Chris Rennard elected to Federal Executive by Lib Dem peers

There has as yet been no official confirmation, but it is being widely reported that the Lib Dem group in the House of Lords has elected Chris Rennard as its representative on the party’s Federal Executive.

First, here is a reminder from the party website (where you can see the other current members) of the FE’s role:

The Federal Executive (FE) is the governing body of the Federal Party. It is responsible for directing, co-ordinating, and implementing the work of the Federal Party.

The FE is Chaired by the Party President, and has representatives of the members (15 members elected by Conference), the state parties, MPs, Peers, MEPs, and councillors.

Secondly, here is what Helena Morrissey said in her progress report nearly a year ago:

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.

However, to say that that is unlikely to prevent this being a controversial move by Lib Dem peers would perhaps be taking the art of understatement to extreme levels.

You are welcome to express your thoughts in the comments below (all of which will be approved by a member of the editorial team before being published), but our commenting rules apply just as much, if not more so, where there are strongly held, but divergent views.

Comments on this post are now closed. The debate continues here.

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122 Comments

  • Sadly, I expect this will lead to us losing quite a lot of our shiny new members. And probably quite a lot of old ones too.

  • To quote our current leader, and the last one…

    Nick Clegg – “He should apologise, it’s not just me saying that. The QC – an independent judge – looked into this and he said there wasn’t enough evidence for him to recommend action but he felt the women were speaking with credibility and should be believed and that Lord Rennard should think on his behaviour and apologise. It is a matter of great regret – to put it mildly – that he hasn’t.” source – http://news.sky.com/story/1196066/rennard-no-apology-over-sex-harassment-claims

    Tim Farron: “I have no intention of appointing him to any role in the party.” source – http://www.markpack.org.uk/133285/what-role-would-rennard-have-under-a-new-lib-dem-leader/

    And here’s what Tim emailed to members last year: https://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farrons-email-to-lib-dem-members-explaining-the-suspension-of-lord-rennard-37907.html

  • And here’s Chris’ apology:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/lord-rennard-issues-apology-to-four-women-regret-for-any-harm-or-embarrassment-
    caused-to-them-40485.html

    He broke no law and was cleared by an investigation and has apologised for his inappropriate actions. Let him rehabilitate himself.

  • Is it a matter of public record who the alternative(s) was/were? (ie was he elected as he was the only candidate, or who was the person or persons that were deemed by Peers to be less able and appropriate than him?)

  • Reports are that he defeated Tim Razzall 40-20 in the election.

  • Lennon: his opponent was Tim Razzle, who is very well-qualified and competent. Reports say the result was 40 votes to 20 in favour of Rennard, so not all the Lords voted, but a significant chunk.

  • lloyd harris 12th Nov '15 - 10:29am

    If Rennard has any common sense he would just keep his head down and carry on his work as a member of the House of Lords or retire to a ‘normal’ life. I don’t believe he has anything to add any more to the running of the party.

  • That is only 60 votes. If this site is correct and it should be we have 108 life peers and 4 hereditary peers so 112 in total.

    Were there only 2 candidates and 60 votes cast?

    http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/lords/composition-of-the-lords/

  • Sam, yes there were 2 candidates and 60 votes cast. For reference, 54% turnout is pretty much what we got for the recent leadership election.

  • I just can’t believe it. At a time when we were reuniting and rebuilding after such a brutal election result 40 people have opened a wound that had barely, if at all, healed. This has gained us nothing at all – when we need to be fighting a by-eletion *this* is what the national press will be asking us about an reporting on, if anything.

  • Laura Gordon 12th Nov '15 - 11:04am

    I can’t decide who I’m more annoyed with?

    Rennard, who must know that at this point he’s only damaging the party he claims to love, yet keeps on digging.
    (Yes, I know the enquiry found for him – but surely being an active member of the party and Lords is enough. You have to be pretty entitled to think that the benefits of you-and-only-you being on FE outweigh the cost of dividing the party)

    The Lords who voted for him, who are either ignorant of the way this will be seen by party and media or just don’t care. I’m assuming the latter because none of them are stupid and it’s pretty obvious how this will be seen.

    The Lords who didn’t bother to vote and who could have got us out of this mess.

    Minor side-eye at the leadership, who could have spotted this happening and lobbied, but I doubt they could have helped much.

  • Laura Gordon 12th Nov '15 - 11:05am

    ATF. Yes, exactly. Very well put.

  • I really cannot imagine what those 40 Peers thought they were doing. The effect is to sabotage our potential revival.
    What do we do now ? I hope that senior figures in The Party are looking into every possibility of blocking this appointment or forcing Peers to re-run this election with all of them present.
    Perhaps someone with a high profile could start a petition asking Rennard to withdraw ?

  • @ Jennie “Sadly, I expect this will lead to us losing quite a lot of our shiny new members. And probably quite a lot of old ones too”. Correct, as was ATF. Laura Gordon sums it up very politely.

  • Russel McPhate 12th Nov '15 - 12:03pm

    It is a truth, however inconvenient, that whatever we think of Chris Rennard personally, a properly conducted inquiry carried out at the correct time would have exonerated him because of the standard of proof required and that would have left him free to pursue any role or position within the party that he chose. It also a truth, equally inconvenient but essential, that in a democratic organisation the leadership cannot impose their will and people are entitled to vote as they choose – right or wrong. It is difficult to see how the party can do anything but accept Chris Rennard in this role without violating its principles no matter how disagreeable that may be to some of us.

