++Breaking: Chris Rennard’s statement as he stands down from the Federal Executive

Chris Rennard has made the following statement announcing that he has withdrawn from the Federal Executive:

A week ago, I was elected by the votes of the Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords to be their representative on the party’s Federal Executive. Any Lib Dem peer could have stood, all of them could vote, and I was elected by 44 votes to 25. Since then a number of party members have objected to that outcome and sought to effectively overturn it by removing the right of the Lib Dem peers to have a representative on it.

I was disappointed that in a party called the Liberal Democrats there should be such a challenge to the result of a democratic election. I recognise, however, that there has been much controversy in the party and this has continued partly because it has been very poor in communicating to its members the outcomes of all the various processes investigating allegations made against me. In particular, many members have remained unaware of the key conclusion concerning me in the final report of the independent businesswoman, Helena Morrissey, who reviewed these processes.

Last December, her conclusion was that:

At this point, December 2014, every investigation has concluded with no further action to be taken against Lord Rennard. The process over the past nearly two years – conducted according to the prevailing rules – has run its course and although the outcome is a source of great frustration to some, I believe that the Party can only move on if that outcome is accepted. At this stage, given that the Party applied its own processes, there is no justification for it remaining ambivalent towards Lord Rennard – he should be just as welcome a participant or guest at Party events as any other.

I believe that the party should have done more to promote mediation before the police and party investigations began, and also to communicate fairly and properly the “No Further Action” outcomes of all the various investigations concerning the allegations made against me. This made it more difficult to heal the divisions in the party. But the party cannot be criticised for any failure to take the allegations seriously. At least six emails sent to party members by the party’s HQ sought information about any complaints, and any evidence. The party co-operated fully with the police, as did I.

The thorough and professional investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service concluded that there would be no charges, and the Police did not send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration. The party’s independent investigator, Alistair Webster QC, then reviewed carefully all evidence submitted to him, and twice concluded that it was insufficient to hold a disciplinary hearing to investigate any further. He informed me personally of the “no further action” decision, and he made no requests of me, when doing so.

In the current political circumstances, holding a special conference to consider whether or not the Lib Dem peers should have a representative on the Federal Executive would make the party look absurd, cost a great deal of money that is needed for campaigning, and do nothing to heal the divisions. More time is required for the party to implement fully Helena Morrissey’s final report concerning the party processes and culture.

Liberal Democrats do not believe in trial by media or social media. Nor do we believe that any individual should be treated as being in a halfway house between innocent and guilty after allegations have been made, have been investigated and none of the complaints upheld. The absence of clear information in the party about the outcome of all the processes to which I was subject has also contributed to the way in which I have suffered a great deal of “cyber bullying” of the kind that we criticise other parties’ political activists for.

In the interests of party unity, and on the basis that the party will over time implement in full all of the proposals in Helena Morrissey’s final report, I have agreed to withdraw from the Federal Executive. It is with sadness that I do so, because I enjoy the support of my parliamentary colleagues, and very many party members at all levels. Many of them value my relevant experience in a party to which I have belonged since my teens, and for which I ran many of our most successful election campaigns under the leaderships of Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell (taking us up to 63 MPs by 2006 and therefore able to enter government in 2010).

Helena Morrissey’s conclusions from December 2014 should all be made properly known to the party, and it should then move on. I accept that implementation of all of them will take significantly more time and that I should continue to concentrate on my role as a Lib Dem peer where we in the House of Lords have an obligation to resist unfair and antidemocratic measures to the limits of the Parliament Acts, and to help the party as a member in other ways, and without being on the Federal Executive.

The Liberal Democrats, led by Tim Farron, are capable of providing the compassionate and caring, but non-socialist alternative to the Conservatives that I believe every part of Great Britain needs. I believe that over the next five years many more people will realise what they have lost without having greater influence on government from the Liberal Democrats. In current times, it is also Liberal Democrat values of internationalism, democracy, justice, environmentalism and respect for others that is most needed in the world.

I do not intend to add further to this statement.

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  • Thank you for this statement, Lord Rennard.

