As an ordinary member of the (UK) Libertarian Party, I have watched the internal car crash of the last month with puzzlement. I cannot pretend to be upset. I suppose this is because I have not really invested in the Party, either financially, emotionally or temporally.
I have attended the meetings of the London/South East section a number of times, and met a lot of good people, and I have seen these as mainly social events, where libertarians can get to know each other, share ideas, make connections etc., and start building something which could be called without exaggeration a movement.
The party debacle will be known (I guess) to most readers here. It involves allegations against the erstwhile leader. It involves the internal investigation of those allegations, and how the party leadership has handled the matter, and it also brings into sharp focus what the party has been doing (or not, as the case may be) since it was formed four years ago.
I do not know the people involved, neither the leader (now ex), the accuser, nor the chairman who has now released a report of his investigation. I am in the position of many ordinary members, in that all I have been able to do since the storm broke is scratch my head and wonder.
Other than an incredibly witty post lampooning the story, I have thrown a few comments the way of the leadership via the party's blog. One in particular called on the National Committee to hold a Special General Meeting. This now, according to the chairman's report is going to be done, but when I raised it a few weeks ago, the response from the chairman was (to paraphrase); 'shut up, peasant'.
Meanwhile across the libertarian bloggersphere, members are announcing they're quitting the party, ex-members (which outnumber the members) are declaring that their decision has been vindicated, and anti-libertarians are enjoying the schadenfreude. With regard to the latter, fair enough. With regard to the members and ex-members, I have to wonder why they joined in the first place. If you have a group of people, and 80% say they're leaving (or have left) because the group isn't doing what they think it should, it doesn't take a mathematician to work out an alternative, that being the 80% stick around and drive the agenda in the direction they favour.
As for the now ex-leader, what little grace he had was blown by his refusal to defend himself, and his inability to separate his private business matters from leading the party. I have no knowledge of the rights and wrongs of his on-going war with BIS, and I don't see why I should have to know. It strikes me as straightforward that he should not have become leader whilst these matters were still in dispute, but he stood unopposed for the leader's position, so the real problem is a lack of alternative leaders. In actual fact, it was his proposed agenda, put forward when he was seeking the position, and my desire to oppose it, which led me to join the party in the first place. Central to this was the idea of changing the party name, and making the adoption of a Swiss-style constitution the central plank of party policy. Happily this was voted down without my assistance - I turned up late to the AGM and missed the vote. Nevertheless I was disappointed that there was nobody contesting the party leadership against a man whose first proposed act was to abolish the Libertarian Party and create something called the Libertarian and Constitutional Party in its place.
Turning to the accuser, blogger Anna Raccoon, I know little of her. I find her blog sometimes interesting, but something about it puts me off. I think it is the commenters, who seem engaged in some kind of group-hug, and all fiercely loyal to the author, perhaps because they associate her with the cuddly image of the raccoon on the masthead or perhaps because they know her on a more personal level. In any case, it's a club I'm not a member of. Maybe she's done a service to the party, or maybe she's helped kill the party dead. Either way, from what she's written, she sees the party as the handful of people, including the ex-leader, with whom she's had dealings, and whatever the misdeads of the ex-leader, I don't consider myself, as a party member, to be guilty. If Andrew Withers didn't wipe the seat after mis-aiming, that doesn't mean the Libertarian Party pissed all over her toilet. As with the fair-weather members noted above, if she disagreed with the direction of the Party, or lack therof, she could have, as a member decided to do something about it. Of course I understand if someone has been involved and come away totally disillusioned, that person could quite rationally decide to wash their hands of the whole business, but most members and ex-members are not in this situation. Rather they've been waiting for something to happen, instead of making something happen.
So, in summary, I am still a member of the Libertarian Party and will be for at least as long as my annual membership lasts, or until I come to the conclusion that there really is no point in remaining. The present crisis has two possible conclusions.
One; complete implosion.
Two; the party members come together, remember what it was that they originally wanted to do, elect new, untarnished, unjaded members to the leadership and put in place a course of action that takes the party forward.
The Special General Meeting will reveal which way the Party wants to go.