Nick Clegg: Inappropriate for Lord Rennard to rejoin Lib Dem Lords if he does not apologise

A statement released tonight by a Liberal Democrat spokesperson

Nick Clegg is of the view that as long as Lord Rennard refuses the very reasonable request from Alistair Webster QC to apologise that it is inappropriate for him to rejoin the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords. Nick has communicated this to the Chief Whip and Leader of the House of Lords group.

In addition, a growing number of party members have come forward to make representations to the party that Lord Rennard’s refusal to apologise in itself brings the party into disrepute.

The Lords Chief Whip and Leader of the House of Lords group will be discussing the matter with party HQ and will review the reinstatement of the whip on this basis.

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79 Comments

  • Good start.

  • Leon Duveen 17th Jan '14 - 8:05pm

    I have no idea what Rennard did or did not do or what his intentions were. I do not know any of those involved. Having said that it is clear to me from what I have heard & read that some of Rennard’s actions, intentional or not, have cause offence to others. If he really wanted to help the party he should unreservedly apologies for any such offence and then have the good grace to withdraw from any involvement with the party until at least after the election. Even if he is completely innocent (and the report from the QC did not suggest this) by not apologising Rennard is damaging the party.

  • At this rate, the LibDems will be leaving Lord Rennard.

  • David Blake 17th Jan '14 - 9:06pm

    Leon – well put.

  • Edward Thompson 17th Jan '14 - 9:16pm

    He quite clearly is not innocent having watched last nights C4 news

  • Andrew Martin 17th Jan '14 - 9:20pm

    Quite right. Well done Nick.

  • Alisdair McGregor 17th Jan '14 - 9:21pm

    I have personally written to Nick and Tim to express the my opinion that Chris Rennard is bringing our party into disrepute on two counts. Firstly, by not apologising. Secondly, by implying that the investigation cleared him, rather than (as is the truth) simply saying that due to the nature of the allegations they could not be definitively proven.

    There is a very great difference between “unproven” and “proven false”.

  • Leon seems to have nailed this succinctly on the head.

  • Putting aside the issue of the apology, it’s so odd that a man who has been declared an election guru can’t judge the public and party mood. He’s damaging the party. By wanting to take part in FPC, by wanting the HoL whip back he’s moving back into the inner circles, which is the reason the women made their claims public in the first place.

  • Everyone knows that there is behaviour of men towards women that is unwelcome to the women concerned and felt by them to be to some degree offensive but not invasive enough to be regarded by most people as “indecent or sexually inappropriate”. My Scottish friends call it being a “sweety-wife”. It seems to me that Alistair Webster QC is saying it is highly likely that Rennard was acting in this way albeit there was unlikely to be sufficient evidence that the “indecent or sexually inappropriate” hurdle was crossed.

    Rennard owes it to the women involved, his colleagues, his leader and his party to apologise for the level of behaviour clearly found by Mr Webster and to undertake not to behave in this way again. If he is stubborn enough not to see that he needs to do this, I think his colleagues should follow the lead of Nick Clegg and withdraw the Lords whip.

  • Adam Robertson 17th Jan '14 - 10:39pm

    My opinion regarding Lord Rennard is actually this is not a satisfactory outcome, in the such that it has not really resolved the issue, whether he has done something wrong or not. I have kept my counsel on this, while the investigations have took place.

    My gut instinct, is he should not apologize, because he has been found ‘not guilty’ technically, as there is insufficient evidence to prosecute him criminally. A man is innocent till proven guilty, this should be the case for Lord Rennard, as it does for every other individual. Lord Rennard deserves this as any other individual would like this to be upheld for them. So I think we have to bear this in mind, before we start throwing stones into glass houses.

    However, I accept there may have been some personal space invaded by Lord Rennard, however, this is inconclusive. I can see both sides here. Firstly, I can see where the people who have complained about his actions, are coming from. They have felt violated that Lord Rennard has invaded their personal space, when he was meant to training them to be candidates or helping them with their campaigns or whatever he was doing. Clearly, this is unacceptable. On the Other Hand, Lord Rennard, by apologizing, will be giving the perception that he has done something wrong and will carry this stigma attached to him for the rest of his life, if not ‘political career’. If he feels very strongly, that he has not done anything inappropriate, why should he apologize? Just to make other people feel better, even if it in his heart, that the apology is not an apology.

    I expect to be crucified over my comment but I believe if someone is ‘found not guilty’, then the benefit of the doubt should be giving to them. Perhaps the process could have been better handled and I give credit to Nick Clegg and Tim Farron, for appointing a Pastoral Officer to the Liberal Democrats. We should be proud of that. However, it is not stopped of what has been a travesty in dealing with this particular situation.