  • We have some constitutional actions available to us, including a special conference to pass a censure motion against our peers and remove the Lords’ seat on FE. Please get in touch if you’re interested.

  • Some of you appear keen to develop a new ‘liberal’ approach to the justice system: those not found guilty of breaking any law should be punished; the accused has no right to work on their own rehabilitation.

    I have been extremely critical of the MPs for Sheffield Hallam and Orkney & Shetland (for very different reasons) but, as a Liberal, I would vigorously defend their right to self rehabilitation.

    It would appear that some members of the House of Lords have decided to give us an example of how Liberals should apply their core values.

  • I must agree with jennie, ATF and Laura Gordon, among others….Today’s Guardian (hardly the most anti-LibDem media voice) covers the story thus…”Peer accused of sexual harassment elected to Lib Dem ruling body”…

    Sadly, every time Rennard is mentioned there will be an attached caveat of his ‘history’…. Surely he, and his fellow peers, must have foreseen this;or do they just not care?

  • George Potter 12th Nov '15 - 12:32pm

    I think the peers new EXACTLY what they were doing. There’s no way they couldn’t know what problems their decision would cause.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest this is a power play – the Lords taking advantage of their numerical dominance in terms of our parliamentarians to try and exert the influence. And I really don’t think they should be allowed to get away with it.

    We have a governance review at the moment – why not scrap the Lords seat on FE entirely? FE is too big already anyway.

  • Dave Orbison 12th Nov '15 - 12:46pm

    Well it puts the so called outrage into a couple of Corbyn’s appointments into perspective. Seems there’s nothing like an ‘old boys network’ in the HofL.

  • Unbelievable, and we wonder why people do not vote for us.
    The House of Lords is an ancient fossil, I am sure it has relatives in the cliffs at Lyme Regis. It needs to be hit by an asteroid and ended with. We should set ourselves as an example and withdraw all peers and never appoint any more.
    .

  • We can let this damage us by needless blogging or we can ignore the man and all his works. As one of a very much larger number he will hardly be a power in the land. One way for sure to lose members is if we keep harping on about it. Renard isn’t worth it.

  • Already a member of Y&H exec resigned 🙁

  • *facepalm*

    Perhaps the power has gone to their heads? Or it just gives us another reason to abolish the Lords, to simply get rid of people from the party who just don’t understand it?

    Just a thought though – could FE members who object to him being there make it clear that they will not attend FE meetings at which he is present?

  • I agree entirely with Laura. Nothing I say below provides any excuse to Rennard or the Lords who elected him to FE.

    I would add one more criticism. A central part of our vision is of a bottom-up democracy, using a healthily sceptical attitude to hold the powerful to account. If we can’t do that in our own party then how do we expect to move the country in that direction?

    How many members had any idea this election was taking place? I’m a reasonably engaged member and I had no idea. If ordinary party members aren’t scrutinising the operations of our party then we have to expect the upper echelons will make decisions with scant consideration of the opinion of or consequences for the party’s grassroots.

    The task of scrutinising our party is made much more difficult by the party’s labyrinthine governance structures. Nobody joins the Lib Dems to keep an eye on FE elections – we all have other things to be getting on with too. Yet we all could have found out who was running and campaigned for a more desirable outcome. Any one of us could have flagged Rennard’s candidacy to Rock The Boat to get the ball rolling.

    Our party simply can’t afford any self-inflicted wounds. The electorate left us in a life-critical situation in May.

  • I imagine that the Peers consider that the advantages out weigh the disadvantages. There may be reasons why Chris Rennard remains a revered figure within the Party; elsewhere I have seen comments lamenting that the Party does not have somone of his abilities and experience to direct and manage strategy.

  • Max Wilkinson 12th Nov '15 - 2:46pm

    Martin,
    If he was a strategic genius, he’d presumably know why getting himself elected to an influential party body would be a strategic error.

  • Charles Rothwell 12th Nov '15 - 3:09pm

    Is this some kind of joke??? Party members are working their socks off to give the Fightback legs. We had a great Regional Conference (packed to the rafters) last weekend and a local party AGM last night in which we received the news that the local membership had increased 100% since this time last year. The very, very last thing we need is names being flashed around which (whatever the truth of the matter) are simply poison to women and progressive members/potential supporters), combined with any hint that the Lords are operating without reference to the wider party/Leader’s office in particular. I hope Tim sorts this out pronto. We should be focusing ALL our energies on OLDHAM not allowing people whose name is anathema to many to stir things up in the fossilised graveyard which would be an affront to any advanced nation which (impossibly) could even dream up such a body as a second chamber!

  • Could we do as Justin Trudeau of the Canadian Liberal party did, and cut the formal link between liberals in a broken upper house (they sit in the Senate now as indepndents)? People criticised Trudeau for this, saying it was naive, but ….

  • I wonder if the people who poured scorn on Labour with such glee and no little malice for electing the ‘wrong’ leader will take a moment to ponder. Joe Otten could possibly write a poem on the matter as he did with Corbyns election as leader.

  • Toby Fenwick 12th Nov '15 - 4:21pm

    I’m appalled, both at the Lords’ decision and the crass stupidity of Rennard running at all. I’d support whatever constitutional route to removing him.

