking re-election for another three-year term, for his justification for spending £69,000 in legal costs on preventing me from standing in that election.

The next task will be drafting the particulars of claim. Any financial contribution towards the costs will be warmly welcomed.

I'm asserting breach of contract. The deal was that the complaints process would be independent and fair. It will be my case that it was neither. I criticised it two years ago. As more people come forward with evidence of their unhappy experiences, it's becoming clearer that the process is deeply flawed.

Anyone with information is asked to kindly contact me or my solicitors, Branch Austin McCormick. If you are on Twitter, you can send me a Direct Message. My Twitter account is @JoHayesLibDem.

Thank you to everyone who's supported me thus far with advice, encouragement and donations. The main battle is yet to come.

Update 5

Jo Hayes

Oct. 12, 2022

What Monday's interim judgment revealed

The interim judgment handed down on Monday reveals that:

  • the "senior party member" hiding behind anonymity who was using the complaints system to get another member expelled was Mark Pack.
  • Due to a procedural error, Dr Pack's identity as the complainant was revealed to the member concerned, who informed me. I wrote to Dr Pack warning of my concerns that persisting with the complaint during police investigations risked possibly interfering with the course of justice. He reacted by filing a complaint against me.
  • Both complaints were while he was Federal President of the party.

I was expelled in part for what I, seeking to act as a responsible member of the Federal Board, wrote to Dr Pack about his anonymous complaint. That was one of three grounds.

The second ground was that I was apparently too persistent in seeking an assessment day for another member of the party to become approved, so he could stand for election as Essex Police Fire & Crime Commissioner. He wasn't even permitted to apply for approval. You can read more about that aspect of it in the Federal Appeals Panel decision, Case 17B, on the party's website. At the trial of my claim, I will contend that my decisions and actions as a directly-elected regional candidates chair, with the backing of my committee, were things for which we were democratically accountable. The hearing panel was not democratically accountable. The hearing panel ought not to have substituted its own opinion of what's in the party's best interests for mine and my committee's; especially as it had inadequate information to go on.   

I mentioned before that the member who was interested in the Essex PFCC role complained to the Information Commissioner's Office because personal information about alleged unresolved complaints against him was shared with a number of members, including me.

The Information Commissioner upheld the complaint in February of this year, after an investigation, deciding that the personal information shouldn't have been shared with the members and me to whom it was sent. In the Commissioner's view, the party was not GDPR-compliant. 

One person who we know for certain shared the personal information (wrongly in the Commissioner's view) was Lucy Nethsingha. Others may also have done so. The people who passed it to her will be identified in the court process.

Meanwhile, I brought the Information Commissioner complaint to the Federal Board's attention. At a meeting of the Federal Board in September 2021 we were told that there was no outstanding complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office against the party. I didn't accept that. I asked to see the correspondence; this was refused. That is the third ground on which I was expelled.

I'm still shut out of the Lib Dems, I miss you and I'm continuing with my claim to get my membership back. I'm claiming nil in money. The claim is for an order to restore my membership. I aim to put the party's complaints system on trial.

You perhaps recall that in September 2018 the party's Federal Conference resolved that there should be a new complaints system, and that it would be independent. In November 2020 I sent the Federal Board a paper which warned that the new system was not independent, and I suggested ways to make it independent. The Board rejected my proposals. That makes it hurt even more to be expelled under the same system!

I was a member since the party was founded in 1988, a period of 34 years. Not a single complaint against me was upheld until now. 

Saddened and disappointed though I am that I can't stand for President, the fundraising appeal reached its initial target. Thank you to all the wonderful backers who donated. 

I'm personally having to fund the actual cost so far, which is much higher. 

Next I have to get my particulars of claim professionally drafted. Please help me with the cost of doing so. 

We have reached a crucial stage. I have been concerned about party governance issues since 2018 or earlier. To my regret and concern, it looks as though my fears were not unfounded. The party must be better and do better as a vital general election looms. In order for the party to heal from this difficult and electorally largely unsuccessful period in its history, changes must be made. Putting the "independent" complaints system on trial will be cathartic. Please help me to help the party emerge leaner, fitter and election-ready.  

Thank you for reading this.

 

Update 4

Jo Hayes

Oct. 10, 2022

We've started my claim

My legal team filed the claim form on my behalf last Thursday. My claim to get my membership back is thus launched. 

The judge was unwilling, on balance, to grant an interim order to enable me to stand for election as Lib Dem Federal Party President, though he accepted that I'd suffer significant detriment. There hasn't been enough time to get an order from the Court of Appeal before nominations close at 6 pm today. 

The approved judgment was handed down this morning and discloses that the complainant against me was Dr Mark Pack, who is himself seeking a second term as Lib Dem Federal Party President. 

More details soon. Thank you to everyone who is supporting me. 

Update 3

Jo Hayes

Oct. 4, 2022

We could be in court tomorrow!

The documents and skeleton arguments are filed, and the court listings office is trying to find a judge to hear this application tomorrow, Wednesday 5th October. As I write I'm waiting for news. 

We're seeking an interim injunction, granted at the judge's discretion. My legal team and I hope it'll be granted, so that I can seek nominations to be elected as the new Lib Dem Federal Party President. 

Whether achieved in court or out of it, my aim is to change the party's governance for the better. It needs to happen, fast, so that Britain gets the strong liberal democratic presence in Parliament which it needs.

The CrowdJustice appeal is 91% of the way to its initial target. Warmest thanks to the scores of people who have contributed! It's a real help, and it's really good to know I have your backing. 


 



Update 2

Jo Hayes

Sept. 28, 2022

My application is filed at court!

My legal team filed my application at Court this afternoon, after a lot of work preparing the papers. 

This followed a breakdown in negotiations with the party's solicitors. 

I'll post a further update when I know when it'll be heard by the Court.

I'm 88 percent towards my initial Crowdjustice target. Thank you for all the wonderful, generous support I've received so far. 

How you can help: please keep spreading the word and sharing the link to this fundraising effort.


Update 1

Jo Hayes

Sept. 19, 2022

We've got started!

My legal team has written to the Lib Dems outlining my case and explaining the urgency (because of the imminent internal elections for party roles at federal level). We've suggested ways to resolve the dispute without resorting to the court. We await their response. 

THANK YOU to all the lovely people who have already pledged contributions. The party's resources (or rather the members' resources) vastly exceed mine, so you are helping to equalise the odds. Fingers crossed that we can avoid going to court!

You can also help by talking to people such as family, friends and colleagues; emailing people you know; sharing this crowdfunding page with people via message, email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. 

It matters now, because the Lib Dems are in transition. On 1st January 2023 a new regime will take over running the party for the next three years. Those who take the reins could be fizzing with new ideas, and could tackle the concerns I've been raising. Or they could be a retread of the outgoing regime. 

This case is a test case on the party's complaints system. If the court accepts there's a serious issue to be tried, it has a discretion whether to make an order enabling me to be nominated for party president. My hope is that there can be thorough debate, after which the members can decide democratically, by ballot, whether they want the party to carry on as now, or be guided in a different direction. 

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