Pauline Pearce accuses Lib Dems of 'neanderthal views on diversity'

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to examine allegations of discrimination made by Pauline Pearce, the "Hackney heroine" who confronted rioters in 2011, after she abandoned her campaign to become party president on the grounds of its "neanderthal views on diversity".

A spokeswoman for the Lib Dems said that the party was saddened to hear that Pearce had decided not to contest the senior post and asked for her to pass on any evidence of discrimination.

Pearce, who rose to national celebrity after her intervention during the riots, posted a five-minute video on her Facebook page in which she expressed her disappointment that she had encountered what she described as a patronising attitude from the party.

In a note attached to the video, Pearce said: "Sadly the Liberal Democrats, like all political parties, need to look again at their too often neanderthal views on diversity, inclusivity and accessibility."

In her video Pearce said that she had been patronised for a lack of political experience and ridiculed for her past – she was convicted for smuggling drugs in 1999 – even though she had been open about her prison sentence. She said in her Facebook message: "This is what makes me the woman I am today – because of the honesty and coming clean with the media and with people I have dealt with in and around the community.

"I feel quite hurt and let down by this because I always felt the Liberal Democrats had my back but I realise that they do have your back until you are going for a prestigious position within the party. People out there feel that they are diverse, feel they are not at all racist. But it is what I would call underhand racism, where you feel that people are not quite able to step up to the mark.

"There are a lot of little things that have amalgamated into a big thing, even down to the point where there are some quite prestigious people in our party who feel that they can't back me because of my criminal record. I find that very demoralising and upsetting. The crime I got involved in was many years ago. I've served my time … If we can't turn to people that are saying they believe in second chances without finding out that they actually don't, it's quite a devastating situation to be."

Pearce said that she would remain in the party in a more modest role. "So at the moment, not knowing quite where I fit in the party, I have still decided to remain a Lib Dem because I believe in a lot of the Lib Dem values and policies, so I will stick with them right to the end. But I realise my place is not go for any high positions within the party. I'll just stay and be the token person who sits and smiles in the background and do my community activism that I always do. Community is very important to me, hence why I was the lady who stood up in the riots and said what needed to be said by someone."

A Lib Dem spokeswoman said: "The Liberal Democrats are saddened to hear that Pauline Pearce will no longer be standing for party president. She is a tireless activist and extremely well-respected within her community.

"We are upset that Pauline feels she has been subjected to discrimination and prejudice, as this behaviour is the opposite of the values of equality and respect we embrace and pride ourselves on as a party. We urge Pauline to report what she has experienced and will look at her concerns as a matter of urgency."

Powered by article was written by Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent, for The Guardian on Sunday 17th August 2014 17.57 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010