  • George Potter 12th Nov '15 - 4:30pm

    There will be a petition to collect signatures for a special conference going live very soon. I’ll post it here when it does.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Nov '15 - 4:33pm

    Re-read this article from a few weeks back, and with the benefit of hindsight, tell me why someone outside the HOL didn’t see this possibility?

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/lord-paul-tyler-writeseffective-opposition-48075.html

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Nov '15 - 4:56pm

    I was shocked by this news and I think George Potter has come up with a great idea of scrapping the Lords seat on the Federal Executive. I see others have backed the idea too.

    No one is seeking criminal punishment, this is about who the party likes and trusts and if it is someone with a load of allegations against him then it doesn’t look good.

    As Lloyd Harris says: he should just keep his head down, not start applying for official leadership positions.

  • Thanks Kav, have filled out the form, and George!

  • Dave Orbison 12th Nov '15 - 5:20pm

    It is annoying when a bunch of has-beens can’t let go, can’t move on and rather than support the new leadership decide they would rather gang-up together to support one of their kind regardless of the damage this does to the credibility of the leader and the party. By supporting a political relic from the past with to say the least a ‘blotted copy book’, they have actively undermined the leader. They have encouraged our political opponents to have sport at the expense of our party and yet they do not represent the wider views held within the party membership who are keen to leave this behind and forge a bright new future. Farron facing the same problems as Corbyn – annoying isn’t it?

  • George’s petition for the special conference can be found here, if it’s not been linked to already:

    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1o30FTQxirZmReej0M5PuI2tMIWr1ayJOtXlxWOqrlnk/viewform

  • Nick Collins 12th Nov '15 - 5:43pm

    This is beginning to look like a witch hunt. There is only one sensible comment above: that of Phil Rimmer.

  • One of the suggestions I made in response to the governance consultations was that the FE should operate as a ‘board’ – that is with specific responsibilities for its members and collective responsibility for all – but not as a kind of mini-parliament with representatives from every imaginable group in the party.

    That would give a much tighter management at the top which is clearly needed.

  • I am very sad to see that Katherine Bavage has left the Party 🙁

  • You are all doing exactly the right thing to ensure this one gets dragged on and on at the expense of the current by-election in Oldham. I have no time whatsoever for Renard, but he’s really not worth all this effort. You also ensure the maximum publicity for this stuff, which is just what we don’t need. It really is time to behave as Liberals and put this behind you. No good will come of it.

  • @ Phyllis re. Katherine………………………… Me too….. but can’t say I blame her

  • Does anyone know which peers voted for him? It would be interesting to know if any “big” names supported him.

  • Tony Greaves 13th Nov '15 - 1:46am

    Well well, hysteria breaks out again. Though why LDV thinks it right to stir it all up is a mystery they can answer…

    First the facts – the voting was 44 for Rennard and 25 for Razzall, with three abstentions. There were about 105 or 106 LD peers when the vote took place though I think the other five or six still waiting to come in had the chance to vote from afar (I know two who did not on the grounds they were not yet “proper peers”). So the turnout was about 70%. I am aware of a handful of deliberate abstensions but not enough to change the result. That all adds up to most of those who would be in or around the House at the time.

    Second, I’ve talked to a few people and I don’t think anyone voted to “make a point” in relation to past controversy. The fact is that Chris Rennard is the most competent and effective election campaigner we have, and the person who knows most about how the party organisation has worked at national level and what a mess it is now. It’s that kind of thing that people voted for (and to declare my interest, including me). It’s that kind of input that the FE needs.

    I suggest that the people trying to stir things up – or promote nonsenses like a special conference to tear ourselves apart – and achieve what? – should just take a hard look at themselves and get a sense of proportion. Who is stirring things up? Certainly not the Liberal Democrat peers.

    And by the way, the Liberal Democrat Lords party are an autonomous section of the party, we decide our own rules (standing orders) and we elect our own officers and representatives. Which is as it should be in a Liberal party. Other parties can run themselves on the Fuhrerprincip if they wish.

    Tony Greaves

  • Mick, with regret, I must agree with Eleanor.

  • Mick Taylor 13th Nov '15 - 8:02am

    Sorry Eleanor, the press will only latch onto this if we blow it up. No amount of shouting on anyone’s part is going to change the fact that Rennard has not been found guilty of any offence or disciplined by the party in any way. Many people may find that extremely regrettable, but nothing we do will change it. All we can do is drag it on and on to no effect, but to the detriment of the party. To talk about disciplining the Lords for exercising their absolute right to elect who they want is highly illiberal. How would people feel if the representatives of say Liberal Youth were removed from a party body because some, even a majority, of the party didn’t like them? I am unhappy that anyone should leave the party for any reason, but those who do so because of Rennard are giving the man a credence he simply doesn’t deserve. And to those who think Tim Farron can or ought to do anything about it, think again. The leader, rightly, has no power to make or veto appointments to any party body.

  • Zoe O'connell 13th Nov '15 - 9:16am

    Tony – if you and the majority of other members of the House Lords believe that electing Rennard is not “stirring things up”, then the Lords is so out of touch with the rest of the party that losing the FE seat seems entirely the right course of action.

    Peers could still stand for FE as individuals if they wish, and the members could decide if they are in touch enough to be given the responsibility for running the party. In any other situation, it would be considered bizarre and undemocratic to allow a mostly unelected 0.2% of the membership to control 4% of the ruling group.