  • Great news! Now let’s make sure we don’t put any deposits down for the Special Conference and get back to campaigning on issues such as HRA, Snoopers, Immigration, the EU, Tax Credit Cuts, Disability Allowences, fighting a by-election, supporting councillors/candidates at local elections etc

  • Thank you for your wise decision. I wish you had not stood but, you having done so and won, I regarded and regard the actions of those who sought to change the Party’s rules on the basis of the election of a particular individual under those rules both spiteful and politically naive.

    You at least have shown the good grace to save the party money and embarrassment.

    I am glad this episode, which reflects well on no-one, is over.

  • While I understand that CR was never convicted of anything criminal, or beyond reasonable doubt, it is quite clear that a large majority of serious activists have found his [alleged] behaviour completely inexcusable. It’s a shame that he has been so obstinate as to force the party leader to go public in order to force him to do the decent thing.

  • Adam Bernard 17th Nov '15 - 11:38am

    This is good news, and the right decision by Lord Rennard. As Alex H says, on with the campaigning…

  • At last some good news!

  • David Faggiani 17th Nov '15 - 11:44am

    Yes, end to an awkward chapter. Very difficult issues, and hopefully the Lords will make their next election to the post more transparent (articles from candidates in Lib Dem Voice, online hustings etc.) to allow room for wider Party sentiment to be heard, even if it then just reverts to the Lords, you know, voting on it.

    Also, might be wise if a female Lib Dem member of the Lords considered standing this time. Just saying….

  • Pleased that we will not be using our limited airtime to publicly tear ourselves apart.

    I would hope at some point Chris’ commitment and tallent can be used to further Liberal Democracy.

    I would also hope that this incident doesn’t exclude the Lord’s having a rep on the FE they’re one of our largest assets at the moment. And we shouldn’t let this issue exclude them in the future.

  • Thank you.

  • George Potter 17th Nov '15 - 11:51am

    Just so people know, the petition for the special conference will now almost certainly be withdrawn (though we need to crack with all the signatories first) and the constitutional amendment will be submitted to York conference instead.

  • George Potter: that’s good to hear.

    Can we also have an amendment that imposes a significantly higher bar of membership support for a Special Conference, please? Someone?

  • George Potter 17th Nov '15 - 12:08pm

    It’s confirmed – the request for a special conference has now been formally withdrawn.

    And since we’re not constrained by the wording of the petition any more, I’ll make sure the constitutional amendment going to York contains something to raise the threshold to call a special conference as this was a little bit too easy to do.

  • “Liberal Democrats do not believe in trial by media or social media.” the problem is the voters do read it all and make their own conclusions.

  • Peter Davies 17th Nov '15 - 12:24pm

    @Andrew Hickey
    The current rules have only been in place for less than two months. Before that 200 conference reps (rather than members) were required.

  • Time to move on….. and real leadership by Tim….

  • EnlightBystand 17th Nov '15 - 12:29pm

    Andrew – the rules that made it this easy only came in in September though- before then it was 200 conference reps, out of maybe 2000, rather than 200 members from 60,000.

  • Matt (Bristol) 17th Nov '15 - 12:33pm

    I don’t think the party can say, issues resolved (and the risk ongoing of mutual resentments and distrust between several key and not-so-key people is nakedly clear), but clearly, an acute crisis has been averted, and leadership shown by Tim Farron despite some mud being slung in his direction by those who like to sneer.

    Lord Rennard and the proposers of the motion both deserve some thanks from ordinary, semi- and non- active members for stepping away from the precipice and there being mutual commitment to fully implement the Morrisey report.

    As little other than an observer, I really hope Lord Rennard can continue to speak out in the Lords for the party against Tory plans. I hope those who distrust his power in the party and have sought to curtail the Lords’ influence can feel they can allow him to continue to speak out where he is in agreement with party policy, without feeling threatened or diminished in future by those who supported him.

  • Thanks George Potter, I think you have been very brave, good on you.

    A future leader in the making.

  • Thank you, Chris Rennard, for this decision which was clearly made in the interests of the party.

  • Agree with Gareth above, but the 44 Lords who voted for Chris should be in no doubt that they have done their Parliamentary party’s reputation in the party no good whatsoever. It is clear that the party’s policies for dealing with allegations of sexual harassment have been hopelessly inadequate in the past, including at the time of the Webster inquiry. I hope that has now been rectified by Morrisey, et al.