  • Calls by Nick Clegg for an apology seem quite strange: in effect isn’t he calling on Lord Rennard to admit that which the inquiries were unable to establish? If this is what Clegg means he should say so, but why bother with an inquiry if the only acceptable finding is Rennard’s guilt?

    However this approach seems contrary to Liberal principles. From the outside it all looks very murky, made all the worse by leaving outsiders to guess at what has happened and inevitably supposing the worst

    Another approach would be to spell out what it is claimed Rennard has done (why be so mealy mouthed? How does it compare to allegations made against other celebrities?) and then leave it open to Rennard to try to sue if he feels that he is maligned. Is this not happening because there is a very big risk that sucha n approach would backfire? In which case what on earth is and has been going on?

  • Tony Greaves 17th Jan '14 - 11:16pm

    I am asked by the Lords whips not to make any public comment, but in view of the continued spate of prejudicial comment I will set out a few things without going into the basics of the problem. (Not just yet anyway).

    First, can I suggest that people here refrain from saying anything that could be defamatory?

    This is what has happened. Just over a year ago Channel 4 News broadcast certain allegations made by certain women relating to events alleged to have taken place many years ago. There were two issues – one was about how complaints alleged to have been made back then were dealt with in the party. That was the subject of the Morrissey enquiry and report and not the subject of the present matter.

    On the allegations against Lord Rennard, the party set up another enquiry in which it asked Alistair Webster QC to look into whether there was a case to answer for a disciplinary action within the party. It also referred the complaints to the police in case they amounted to criminal activity (itself doubtful but nevertheless the reference took place, perhaps as a double check). The Webster enquiry was therefore put on hold.

    The police made enquiries including interviewing complainants and Lord Rennard. They came to the view that there was no case to answer, and decided not to refer the file to the CPS.

    The Webster enquiry resumed. It appears that it consisted of asking for any complaints to be made in writing (several requests were made to members of the party). Webster reviewed all the material he received including the rebuttals by Lord Rennard. It is difficult to know just what evidence he received since it has not been published – apparently because the complainants were promised anonymity. (In retrospect this seems odd since the four who complained have all, it seems, made them on TV and in the press before or after the enquiry). But it seems there were three complaints which did not include a complaint from one of the original complainants on Channel 4, so she was given an extension and made a fourth complaint. (There were over 100 submissions on behalf of Lord Rennard).

    Alistair Webster QC issued his conclusion last week, but not his report. He found there was no case to answer.

    The appropriate committee of the Party in England accepted that conclusion and decided not to take the matter forward to a tribunal.

    At the meeting of the party in the Lords last Wednesday the Chief Whip announced that Lord Rennard would rejoin the Lords group this coming Monday , to some acclamation.

    Then the complainants and a group of their supporters refused to accept the conclusions of this process and started their campaign, aided and abetted in particular by Channel 4 News which had started to whole saga a year ago.

    It is clear that the party’s process in the past year has not been perfect, but it is equally clear that due process has been followed. When it was set up, none of the people who now do not like the result objected to the process.

    What we now have is trial by media, a weak party leadership being bullied by that media, a repudiation of the Liberal principles of “innocent until found guilty”, a rejection of the result of the process that the party itself set up, a portential for a massive row between Liberal Democrats at Westminster, and a denial of natural justice to a man who has been put through hell in the past year (and made ill) by people who when it came to it could not prove their case.

    And it seems large numbers of people are prepared to take part in this and many other internet forums claiming to know the truth and scattering defamatory comments to the four winds when they don’t get their own way. Remember that Lord Rennard has denied all allegations from the very beginning. He has been found to have no case to anwer on them. And he is being instructed to apologise? For what?

    Are we really a Liberal party?

    Tony Greaves

  • Two investigations – police and party – have come to the conclusion that this matter should go no further. The past cannot be rewritten – the party should learn the lesson that would prevent (as far as is humanely possible) anything like this happening again. Our opponents – all of whom have had far more serious scandals in their past- must be delighted at the various comments and allegations. We must turn our attention to other things, on which our future as a party depends. Does Chris need to do more than say, possibly – “if I have thoughtlessly offended anyone I deeply regret and apologise for any such offence”. This will not satisfy those whose one desire is to keep the party in confusion but is it not sufficient ?

  • Bernard Salmon 18th Jan '14 - 12:03am

    There is a very great difference between “unproven” and “proven false”.