  • I am dismayed by the total silence of Tim Farron. The Party is hurting and he says nothing.

  • Mick Taylor

    There is never a good time. Women have been told to keep quiet for far too long. I’m saddened byKatherine Bavages resignation and all the more so that she didn’t have other women standing down en masse with her. Where is sisterhood? I’m sure Tim would have to speak up if 50 women stood shoulder to shoulder and resigned. If the suffragettes had let line women make a stand, we would still not have the vote. It’s all very well to sayyid have to change from within but there never is any change is there? Just told to be quiet because it’s not a good time, ‘ the press will latch on to it’ and finally to ‘ get over it’. Come on Lib Dem women!

  • @Mick Taylor

    They latched on to it before most members even knew. We could have not said a word and they would have done the same. It is a story, simple as that.

  • I’m a little confused on this one so please forgive me.

    Of what has Lord Rennard been found guilty?

  • Very dismayed by Tony Greaves’ comment above. The willful ignorance of why this is such a massive self-inflicted wound is staggering. He wants people to stop ‘stirring’, as he puts it – as long as members are left feeling powerless and women continue to leave the party, I’m sorry, we will not.

  • Nick Collins 13th Nov '15 - 10:22am

    Well said, Tony Greaves: the voice of reason, as ever.

  • peter tyzack 13th Nov '15 - 10:26am

    I am with so many above, and I endorse George Potter’s suggestion of scrapping the Lords seat on FE. As we want to reform the Lords that would seem a logical next step. You propose it to Spring Conference, George, I will second it.

  • Meanwhile in another part of the political jungle a certain Mr Uduwerage-Perera IS expelled from the party and people rush in to demand of the leader and the president that he be reinstated. No-one in the party can more committed than I am to eliminating all forms of discrimination and to ensuring that women are treated as equals and not told to be quiet. My track record of getting women elected as councillors and utilising their talents fully should speak for itself. It seems to me that if due process is followed and the result is not to people’s liking then they go on and on and on about it with no chance of changing the decision, to the detriment of the party. Rennard’s case was dealt with under the old rules, Uduwerage-Perera ‘s under the new ones. Of course it would be much preferable if Rennard took a back seat from now on and that Peers were more sensitive than they appear to have been, but to start dictating to Peers – or any other section of the party – about who they should choose as their own representatives is not acceptable in a Liberal Party. One final point and then I shall not respond further. The most that Tim Farron could do is to say he is unhappy at the Peer’s choice. He may have decided that since he can’t do a damn thing about it that he should say nothing and concentrate on something he can influence, namely ensuring that our processes and procedures are right going forward.

  • Phyllis: *hug* While I applaud Kat, and will miss her as my regional secretary, I believe that change is better effected from the inside. I’m using all the leverage I’ve got to try and do so, even if it burns me goodwill from my friends (sorry Mick)

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Nov '15 - 11:01am

    I think Tony Greaves is wrong on this because it is the Lords’ extreme insensitivity which has understandably provoked this reaction. It is not Chris Rennard’s fault that the party failed so spectacularly to investigate the women’s complaints, nor is it his fault that the eventual delayed process was so not fit for purpose that nobody has confidence in the outcome. However, that is not the entire cause of the damage that has been done by this awful episode. I get that Chris Rennard’s friends in the Lords will want to support him. If it was your brother, or your dad or your friend, you would too. It is the manner of that support that got so many people’s backs up. Tony Greaves’ and others’ belittlement of sexual harassment in general and the denigration of the women in particular was deeply disturbing. The only time I went on the media during the whole scandal was after being incensed by Chris Davies’ comments here. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/10585761/It-was-like-an-Italian-pinching-a-womans-bottom-says-Lord-Rennard-ally.html

    This sort of behaviour towards women is inappropriate at any time, and I actually was ashamed to see our parliamentarians justifying it.

    The problem with the House of Lords group is that it is unaccountable to nobody in the party constitution and it knows it. I am sure it knew perfectly well that forcing Rennard on the party would cause huge shock waves, but it did it anyway, regardless of the inevitable political cost of ripping open the “women problem” scars. The inevitable upshot of this is that there will have to be some serious curbs on the Lords group in the upcoming Governance Review. Nobody should be allowed to have untrammelled, unchecked power. It goes against liberal principle.

  • @Tony Greaves ” The fact is that Chris Rennard is the most competent and effective election campaigner we have”

    Well it’s true we gained a whole bunch of seats, but they were based on such a shaky foundation of votes that half of the voters disappeared when we went into coalition.

  • Tony is right.
    This is not necessary, not sensible and not very democratic.
    The Party has elected idiots to various committees at times.
    It would be nice if LDV did not push the story. We have a by-election .

  • Laurence Cox 13th Nov '15 - 11:15am

    I am very disappointed by the animosity shown here in LDV. The only fact that matters is that Chris Rennard was properly elected under the Party’s Constitution. We all wish that the Party had made a better job of dealing with the allegations against him when they were first raised, but they did not and we cannot punish him now by taking away his seat on FE because the Party failed to act properly then. That would be a breach of natural justice.

