06/06/2011

The LPUK tale: Andrew Withers

I suppose that before I write any more LPUK saga I should give my opinions on the central character, Andrew Withers.

Andrew's blog was one of the blogs I read that attracted me to LPUK.  In the early days it showed a good understanding of politics and someone who genuinely wanted to change the way our politics is structured and delivered. I first met him, albeit briefly, when he talked at the inaugural SE Libertarian meeting. What he said made sense, that we are unlikely to get any LPUK MPs elected in his lifetime (and as we are the same age that means mine as well) but that doesn't mean we shouldn't start the process and start to change the debate. He came across as someone dedicated to the cause of freedom and fighting the authoritarian tendencies of the Labour Government.

What really inspired me at that meeting was the number of young, intelligent and committed members). Indeed the SE leadership had an average age of about 23, but that's a tale for another day.

As I said in a previous post, I next met him at a meeting to discuss how I could help the Party and I've subsequently met him on a number of occasions, including over the traditional pint. I've also had numerous email exchanges and telephone conversations so think I have got to know him reasonably well.

There is no doubt that Andrew has worked very hard for LPUK and has been a driving force. He was instrumental in getting a lot of people involved and working for the Party. He came across as having boundless energy. Not only was he setting up and trying to run a political party (with others), he was fighting a court case and trying to set up his own business. As the old saying goes, if you need something doing ask a busy person.

This bit I haven't discussed with anyone else,  but having said all the above I did feel that he started to lose his way. Some of his posts were erratic and he seemed to be losing direction and his leadership started to lose direction. Maybe it was me and maybe it was the general situation but we were drifting. We had a new Government and with the loss of a focus for the Party, the authoritarian Labour Government. People seemed to be willing to give the Coalition a chance, especially as the Orange Book elements of the LibDems were holding so many places in the Government.

The slow decline of LPUK is not necessarily Andrew's fault, there are others in the Party, including me, who could have been doing more. But as one Regional Coordinator said recently, there is a lot of apathy out there. However, it is in difficult times that organisations look to their leaders for direction and inspiration, unfortunately that wasn't happening.

As I didn't want any front of house role (see previous post) I decided that I would complete the year in office and stand down in November. There was no reason to make life any more difficult for the Party than leaving part way through the year so I would continue to manage the membership databases and help where I could.

I Andrew's defence I should say that managing a libertarian party is never going to be easy, everyone knows how the Party should be organised and run and what the policies should be and how the party can grow. Unfortunately not every wanted to stand up and take on the leadership. If you want to understand how difficult any leader will find the job just look at the  the proposals for the Party's future, as you will see there are N+1 opinions, where N is the number of people offering opinions. It really is the proverbial herding cats.

In conclusion, I would say that Andrew is to be applauded for the energy and effort he has put in to the Party but perhaps we should consider the Party like a business. Those who set up businesses are rarely those who can take them on and run the successfully into the medium and long term and perhaps, through no fault of his own, Andrew was never going to be the right person to ensure that Party continues to grow.




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