    Actually, legally there isn’t. I’m not defending Chris Rennard’s actions, but he like everyone else is entitled to due process. Both a police inquiry and the Webster report have found that there is insufficent evidence to take any further action against him. As things stand, he is therefore innocent. And innocent until proven guilty is both a moral and a wholly liberal precept.
    And I would also query your assertion that a failure to apologise is in itself grounds for expulsion from the party for bringing it into disrepute. Really? That’s the standard you’re setting? I suspect almost every party member would have done or said things which have offended other party members in some way and not all those incidents would have resulted in an apology. You wouldn’t have anyone left in the party in that case. Or is a different standard being applied to Rennard?
    In addition, why are people assuming that an apology somehow makes everything all right? If Chris Rennard did do what he is alleged to have done – and let us remember that he still denies it – then an apology is at best insincere and at wost downright insulting to those involved. If he didn’t do what has been alleged, why should he apologise?
    Finally, I think the Webster report has produced the worst possible outcome for all concerned. Rennard’s reputation has been, possibly irrevocably, damaged by the report’s statement that the allegations are credible, but without any formal means at his disposal to clear his name if he is indeed innocent. On the other side, the women who have made the complaints have been told what they have alleged is not sufficently provable for any action to be taken against Rennard. The whole thing’s a complete mess.

  • Michael Cole 18th Jan '14 - 12:09am

    It is my feeling that because Lord Rennard was so powerful within Lib Dem circles, the party didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ in investigating the allegations fully at time. They themselves have brought the party into disrepute . Nick Clegg and former party leaders have denied, in one way or the other, knowing about the allegations; whether they knew or not and when in beside the point; the plain fact is they should have known. All serious allegations should have been reported as a matter of course.

    As for the future, if Lord Rennard doesn’t leave the party, the Lib Dems could just freeze him out…don’t allow him to attend any party functions like the party conference. If he does maybe a mass walkout by all the female party members would be in order.

  • “Alistair Webster QC issued his conclusion last week, but not his report. He found there was no case to answer.”

    To be more accurate, he found that the accusations were credible and that Lord Rennard had caused distress to the women, and said that he should apologise. But owing to the difficulty of proving intention, he found that there was less than a 50% probability of proving beyond reasonable doubt that the motivation for these distressing actions was “indecent or sexually inappropriate”.

    Frankly, most decent people, if they realised they had caused someone distress – even inadvertently – would apologise immediately. So far from that, apparently the suggestion made to Alistair Webster was that the women had invented the incidents for political reasons. If, in that context, Lib Dem peers are inclined to take Rennard’s side, I think we can all draw our own conclusions.

  • Several women have made complaints, some to a microphone, some to camera.

    100 people have spoken up for Lord Rennard. Is it “I was there on the day and he didn’t touch her” or “he wouldn’t do something like that”?

    A lawyer has interpreted the party rules and decided we’re unlikely to find him guilty according to those rules, but that the complaints have merit.

    The noble lord should back off and shut up, or the party will leave him.

  • I agree with Nick.

  • I find myself agreeing very strongly with Lord Greaves on this one. In fact, the above commentary from him brilliantly answers the question: “What is Tony Greaves for?”
    Yes, the situation is very unsatisfactory but we are where we are.
    We’re asking someone, for whom due process has found there is no case to answer, to apologise but he doesn’t know what he has to apologise for because he has not been shown the evidence for and against him.
    So, OK. Let’s take that to its logical conclusion. At the next election, will the Liberal Democrats have in their manifesto a proposal to do away with all courts, panels and tribunals and just ask anyone alleged to have committed a misdemeanour or crime to apologise without seeing the evidence against them? It is clearly ludicrous and a huge affront to the principle of natural justice which is a bedrock Liberal Democrat principle.

  • I’ve asked on a number of occasions, but never managed to spark off a debate, what are the actual costs and benefits of lords whom we recommend for peerages continuing to take the Lib Dem whip, rather than simply being independent sympathisers in the lords? Here we have yet another situation where the they are a liability for democratic branch of the party.

  • I would hesitate to debate exact wording but something like Nameless has suggested seems sensible to me and would not to my mind demean Lord Rennard in any way, given the position as it stands today.

  • If you are an employee at any decent organisation and such an allegation was made some very straightforward process principles would apply and at the end of that process appropriate sanctions or not would be carried out by the employer. Asking an employee to apologise in these circumstances is a complete red herring for the completely foreseeable situation where an employee says, well your own internal enquiry cleared me , why should I?

    The fact that the person in questions response was utterly foreseeable I’m afraid shows poor judgement from those top down now calling for this – the correct response should have been to decide on the balance of probabilities the level of guilt or not and applied the appropriate sanction.

  • “We’re asking someone, for whom due process has found there is no case to answer, to apologise but he doesn’t know what he has to apologise for because he has not been shown the evidence for and against him.”

    But Mr Webster’s report is more complicated than “no case to answer”. You might just as well say “due process has found that that he caused distress to the women and that he should apologise for that”.