    As Tony Greaves quite correctly points out, the House of Lords party are an autonomous section of the party and the election was properly carried out under their standing orders and the Federal Party Constitution. Liberals here need to remember that we are the Liberal DEMOCRATS and if they want to ditch democracy just because the ‘wrong’ person was elected, they should join a different party.

  • Helen Tedcastle 13th Nov '15 - 11:25am

    I agree with Tony Greaves.

    The hysteria generated here and elsewhere only serves to help the party’s opponents and those in the media who enjoy stirring up discord.

  • @Beckley

    Many of us know at least one of the people involved with the original allegations. Personally, I worked with one whilst employed by the party and do no doubt what she said on record for one second. That she is out of the party and Lord Rennard now sits on the FE is, to me, deeply wrong.

  • Brilliant. We have just lost nearly 90% of our MPs and are fighting for our very existence, yet some in the party want to call a special conference to drag us further into the mire and LDV gives them a platform to do it.

    Throughout the Clegg years, while the disaster unfolded and we lost over twenty thousand members, two thousand councillors, many MSPs and all but one of our MEPs; when two votes in Conference on Secret Courts were deliberately ignored by Nick; and idiocies like the NHS Reforms and the Bedroom tax were being put through by a government we were part of, nothing of the sort came about. At that time LDV regularly put up pieces designed to puff up Nick, and support the status quo while modrating into near oblivion huge amounts of comment from those wanting to turn things around.

    However now some in the party have to have their pound of flesh, LDV puts yet another article out on it, which enables them to rake over the coals again. Other than this one, I wonder how many times there has been an article on a group’s election of its rep to Federal Exec?

  • “We have a by-election” Of course. We should all just shut up and deliver leaflets like good little boys and girls.

    At the very least Jane Brophy should come out and say what her position is on the issue before we are all expected to campaign for her.

  • @ Caron Lindseay, “It goes against liberal principle”. Well, so does raising a Lynch Mob which the original, conveniently anonymous article did yesterday. The fact that you should step in a day later to stir that Lynch Mob up afresh is appalling. What were LDVs reasons for deciding to take this approach?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Nov '15 - 1:30pm

    @Phil Rimmer: The article was a factual reporting of news which would interest our readers. Given the number of comments and the fact that it’s easily the top read story of the week, then it clearly does. It would have been odd if we hadn’t covered it. We did so neutrally. It is hardly earth-shattering to say that this would be confidential. And criticising the Lords is not the same as “whipping up a lynch mob.” To suggest that anyone in this party would do such a thing is completely outrageous and I would ask you to withdraw that inappropriate phrase.

  • @ Tony Greaves :

    Sorry, Tony, but I’m afraid I’m not with you on this one…… there is something profoundly illiberal about people being given a lifetime job and then not taking account of the entirely predictable storm and negative publicity in the media about their unaccountable action.

    The whole episode has been a mess……..from what I have read of the women’s comments I agree with the report that their complaints are “compelling”.

  • I am angry and disappointed. Our peers are:

    – totally ignorant of the impact this will have, demonstrating breathtaking political ineptitude, and/or
    – determined to secure Rennard’s rehabilitation at all costs, despite the undiminished concern over his behaviour, and regardless of his exoneration by a discredited process. The motivation for this may be based on his prior service, or
    – a philosophical predilection for contrariness, normally laudible in Lib Dems but sometimes taken to suicidal
    extremes.

    This goes straight to the heart of the party’s inability/unwillingness to grapple with equality issues. It directly undermines Tim’s position as set out in his video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_MAEKIX9MM. Tim’s response will be the touchstone. Get this wrong and we’re toast.

    Whilst we cannot ‘un-peer’ them or remove the Whip, a means must be found to dissociate the party from such recklessness by the Peers. Is removing automatic representation of Peers from the Exec enough? Perhaps a constitutional amendmend to ‘regularise’ the Peers position by introducing a Whip is what is required, with the consequent loss of a little charming eccentricity. Will it send out the right message to party (who runs it) and country (what we stand for)? I’m not sure that it will but the Exec must come up with something that does.

    In the wider political context we need our Peers to counteract the worst excesses of the Government, as was ably demonstrated recently over benefit cuts. This is particularly important given our poor representation in the Commons. How would any constraints on the Peers be affected by that? Peers would still be free to vote with their consciences. Would they have voted differently on benefit cuts? Would they vote differently from the party on future issues? This not to ignore that issues of conscience will arise from time to time to split us temporarily. Rennard’s election may not split us but may degrade us permanently.

    Unless we get this sorted out we will finish up with Liberal purists talking only to each other. Pragmatists will have left.

  • ATF – I repeat, of what has Lord Rennard been found guilty, at least by a qualified agency or Authority?

  • @ Robin Lynn “a little charming eccentricity”

    Not much of any of those three adjectives in this mess.

  • Drew Durning 13th Nov '15 - 3:09pm

    The Lords who voted for Chris Rennard are so far out of touch it is shocking. Tony Greaves you should be ashamed. This is A PR nightmare caused by those votes not this blog.

    Is this an annual election? Next time if thousands of members lobby the Lords before the election then perhaps they can be made to see sense.

  • Helen Tedcastle 13th Nov ’15 – 11:25am……………I agree with Tony Greaves……………The hysteria generated here and elsewhere only serves to help the party’s opponents and those in the media who enjoy stirring up discord…………

    I’d not call it hysteria; more like disbelief followed by anger. As for ‘helping’ opponents /media, that will happen anyway; a more sensible approach, by the Lords, would , at least, not have ‘given them the spoon”…..