  • I think Tim Oliver’s post is the best. I was never 100% convinced a Special Conference was the right thing to do, but like Chris’s election, the rules are there to be used.

  • I will be drafting a motion for York which says something on either the lines of ‘n% of the Party membership must sign a petition’ or ‘n% of local party Exec members must request a SC’. The motion would also call on suitable parties to conduct a simple review of current party procedure to ensure that OMOV does not further break the spirit of the constitution.

    Originally I was going to submit a OMOV repeal motion, but that would be a bit daft.

    I would have backed Rennard remaining in post had he chosen to do so, but this is probably the smartest outcome overall for the time being. I think the points he makes in his letter are fair and I hope that, after some more time for wounds to heal (if they do), we don’t knee-jerk ourselves back into a similar situation!

  • Liberal Democrats do not believe in trial by media or social media. Nor do we believe that any individual should be treated as being in a halfway house between innocent and guilty after allegations have been made, have been investigated and none of the complaints upheld.

    Sadly this does not appear to be true.

  • A Social Liberal 17th Nov '15 - 1:06pm

    I thought that Lib Dems believed in the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Given that Lord Rennard was not proved guilty he was innocent of the charges laid against him. I am angry and saddened that my party has placed this principle to one side

    I am just as saddened that Lib Dems have apparently also put aside the principle of double jeopardy. It seems to me that Lord Rennard has just been tried again in the highly illiberal court of Lib Dem opinion.

    Given the above, I hold out no hope that a third liberal principle will EVER be afforded to Lord Rennard, that of rehabilitation.

    I am no longer sure I wish to be a member of our party.

  • Christine Headley 17th Nov '15 - 1:12pm

    Shame on the lords who didn’t vote.

  • Excellent news. And many congrats to George Potter for having bravery to fight this issue!

  • Thank goodness, now we can concentrate on getting up to 10% at Oldham.

  • paul barker 17th Nov '15 - 1:36pm

    Great news & thanks to everybody who has been working for compromise.

  • Jeffrey Kaufman 17th Nov '15 - 1:40pm

    Well done Chris. You should never have been treated this way. The people who forced you to do this and are very illiberal. You have been cleared that should be the end of it

  • Ben Jephcott 17th Nov '15 - 1:47pm

    I am very depressed by the way this whole saga has unfolded. The absolute refusal to allow Chris to be rehabilitated in any way or at any time should not be a characteristic of a Liberal party.

    I emphatically do not say the complaints against him were frivolous, they were not, but the investigation process occurred and an outcome was supposed to have been reached and then respected by party members but people seem incapable of doing that.

    The can has been kicked down the road again. Chris has prevented a crisis by resigning but I can see no sign of a pathway being opened up for him to participate in the party in future as he is entitled to do, by seeking election to party committees. This was not about an ‘appointment,’ as a feedback form circulated by one member of FE described it.

    People are still in their trenches as one can see elsewhere in this forum and we need to climb out.

  • George Kendall 17th Nov '15 - 2:10pm

    @Ben Jephcott “Chris has prevented a crisis by resigning but I can see no sign of a pathway being opened up for him to participate in the party in future as he is entitled to do, by seeking election to party committees.”

    Ben, You’re absolutely right. If we are to live by our values, we need to work for a climate in the party where the issue can finally be put to rest.

  • George Potter 17th Nov '15 - 2:43pm

    Although I think the process which investigated Rennard was so flawed it was unfit for purpose I certainly accept that due process has been followed and that he was the right to be a member of the party, to participate in it and to contribute it.

    That was never the issue here. The issue was that participating in and contributing to the party do not necessitate being on FE and, given that the complaints about Rennard were found to be “broadly credible”, it was utterly inappropriate for him to be on FE.

    You can accept someone’s right to be a member without accepting they belong on FE. In this case the baggage that Rennnard would have brought with him and the signal it sent out were he to sit on FE were the problem – not the fact that he’s a party member or participates in the party.

    After all, there are a multitude of ways someone can contribute to the party without having to take up a role on a prominent federal committee.