    And when you suggest that to take any action against Rennard, without his culpability having been proved beyond reasonable doubt, would be to herald the End of British Justice, that’s way out of proportion. After all, if one or more of the women concerned took Rennard to court and satisfied that court to the civil standard – a lower standard than the one the party constitution requires – then that court could quite properly penalise him for his actions.

  • Peter Chegwyn 18th Jan '14 - 10:16am

    So far as I am aware none of us have actually seen the Webster Report. Chris Rennard himself hasn’t been shown the Webster Report yet he’s being ‘invited’ to apologise for alleged actions that he has always denied.

    As others have said:

    “We’re asking someone, for whom due process has found there is no case to answer, to apologise but he doesn’t know what he has to apologise for because he has not been shown the evidence for and against him.”

    I’m with Lord Greaves on this one. And, at the risk of making myself deeply unpopular with Nick Clegg (not that that will worry me) I’m also with Lord Rennard when he says that he should be allowed to resume his role in the Lords now both police and party inquiries have shown there is no case to answer and no further action should be taken against him.

    Some people may not like the fact that the inquiry has not produced the result they wanted but when Alistair Webster QC has said ‘no further action should be taken’ they really should accept that conclusion.

    Who has gained from the Lord Rennard saga? Not the women who made accusations. They still feel they haven’t got justice. Not Lord Rennard who has had his name and reputation dragged through the mud by the right-wing media. Not the Party Leader or the Party itself whose rules, procedures and public comments (often from anonymous spokesmen and ‘scources close to the Leader’) have hardly presented the Party in a favourable light.

    The only people to have gained from all this are the Tory & Labour parties who must be laughing at the way the wholly sorry saga has been handled and who have seen the Lib. Dems. most astute political campaigner effectively sidelined from the next General Election where his campaigning skills will be sorely missed.

    Just as well this party isn’t a football team with the number of own goals it keeps scoring.

  • It seems to me that The Libdems in the HoL have jumped the gun on this matter. They are not a self-selecting group & they dont have the authority to restore the whip. That power lies with The Leader only, for the very good reason that he is Elected by the Party as a whole.

  • Tony Greaves and ‘Chris’ above are both completely right in their way. They are both right because the Party has apparently found itself unable to deal with this issue other than through a revocation procedure which has a far higher burden of proof than standard employment disciplinary procedures. The Party needs to look at that state of affairs pronto.

    The one poster who is totally wrong is Bernard Salmon who claims that there is no difference between “unproven” and “proven false”. This is wrong in two distinct ways.

    Firstly, in situations where legal or tribunal processes decide that there is insufficient evidence to find someone guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Such a decision is often miles away from determining complete proof of innocence. Individuals , groups and even whole societies may choose to act as if it does but that is their own choice, their decision alone. It does not alter the detail of the verdict.

    Secondly, in situations where the judicial test is ‘balance of probabilities’, a ‘guilty’ decision is purely an assessment of the relative ‘weight’ of evidence each way which falls against the person accused. If this decision goes the other way, it does not ‘prove innocence’ either.

    There is a third situation which those of us who get involved in serious casework also face, which involves alleged miscarriages of justice. Verdicts are found beyond reasonable doubt (or, in some cases, just by media acclaim!) and thus are ‘proven’ to all except the handful of people who campaign for the allegedly-wrongly-convicted. Sometimes those campaigners after weeks, years, months, decades, are found equally-certainly to have been wrongfully-convicted. In many others, new evidence is never given the chance to be adequately tested. But remember Hillsborough, Jean Claude de Menedez and even Andrew Mitchell MP.

  • Mary Reid is quite right to look at the power dynamics of this. As a PPC in a starred seat in the early 2000s I was constantly told that “all roads lead to Rennard” in interpreting the success or failure of “my” constituency. He was in an extraordinary position of power, as Helena Morrissey points out. He was not just a line manager he was a much trusted and revered political alchemist/guru.

    It is very sad to see Tony Greaves to take the position he has. For once in my life I agree with Nick – thank goodness he is being so clear.

  • My personal impression, from what I’ve seen (which is not complete) is that the women are telling the truth. I could, of course, be wrong but I see no reason why they would lie.

    The inquiry cannot find evidence that Lord Rennard had a criminal intent and that too is probably the case. If I had caused distress or offence to someone unwittingly I would do two things. I would apologise and attempt to change my behaviour. But I am not sure whether Lord Rennard is denying the intention or the actions of which he is accused. If it is the latter, he cannot apologise.