  • Who voted for him?

  • David Evans 13th Nov '15 - 4:37pm

    So now we have a petition being raised to call a special conference simply to debate whether the Lib Dem peers should have the right to appoint a rep onto the Federal Executive. Do some people not have anything better to do than to think of ways to waste huge amounts of their and other members’ time?

  • Denis Loretto 13th Nov '15 - 4:57pm

    Clearly, as this thread shows, there are differing views on the issue of the judgement of the HOL members in electing Chris Rennard to the FE. Whatever “side” people are on, it is in my view something approaching madness to call a special conference of the whole party on this internal matter. I for one will have nothing to do with it.

  • Looking at this practically, as some one wholly ignorant of the small details of the party’s constitution, it does not seem on the face of it logistically possible to hold a special conference before Christmas. If that is the case, would not it be better to leave the matter until the party’s normal spring conference ?

  • Tony Greaves 13th Nov '15 - 6:40pm

    I am not ashamed of anything except the utterly illiberal behaviour of a lot of people here and elsewhere who call themselves Liberals or perhaps liberals. You ought all to be ashamed of yourselves though you are clearly not.

    “Tony Greaves’ and others’ belittlement of sexual harassment in general and the denigration of the women in particular was deeply disturbing.” I am appalled by this remark by a leading owner of this site. It is defamatory and completely untrue as far as the first part is concerned. I have spent my life opposing that kind of thing and helping to promote women in politics and in the party, both generally and individually.

    What I will not do is always assume that just because someone is a woman, she is automatically right. Such an attitude is fundamentally illiberal, as it would be applied to any other group. And in my personal judgement the actions of two of the four accusers were unjustified and vindictive. That is my personal judgement and if that is “denigration” so be it.

    David Raw and others – unlike almost everyone in this argument I have actually seen and read the Webster report (albeit at a skim speed). The conclusion that there was no case to answer was evidently correct. But no – the mob has reformed and the hue and cry pursued – to the utterly crazy level of trying to bring down the one section of the party that now has the chance to challenge this awful new Tory Government. But hey – who cares about tax credits, housing, refugees, immigration, electoral gerrymandering, the destruction of local services, child poverty, our members of the EU – or anything else – when we can join in a tabloid style hue and cry have a sacrificial Liberal to string up and make us all feel good because – it doesn’t matter who – people feel angry and SOMEONE HAS TO SUFFER! (Too much Tudor stuff on the TV, it seems).

    And by the way, Caron LIndsay, the Lords are parliamentarians. Any attempt to put “serious curbs on the Lords’power” by the party (other than to appoint a person to a small number of party committees – wow, big deal!) would be quite unconstitutional. Just saying.

    All of you – look in the mirror and get a sense of perspective.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 13th Nov '15 - 6:43pm

    James Murray – let’s just be very clear. Four people made accusations. They were all investigated – by the police, by the party, and by the party again. Triple jeopardy. And in every case, not even “not guilty” but NO CASE TO ANSWER.

    End of.

  • Matt (Bristol) 13th Nov '15 - 8:06pm

    Look, I’m not ecstatic about this from the little I understand of the matter and I speak from a long way afar in terms of my (non) relationship to the LibDem corridors of power, but after some thought:
    a) As I said before, this surely could have been seen coming? There are people in this thread who are on FE who seem to be surprised. How is this so? does the HoL team not notify the rest of the party when they are holding elections, and who are the candidates?
    b) If the party is going to have a profile of Lord Rennard on its website which is pretty fulsome about his history and achievements, one is led by the information the party is putting out to believe that he is a full participant in the party and one is certainly led by the comments about him and by him elsewhere on this site that he and others continue to believe he is. This issue ain’t going away, whether or not you think it should. Outrage – even righteous outrage – ain’t going to help.
    c) Since Tim Farron has committed the party to the high-risk strategy of using the Lords to block Tory policy wherever possible, the Lords have a lot of effective power at the moment as the tool the Party is using to get its voice across in public. Severing links with them on what some of them would feel would be a whim (I don’t think it is) would be daft and just heaping self-harm on self-harm.
    d) Everything Mark Pack says on his site about it being silly for the party to have little sanction for disciplinary procedures beyond removing the Whip (for parliamentarians), suspension from office and expulsion from the party, it totally true.
    e) A disciplinary process that can require someone to mandatorily apologise for something they are simultaneously announced as being ‘acquitted’ of, is a broken process that basically just lays minefields for the future.
    f) Er, so it appears the party may be stuck with this mess for at least a while. B*gger.
    g) Dear people who know what you’re doing, bring on the governance review and make it a good one.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 13th Nov '15 - 8:37pm

    Actually Tony, this is what was quoted in the Mail:

    But Lib Dem peer Tony Greaves also made an astonishing attempt to defend Lord Rennard by describing the complaints as ‘mild sexual advances’ and saying ‘half of the House of Lords’ had probably behaved in a similar way.
    Lord Greaves wrote on an internal party message board: ‘We don’t know the details of anything that may have happened. But it is hardly an offence for one adult person to make fairly mild sexual advances to another. What matters is whether they are . . . rebuffed.
    ‘In passing, I would note and guess that if the allegations as made are a matter for resignation, perhaps around a half of the male members of the Lords over the age of 50 would probably not be seen again.’

