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
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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Latest: 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 th…

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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. 


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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