    I think that the outcome of the enquiry means that Lord Rennard cannot be denied the whip or expelled from the party. However, if I were a woman in the Liberal Democrat Party, I would at least question whether this is a comfortable place for a woman to engage in politics and I would be tempted to resign or, at least, fail to renew my membership. If I were a young woman considering political involvement I would certainly be far less likely to join the Liberal Democrats, not least because of some of the attitudes that have been revealed by those defending Lord Rennard. It is very tiring to work or campaign in an environment where half your energies are occupied in dealing with unwanted advances, groping etc. combined with the assumption that this is just something you, as a woman, have to deal with. Quite frankly, it’s so unpleasant, stressful and time-consuming that it lessens women’s achievement – and in the end it’s rarely worth the effort.

  • Peter Rainford 18th Jan '14 - 11:41am

    I am astonished and saddend by some of the iliberal judgements and comments on this topic/ Put yourself in Lord rennard’s shoers for a couple of momments and consider the facts:
    Serious allegations are made against you in the media which you deny
    There is a thoruogh Police enquiry which decides that no charges are warranted
    An internal party enquiry resumes and further calls for compalianants to come forward are made There are 4 complaints
    The job of the enquiry is to decide whether charges of bringing the pasrty in to disrepute should be brought or not
    You produce over 100 witness statements (including statements from people present or near present at the time of the allegations)
    The enquiry decides that no charges should be brought
    (If charges had been brought you would have had the opportunity to cross examine the complaianants and produce witnesses but because there is insufficeint evidence to bring charges you don’t get this opportunity)

    Supposedly it is now “very reasonable” for you to apologise for what you deny you have done.
    And if you don’t the Leader insists you can’t be in the Lib Dem group in the Lords (Though thankfully he doesn’t have the power to actually do this)
    How Liberal, fair, reasonable or just would that feel if it was you the allegations had been made against?

    I hope people will think carefully before judging someone guilty and demanding apologies following a criminal and party investigation both of which found that no charges should be brought.

  • If he acted as some of the media have claimed it would be appalling and warrant an apology in the very least. But like most people on this forum I have no first hand knowledge as to his “guilt”.

    However, he denies those allegations he is aware of, and it appears has not had sight of all the “evidence” against him. If we liken this to secret courts, which many on this site believe infringe rights because they allow judgements to be made without the subject having access to all the material, then how can he be forced to apologise? In this @Tony Greaves must surely be correct.

    To tell someone the evidence against them is broadly credible without allowing him to challenge that evidence is, it appears to me, against the rules of natural justice. I will respect any peer making that point, so long as they also voted against the Government on the secret courts measures…..

    Where @Tony Greaves is also correct it that the lack of a proper investigation at the time and the conclusions of Webster are two distinct issues. The party and it’s leadership were found wanting in their methods and, it would appear, are making changes to ensure this cannot happen again.

  • Bernard Salmon 18th Jan '14 - 12:11pm

    After all, if one or more of the women concerned took Rennard to court and satisfied that court to the civil standard – a lower standard than the one the party constitution requires – then that court could quite properly penalise him for his actions.

    I’m not sure whether there would be a time limit on those who have made complaints about Rennard taking civil action against him, but if there isn’t, Rennard might well feel that an apology from him could prejudice his case should the matter ever come to court. This is another reason why expecting an apology from him is both unrealistic and deeply problematic when considering issues of natural justice.

  • I am grateful for the contributions from Lord Greaves & Peter Chegwyn. Both have distinguished long records of campaigning to bring our Party where it is today. The know Chris Rennard from that long association. I knew him from when I twice stood for Parliament.
    It is sad that an unseen report which doesn’t appear to use the word ‘guilty’ is interpreted that way. Is this a Liberal Party??!!

  • What is he supposed to apologize for? He hasn’t been found guilty of anything? (That does not mean to say I believe him innocent I just don’t know). I do know that a man is innocent until proven guilty and Lord Rennard has not been proven guilty. Thus, any action against him would be most unfair.

  • Christine Headley 18th Jan '14 - 1:17pm

    @ Peter Rainford – “I hope people will think carefully before judging someone guilty and demanding apologies following a criminal and party investigation both of which found that no charges should be brought.”

    The first person to say that apologies would be appropriate was Alistair Webster QC.

    Who are we to disagree?

  • I feel it is apposite to quote from Charles Moore’s Telegraph article on this:

    “The Liberals called in Mr Webster because he is a lawyer. His legal view was that there was no case. By what right did he add non-legal points about Lord Rennard’s behaviour? Does being a QC make you a judge of morals?
    Besides, in any judicial proceeding, there is a clear legal requirement that the subject should be the first to see what is concluded about him. Lord Rennard has not been allowed to see the Webster report. If he were now to follow Mr Clegg’s call and “do the decent thing” by admitting he had done some indecent things, he would be saying sorry without exactly knowing what he was saying sorry for. He would be contradicting his own witnesses, some of whom actually saw some of the incidents complained of and have testified that he did nothing wrong. He would also lay himself open to civil damages in actions brought by all the women. He would be ruined, morally and financially.”