    Given that the allegations involved unwanted contact, I’d say it was fair to say that you were belittling the issue.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2284225/Lib-Dem-sex-scandal-Explosive-emails-Team-Clegg-knew-specific-groping-claims-Lord-Rennard.html

    And then Chris Davies goes on about it being like an Italian man pinching a woman’s bottom, as if that in itself is ok behaviour.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/10585761/It-was-like-an-Italian-pinching-a-womans-bottom-says-Lord-Rennard-ally.html

    Tony, it’s 2015. That stuff was never ok, but it was more culturally acceptable 40 years ago. It certainly is not now.

    And, for completeness, here are the links to the judgement. Far from their being no case to answer, Alistair Webster said that Lord Rennard’s actions had caused distress and that there was credible evidence of that.

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/internal-investigation-into-allegations-against-lord-rennard-37847.html

    Following allegations made in a Channel 4 documentary early in 2013 I was appointed under Rule 7.6 of the English Party’s membership rules to investigate and determine whether or not it was appropriate to charge Lord Rennard with acting in a way that had brought the party into disrepute. The charge, if proved, might warrant his expulsion from the Liberal Democrats or other sanction under the Party’s rules.

    Let me be clear from the outset that the evidence suggests that Lord Rennard’s behaviour has caused distress to a number of women, so much so that they came forward several years after the events in question.

    My enquiries were put on hold whilst the police determined whether or not to charge Lord Rennard, following a criminal investigation. The police decided that there would be no charges of this nature.

    Following a well-publicised call for information, my task was to review the evidence which I received and consider whether there was a greater than 50% chance that such a charge could be proved to the standard required by the rules, i.e. proof beyond reasonable doubt.

    It is important to understand that I was required, by the rules, to consider the evidence in the form of written statements. As such I have not made any findings of fact, but rather I offer my considered view on the likelihood that the allegations against Lord Rennard could be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

    I received witness statements from a large number of people, male and female, from all parts of the Party, this included both Lord Rennard and complainants.

    I do not consider it appropriate to publish the evidence which I received, which was obtained on terms of confidentiality. However, given the public interest which this case has aroused, and out of fairness to all parties, I have asked that this statement of my conclusions be made public.

    My view, judging the evidence as a whole, is that there is a less than 50% chance that a charge against Lord Rennard could be proved to the requisite standard.

    In my opinion, the evidence of behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants was broadly credible. However, it is my judgment, considering all of the evidence collected, that it is unlikely that it could be established beyond reasonable doubt that Lord Rennard had intended to act in an indecent or sexually inappropriate way. Without proof of such an intention, I do not consider that such a charge would be tenable.

    I stress that I am not finding that the evidence of the complainants was unreliable. I have specifically discounted suggestions made during the investigation that the incidents had been invented as part of a political campaign against Lord Rennard.

    It is my view that Lord Rennard ought to reflect upon the effect that his behaviour has had and the distress which it caused and that an apology would be appropriate, as would a commitment to change his behaviour in future.

    The second statement on the Sunday: https://www.libdemvoice.org/internal-investigation-into-lord-chris-rennard-new-statement-released-by-alistair-webster-qc-37891.html

    n Wednesday, Alistair Webster, the QC appointed by the party to examine the evidence in the disciplinary case being considered against Lord (Chris) Rennard, released this statement explaining his investigation.

    A further statement has just been released today:

    “In view of the extensive comment which has followed my statement, and in view of some of the statements made by those directly concerned, I wish to make the following quite clear:

    “1. My report to the RPC has not been provided to any other party for one reason only: the Committee had unequivocal advice from independent solicitors that to publish it without the permission of all involved would constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act. It acted upon that advice. There is no question of the report being hidden.

    “2. The alternative is to publish the report with all personal details redacted. This would, in my view, deprive it of any sensible context.

    “3. In view of the advice which we had received, I prepared a summary of my conclusions. Lord Carlile QC has complained that I exceeded my brief by stating anything other than that I had concluded that no charges should be brought.

    “4. I reject that view. It seemed to me that it was eminently reasonable to explain that, in my view, there was credible evidence that events had occurred which had caused distress. To have done otherwise would have been unfair to some of the complainants and would have deprived my conclusions of context.

    “5. The suggestion that Lord Rennard might wish to apologise was not one I envisaged as being contentious. I viewed Lord Rennard, from the weight of the evidence submitted, as being someone who would wish to apologise to those whom he had made to feel uncomfortable, even if he had done so inadvertently. I would consider it to be common manners.

    “6. Similarly, given the evidence, I would expect that Lord Rennard would wish (as I would wish, in a similar position), to reflect upon that which appears to have caused distress. I cannot see either suggestion as contentious.

    “7. The statements made that there were only four statements from the complainants, set against the many others is a gross oversimplification. Other independent statements were highly relevant in my conclusion as to the likelihood of establishing that events had occurred which caused distress.

    “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.”

  • Tony Greaves – None of this would have happened if you and others hadn’t elected Chris Rennard of all people to the Federal Executive. Just saying.

  • @ Caron Lindsay. I will withdraw nothing I have written on this posting.. I consider the tone of the original article, the fact that it was anonymous and your first set of comments to be unacceptable from an LDV editor. With power goes responsibility and I would urge both you and the anonymous writer to to look at the balance you struck here.