  • I think what has happened in other disciplinaries of late shows that we are getting better; the problem comes because this one, which was very high profile, was before the various rule changes it prompted (obviously) and thus nobody was happy with the result. If everybody was happy with the result – or even a majority – we would not have had to have the rule changes.

    Justice was neither done nor seen to be done from the point of view of Chris or the complainants, and that showed a system not fit for purpose. It is unsurprising, then, that hardly anyone has confidence in it’s results. However (sorry Mr Gove) the rules have now changed; anyone dealt with under current disciplinary rules faces a very different prospect to the one faced by Chris.

    So yes, this particular case will probably continue to rumble on because it’s still the case nobody is happy with the result; but I don’t think the problem will occur after another disciplinary – or at least not this badly.

  • I think we must all thank Chris Rennard for his great loyalty to the party in such difficult circumstances. I hope that the party can do some reconciliation so that we can move on through the hurt on both sides and emerge the stronger for it.

  • Meenakshi Minnis 17th Nov '15 - 3:28pm

    Am glad Chris changed his mind from Friday (on twitter individuals said that Tim had asked him to stand down and he refused). Why it had to take for an imminent threat of special conference, a letter from the near 20,000 new members to ask him to step down and Tim to put an official ask on here is beyond me.

    Yes Chris was found innocent til proven guilty, but this is not a criminal case and in the new guidelines which are similar to that in a workplace, harrassment would not allow this now situation to have occurred. Chris should be grateful for it being the older guidelines. The newer rules weren’t the rules by which Chris was investigated so we ended up in the halfway house situation whereby, although innocent by those standards, the members were not satisfied.

    If we as a political party and real force want to appeal to our electorate, we cannot have situations like these. I would hope that the next time this happens, that the individual pulls away earlier to avoid dirty laundry being aired.

    Am glad Chris has withdrawn from the FE and now can we focus on moving onwards to help Jane in Oldham and fighting the ridiculous tory policies harming anyone who isn’t rich?

  • peter tyzack 17th Nov '15 - 3:52pm

    Chris’s party loyalty, experience and wisdom should have kicked in before he put his name on the ballot paper..

  • He should never have stood in the first place.

  • Tom Snowdon 17th Nov '15 - 4:39pm

    @ George Potter
    I thought we were evidence based and governed by rules and procedures. You cannot say that someone has the right to be a member, but they haven’t got the right to stand at a certain level in the party. Who decides what level is acceptable ? This sounds like overturning election results that you don’t like. I wasn’t happy that CR was elected to the FE. I wasn’t happy that the Lords voted for him. But I would defend his right under our current rules to stand for election.
    He has now done the right thing in the interests of the party, and the right place to discuss these issues is at the next federal conference.

  • Meenakshi Minnis
    ” I would hope that the next time this happens”
    There is going to be no next time. Temperance will prevail.

  • Ruth Bright 17th Nov '15 - 5:23pm

    Thanks to Tim the party at last edges its way into the 21st century.

  • I’m not a Lib Dem so it’s not really my pace to comment here other than to say what George Potter has done here is admirable.

  • Julie Maxon 17th Nov '15 - 6:55pm

    A sad day for the party in my view. Someone is accused of something, but not actually charged or found guilty of committing a crime. However, it appears that doesn’t matter because despite our values which declare otherwise, the person concerned will be subject to unfair discrimination forever. A precedent has been set today and it is not one I am at all comfortable with. If someone who has not actually been found guilty of a crime is unable to serve on the FE, does that also mean no ex-offenders are welcome in our party structures? If the cries in answer to that are, of course they are, then double standards are being applied. Why are some people being treated differently? If some members are unhappy with the Lords having representation on the FE, why was this not raised at a previous conference? It only became an issue because of the person elected. I think Chris Rennard’s statement was dignified but I am very sorry he had to make it. Tim’s statement had asked Chris to stand down and also said a special conference was not in the best interests of the party. Tim did not however comment on the issues of trial by social media or cyber bullying. He could have taken the opportunity to remind members of some important liberal values, which to be honest they should not have needed reminding of but what has happened would suggest they have been forgotten (or have been ignored) by some. I am sad and disappointed and currently considering my future as a Lib Dem.