    It is funny old week when I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with Lord Carlile and Charles Moore!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/10579983/Lord-Rennard-Even-podgy-Liberal-Democrat-peers-deserve-justice-Nick-Clegg.html

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Jan '14 - 1:39pm

    “Who are we to disagree?”

    How about, “Thinking human beings with minds of our own and some understanding of the principles of justice”? Would that, perhaps, be who “we” are?

  • @ Bernard Salmon
    “Bernard Salmon 18th Jan ’14 – 12:03am
    There is a very great difference between “unproven” and “proven false”.

    Actually, legally there isn’t. ”

    In Scotland there is a very big legal difference.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Jan '14 - 1:58pm

    Just one point of fact. The question of membership of the Lords party (including removal of membership) is a matter for the Lords party in accordance with procedures set out in its Standing Orders.

    The Lords party is an autonomous parliamentary party.

    Tony

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Jan '14 - 1:59pm

    This is pure toxic, I just ask for people to be consistent and if they want “fire at will” then to be a little bit more sympathetic towards bosses of companies who find themselves in similar situations as Nick Clegg is in now.

  • Bernard Salmon 18th Jan '14 - 2:23pm

    The one poster who is totally wrong is Bernard Salmon who claims that there is no difference between “unproven” and “proven false”.

    No – I repeat legally there is no difference: the person concerned is innocent until proven guilty, regardless of whether the case has not been proven or whether it has been proven to be false.

    In Scotland there is a very big legal difference.

    No, this is not true. The ‘not guilty’ and ‘not proven’ verdicts amount to the same thing. The person concerned is legally innocent of the crime they have been accused of and is not subject to any legal penalty.

  • As liberals we should support the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Lord Rennard has not been found guilty of anything and yet is being asked to apologise for something he denies having done. I am not sure how meaningful such an apology would be even were he willing to give it. As I understand it the party in the HoL has already agreed to allow Lord Rennard to return so Cleggs call now seems a bit moot especially if Lord Greaves statement above is correct. Natural Justice anyone, secret courts anyone

  • paul barker 18th Jan '14 - 2:38pm

    If Mr Greaves is correct then The “Lords Party” needs to decide if it is under the authority of The Liberal Democrat Party & Its Elected Leader. Peers who arent willing to accept that The Leader is ultimately in charge should stop claiming to represent us.

  • Bernard Salmon 18th Jan '14 - 3:03pm

    Peers who arent willing to accept that The Leader is ultimately in charge should stop claiming to represent us.

    As liberals, are we not supposed to be against one person having sole authority and top-down leadership? Nick Clegg quite rightly has no authority over the workings of the Lords parliamentary party.

  • @paul barker
    Should a leader not follow the rules laid out by the organisation they lead then ?

  • Mick Taylor 18th Jan '14 - 3:15pm

    I think airing all of this in public is ultimately self-defeating.
    I would encourage everyone who has a view on this matter to convey it to the party hierarchy in confidence. To do otherwise only gives heart to our enemies in the other parties and in the press.

  • It may be self defeating I would not disagree but if peiple make public statements and put them on a public site then they can hardly be surprised when people who do not agree respond in public. The alternative of allowing the leadership to make statements in public but only allowing those who do not share their view to respond in private would give a very one sided view of all this.

  • Chris Keating 18th Jan '14 - 4:09pm

    Tony Greaves – don’t forget that every political Life Peer is appointed at the whim of the leader of the day. You’re scarcely there on merit.

  • Iain Sharpe 18th Jan '14 - 4:37pm

    @Chris Keating
    I don’t think anyone with any understanding of the party’s history since merger could seriously argue that Chris Rennard is not in the House of Lords on merit. That of course doesn’t affect the rights and wrongs of this case.

  • What is noticeable is how many men are commenting on this here.

    Where are the women, what’s the % of women currently signed up as Lib Dem members ?
    Any figures on that please, would be interested to know.

    Also, Cathy Newman on Twitter this afternoon [Saturday]
    Cathy Newman ‏@cathynewman 10m
    We have several very interesting developments on the #Rennard story on #c4news tonight at earlier time of 6.05

  • Ruth Bright 18th Jan '14 - 5:38pm

    Adrian Sanders – most of us have delivered in the rain for the party (most of us without an MP’s salary or peer’s expenses to enjoy as recompense). The question is what kind of party we deliver in the rain FOR. A party where women feel welcome and safe isn’t a lot to ask.

