Tim Farron has issued the following statement calling on Chris Rennard to step down from the Federal Executive position to which he was elected by Liberal Democrat Lords last week:
As you know, Chris Rennard’s election to the Federal Executive has prompted party members to call for a Special Conference.
I have not spoken out until now as I have been giving Chris time to reflect on the party’s reaction to his election.
I have decided it is time to make clear publicly that I do not believe it is in the interests of the party for Chris to take up his position on the FE.
Chris was entitled to stand for election and the Lords were entitled to elect him. That does not mean his decision to put himself forward was in the best interests of the party.
Helena Morrissey’s review threw the spotlight on our party’s culture and working practices. We have made major changes to the constitution and to the rules we use to apply its values.
For example, we have ensured that for instances of alleged discrimination, bullying, harassment or intimidation, we now operate to the standards you would expect in most modern workplaces.
However, I also believe that the call for a Special Conference shows we still have some way to go to convince our members that the party’s culture has changed.
In considering this, I think it’s also important to remember that our Conference this year showed very clearly how the party feels about the Leader being able to intervene in decision-making. The idea for a Leader’s veto on the manifesto was kicked out without even being discussed. It is right I should not be allowed to reverse outcomes just because I or others don’t like them.
I am, though, entitled to an opinion on the decisions taken by our party and whether I believe they are in our best interests.
A Special Conference is not in our best interest. It will divert considerable time, energy and resource away from Oldham and the growing fightback we are mounting across the UK.
The party needs unity and must move on accepting the recommendations of Helena Morrissey’s reports into the culture and processes within the party, although it will take more time to do this.
Chris serving on the FE is not in our best interest, as the levels of anger and division have shown.
I am therefore asking Chris to step down from the FE in the best interests of the party.