  • Well at least Tim Farron demonstrated genuine leadership with respect to this matter with the sensible outcome showing all concerned realised the distress of many. He was also correct to say a special conference was in many respects a “distraction” to the many other matters where members should be gathering and focussing on.
    With respect to Lord Rennards appeal to have the outcomes of the investigation taken more account of – in many ways he is absolutely correct so lets all hope it was not just a case of “giving a dog a bad name”!
    Time to move on everyone, hopefully onwards and upwards.

  • David Evans 19th Nov '15 - 2:22am

    It is good to see one person is not prepared to threaten to destroy the party to get his/her own way. My worry is that the group that held the party to hostage and threatened to destroy it will be emboldened and see themselves as victors, when Liberal Democracy has been the loser.

  • For goodness sake, the people claiming Chris was ‘found innocent’ are surely overstating the case! ‘Not proven’ is surely the best that can be said.
    And there is a strong whiff of taint about the way even that verdict was reached, partly because of the requirement imposed for a criminal standard of proof. I do not know if that standard was adopted in order to try to manipulate the case or just through lack of competence, but in a case of multiple allegations of sexual harassment/ molestation, most volunteer organisations would consider the balance of probabilities (as in a defamation case) to be the standard for expelling/not expelling someone, let alone allowing them to serve on the ruling body! That way, the accused person can take action in the courts if they are aggrieved.

    Lastly, people really should search Lib Dem Voice for the names Bridget Harris, Alison Goldsworthy, Susan Gaczszak and Alison Smith. All of these people are competent, talented, hardworking women who have been driven out of our party completely . Unfortunately they are never coming back, but I for one am pleased that there are still members in this party in considerable numbers who have had the courage to stand up and say ‘up with this we will not put!’. Sometimes principle has to come before party.

  • David Allen 19th Nov '15 - 6:06pm

    One way to describe these events is as a power struggle between two groups within a political party. In such circumstances, it is rare that one side’s behaviour and motivations are irredeemably black, while the other side are white as the driven snow. It should follow that neither side deserves total defeat, but it is often the case that one side clearly does win, while the other loses. In this case, however, both sides would seem to have lost, and the Party has lost.

    Clearly there are serious people who sincerely believe that to reject a private request from the leader of the party, and then to accept the request only when it had to be made in public, is an act of statesmanship and magnanimity. Clearly there are those who believe that when a disgraced politician demands rapid political rehabilitation and is refused it, this amounts to “unfair discrimination forever”. I would suggest that those who make such arguments should turn their minds away from the questions of gender conflict, and toward the standards of behaviour that should be expected in terms of pure political sensitivity and loyalty.

    Ed Miliband is someone who has suffered a pretty rough time, and is bound to feel a sense of injustice. But how might he have expected his Labour colleagues to react, if he had already jumped up and shouted “I demand rapid rehabilitation! Give me a powerful position, or I’ll make trouble! I’m going to go on tour with this Edstone and make sure I hit the headlines!” Of course, Ed has had the sense not to do any of that. Maybe one day his party will want him back, at some level of responsibility. Ed seems to understand that his best prospects for that will be to wait quietly, and see if he eventually gets an invitation.

    “Disgraced” politicians do, in many cases, make an eventual comeback. Rennard won’t, not now. His own behaviour – in a specifically political sense – will surely be the main reason why.

  • David Evans 19th Nov '15 - 7:20pm

    GP Purnell – You say “Sometimes principle has to come before party”, but which principle do you think is coming before party here?

    Based on the wording of the motion, it is difficult to see more than a ‘We don’t want the HoL to have an elected representative on Federal Executive, and we are prepared to call a Special Conference to prevent it’. Unless of course that is code for a “We don’t want Chris Rennard on Federal Executive.’ In both cases I find it impossible to arrive at a viewpoint that this is in any way consistent with Liberal Democrat principle which is embedded in the Preamble to the Constitution, nor is it consistent with the words of Helena Morrissey that “There is no justification for it remaining ambivalent towards Lord Rennard – he should be just as welcome a participant or guest at Party events as any other.”

    So I repeat, which principle do you think is coming before party here?

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