  • Chris – as I have pointed out before, Tony Greaves is one of the very few members of the House of Lords to be able to claim a semblance of democratic legitimacy given that he was elected by Conference delegates to the interim peers list.

  • Max Wilkinson 18th Jan '14 - 6:40pm

    If Chris Rennard was the great political strategist everybody claims, he’d apologise, keep his head down for a bit and ask Alex Carlile not to keep sounding off in the media.

  • paul barker 18th Jan '14 - 6:50pm

    In a few hours The Sunday Papers will be “put to bed”, lets not let this thing drag on. Rennard has had enough time to decide whether to apologise , its time to withdraw the whip.
    This is all about whether Our Party takes Sexism seriously or not. Some members of The Party group in The Lords seem to want to challenge the authority of the entire Leadership over this issue & with Elections only months away that cannot be allowed. Members can have all the “Autonomy” they want as long as they dont also claim to represent us. Parlimentarians are expected to behave to higher standards & show more discipline.

  • I think it is a complete red herring to expect the Lords LD party to withdraw the whip from Chris. They tend to be legal experts and their standing orders talk about proceeding based on natural justice. Disciplinary action requires a group decision at a party meeting and has to be based on grounds “of (a) extreme or repeated disloyalty to colleagues in the party, or (b) conduct that is liable to bring the party or the Liberal Democrats seriously into disrepute.”

    I don’t think (a) applies so we are left with (b) which Alistair Webster has already says doesn’t apply (especially given the extra “seriously” in the text). So, conceivably some might say that the non-apology permits a disciplinary attempt under (b) but there are a shedload of “natural justice” issues linked to that. So, my personal opinion is that there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance of the Lords team withdrawing the whip from Chris. And it is ridiculous for anyone to expect them to do so.

    There are more realistic prospects in a couple of the good ideas from Liberal Democrat Women this evening such as the appeal route and giving the chance for all sides to have their say in a formal Disciplinary Procedure. These are the sorts of things which will move us forward from this logjam, not expecting the Peers to stand on their head to get Clegg out of a newstorm.

  • @Ruth Bright

    The people who told you winning a specific seat at the local level was about making connections with personalities in the national party rather than about making connections with your neighbours who were going to be voting in the election, have those people now won that seat? When they said something so extraordinary did you challenge them? What did they say?

    @Mary Reid,

    And the objection to relationships between university lecturers and adult students is? That such relationships are statistically less likely to produce children? That the parents of the adults involved might object based on some visceral reaction? That it might be difficult to explain to the classmates? That same-age relationships are more natural? That the legal age of consent should be increased to 30 anyway?

    We live in a puritanical world, some people see liberal politics as a means to fight against this, how unfortunate that some people see liberal politics as an opportunity to smugly reaffirm the status quo.

    (By the way, if we are talking about professors marking coursework, my answer is that in no place in education, nor in ice-dancing, should there ever be any confusion between who is the “coach” and who is the “judge”).

    In terms of Lord Rennard specifically, I want to clarify that my previous comment on the lords being a political liability for the rest of the party applies whether they give the whip back to Rennard or not, it is a lose-lose situation either way. If they were just a group of sympathisers then we could be talking about the minimum wage instead.

  • Actually if what we are being told about the constitutional position is correct, it seems to be the “entire leadership” (which here seems to be a euphemism for those who agree with Nick) want to challenge the Party Group in the Lords over this issue.

    Bearing in mind they are a bunch of liberals and quite capable of making their own minds up, the danger is that excessive haranguing from the Leadership, will simply get their backs up and make it even more likely that they will go their own way in order to show they won’t be bullied. At the very least, even if enough of them are cowed by the statements from the top to avoid a noticeable split, it will just leave a bad taste in the mouth for many in the future.

  • Frances McKenzie 19th Jan '14 - 12:28am

    Quite simply Rennard has been found to not be guilty so he has nothing to apologise for . To my mind bothGreaves and Chegwyn have made sensible comments – comments from a woman !

  • Peter Chegwyn 19th Jan '14 - 12:32am

    Paul Barker: ‘In a few hours time The Sunday Papers will be put to bed’

    Two of the Sunday papers contain opinion polls showing the Lib. Dems. on 8% with UKIP on 17% & 19%.

    With local and European elections just four months away, isn’t that what should really be concerning us?

  • @Bernard salmon

    In the court of public opinion there really is a very big difference. Strange that politicians don’t really that.

  • Tony Greaves 19th Jan '14 - 1:28am

    “Tony Greaves – don’t forget that every political Life Peer is appointed at the whim of the leader of the day. You’re scarcely there on merit.”

    Whether or not individual peers are “there on merit” is something we can all discuss at length. Perhaps my merit is a lifetime of delivering leaflets in the rain (having written and printed them!) And a few other things. Whether this is better or worse than someone being in the Upper House because they have written big cheques to their party is also something we can discuss at length.

    But it’s not relevant to this issue. Whatever we may or may not be, we are not mere cyphers of the Party Leader. Nor, in a Liberal party, could we ever be so.

    Tony

  • If it is true that the higher ups now think that the way forward on this issue is to bring another round of disciplinary proceedings on the grounds that Rennard won’t do as he is told this party will implode and the guarantee is that it will be hanging over the party for years, yet alone the election. The only way forward is to recognise that the standard of proof was set too high in the processes of the pary (no employer has to abide by this sort of approach), and to concentrate on the reform of this. Thinking that the way out is to have another ‘go’ at finding someone guilty is the way of cowards.

  • If I tread accidentally on someone’s toe I apologise. There was no intent to hurt but hurt was caused. If I tread several times on peoples’ toes I am clearly careless and need to be more careful of other people. This is well understood by most people. Is this so difficult?

  • “If I tread accidentally on someone’s toe I apologise.”

    Don’t do it unless they can prove (beyond reasonable doubt) malicious intent! You may be prejudicing your position in future legal proceedings.

  • caroline kalberer 19th Jan '14 - 10:20am

    Lord Rennard is in a position of power over people in the party who aspire to promotion.
    Sounds a bit like the classic casting couch, if the women are being truthful. It’d certainly put most women off joining the lib dems. As someone else said- what is easily dealt with in the pub or amongst equals in the workplace is a different matter if the harasser has power.

  • @ Ruth Bright – I am also a woman and have also delivered in the rain. I would hesitate to do so again for a party that would treat one of its members in such a way. What were your views on the secret courts legislation? Did you agree that such courts were a fair way to administer “justice”? If you had no problem with the legislation then fair enough, I can see why you would be happy with the way Chris Rennard has been treated. But among many members there was an outcry about the secret courts proposals, which were deemed to be fundamentally illiberal. I sincerely hope none of those members are now supporting the demands for CR to apologise based on our very own version of a secret court.

    I can’t add anything that hasn’t been better expressed by others, particularly Tony Greaves, Peter Rainford and Paul Walter, but I wanted to add my (female) voice in support of their take on this situation. I’m usually one of Nick Clegg’s biggest defenders but in this case I am appalled by the way he is handling this (though I appreciate that politically he is in a near-impossible position).

  • peter tyzack 19th Jan '14 - 2:22pm

    our opponents are loving this, they will keep stirring the media pot so long as we keep talking about it.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Jan '14 - 3:33pm

    Alistair Webster said in his second statement

    “8. Whilst there may well be scope for a legitimate debate about the standard of proof required in these cases, neither Nick Clegg or anyone else can be expected to ignore the rules and avoid due process. That is the very antithesis of all that Liberal Democrats stand for.”

    Some within the party should take heed !

  • Tony Dawson 19th Jan '14 - 7:25pm

    @Bernard Salmon:

    ” I repeat legally there is no difference: the person concerned is innocent until proven guilty, regardless of whether the case has not been proven or whether it has been proven to be false.”

    The legal position regarding a verdict is not the truth. It is only how the state chooses to legally treat someone at a given time. It does not relate to the truth particularly although, thankfully, there is probably more ‘overlap’ between verdicts and the truth in the UK than in some places in the world.

    Individuals and groups (and even nations, sometimes) make their own determination of guilt, whatever a court may determine. Our judicial system is set up to create more ‘false negatives’ than ‘false positives’ for very good reasons.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Jan '14 - 7:29pm

    @Richard S :

    “The people who told you winning a specific seat at the local level was about making connections with personalities in the national party rather than about making connections with your neighbours who were going to be voting in the election, have those people now won that seat?”

    At the time concerned in Ruth’s statement, certain powerful people in London had the power to determine where a lot of money went which determined whether or not thousands of electors in key seats got the local candidate’s message on a regular basis or not. Although not enough in itself, this more than ‘made the difference’ to whether certain seats were won or lost.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Jan '14 - 7:34pm

    @Chris Keating :

    “Tony Greaves – don’t forget that every political Life Peer is appointed at the whim of the leader of the day. You’re scarcely there on merit.”

    Tony Greaves was nominated from near the top of the Peers list, voted for by Lib Dem Conference delegates from all over the country by STV, at a time when (a) able Party members thought it was worth standing for election to this list and (b) Nick Clegg believed that he ought to do what the Party wished. Attitudes have changed in recent years and some of the more recent appointments could hardly said to be there on merit.

  • Anti-social behavior is not illegal; it is immoral. As such it not a basis for court action; but it is a basis for social exclusion.

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