  • Caron, in brief, what your are saying is that if you had been in charge of the inquiry you would have come to a different conclusion, which of course is why someone was chosen who had not made a conclusion in advance.

  • Tony Greaves must know he’s won the argument when people start using “quotes from the Daily Mail ” against him.

  • With apologies for the long sentence of many clauses:

    Tony, those of us who not only read the Webster report thoroughly (as opposed to skimming it for the most favourable bits) but also read your own comments as helpfully reproduced by Caron above and Chris’s fauxpology, where he basically admits the facts but says he’s sorry if “inadvertently” groping people upset them, and also seen your unstinting support of him both before and since, might find your assertion that you have spent your life opposing sexual harassment a little hard to swallow. For quite a lot of younger members, all they know about you is “he’s the one who tirelessly defends Rennard. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, and it’s clear there is much disagreement, for the Lords in general and you personally there is lasting and deep damage every time you do this, both within the party and the eyes of the public.

    Of course if this is what you feel is the right thing to do then you must continue to do it. But for the love of God recognise the damage that you are doing. As John Grout says: none of this would have happened if the Lords hadn’t decided to push such a divisive figure onto FE.

  • David Evans: it is not a waste of any Liberal’s time to protest loudly about women being humiliated by the (now what was the form of words again?) the “encroachment of personal space”.

    Chris Rennard told us on LDV that he was inspired by the film Suffragette. That’s a bit like me saying something racist and then saying that I got all teary watching “12 Years a Slave”.

  • Roger Roberts 14th Nov '15 - 5:41pm

    First of all let’s keep Tim out of this. He has no constitutional authority at all in matters like this. Secondly we are in favour of an elected second chamber – the present set up is one that we just have to accept – our Lib Dem Lords fight the liberal battle every day of our lives 3) some can try- (and will it take more than one conference) to amend the party constitution so that Lords representation on the F.E. is denied but is now the time to do that ? Should not our energies be concentrated on the coming elections – if all who have requested a special conference made their way to Oldham it would have a far more positive influence on Lib Dem fortunes – yes, I have been there ! Keep your dismay with the House Of Lords group until a regular Conference!

  • George Kendall 14th Nov '15 - 7:05pm

    I agree with Roger Roberts about keeping Tim out of this.

    And let’s keep Jane Brophy out of it as well. Her opponents in the by-election would like nothing better than to see her caught up in this controversy.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 14th Nov '15 - 7:19pm

    All I can say, @phil rimmer, is that if one neutral, factual post (which I didn’t even write) and a couple of comments is whipping up a lynch mob, then I’m clearly pretty rubbish at it.

  • David Evans 14th Nov '15 - 8:32pm

    Ruth Bright: What you posted in response to me has nothing to do with the point I made and I think you know it. If you want to drag 100s of activists out for a day for a special conference on this when we are have a battle to survive and a constitutional review ongoing, why don’t you just say so? That is what would be a waste of our time.

    Quote from Ruth Bright – David Evans: it is not a waste of any Liberal’s time to protest loudly about women being humiliated by the (now what was the form of words again?) the “encroachment of personal space”.

    Original quote from David Evans – So now we have a petition being raised to call a special conference simply to debate whether the Lib Dem peers should have the right to appoint a rep onto the Federal Executive. Do some people not have anything better to do than to think of ways to waste huge amounts of their and other members’ time?

  • Carol Davies 14th Nov '15 - 9:07pm

    This is one of the most illiberal threads I have ever read. How many times has someone got to be investigated and found to have ‘no case to answer’ before ‘The Crucible’ stops being re- enacted? As for a special conference being called to discuss it – it would turn into a kangaroo court. Well done Phil Rimmer, Tony Greaves and Beckley. – some of the sadly few liberal voices on this thread.

  • David Evans – we have a battle to survive. Spot on. But what are we surviving for if we continue to treat women in this way. Why is there so little interest in the fact that four fantastic women felt so unsupported that they had to resign from the party? The return of any one of these women would be a sign that we had begun to get our house in order.

    Absolutely David Evans. A special conference or picket of FE would be a good use of time.

  • Roger Roberts 15th Nov '15 - 11:17am

    What is this Conference meant to achieve ?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 15th Nov '15 - 1:08pm

    Roger, I think the idea behind it is to take the Lords place away from the FE. It is a sensible proposal in any event. The MPs have reps because they are not allowed to stand in the internal elections whereas Lords are allowed to do so.

    By electing Chris, a move that peers must have known would cause great distress in the party, our Lords group have shown themselves to be pretty out of touch. Surely it would have been better for him to stand in the members’ election. Had he been elected in that open poll, then nobody would have been able to question the legitimacy. What’s happened now is that a group of people who have always supported him have foisted him on the party without any regard for the consequences. This is very unfortunate and has brought into focus how unaccountable the Lords are. Regardless of what happens at the Special Conference, I would expect that there would be moves in the Governance Review to put some checks in the powers of the Lords group as they seem to be completely a law unto themselves.

  • I worry about a party in which a man who has abused his power to encroach on women’s personal space can regain power without expressing any repentance or awareness of the nature of the hurt.

    I worry about the young women coming into the party now.

    I worry about the number of women who have already resigned, depleting scarce numbers even further.

    I worry about the powerful supporters of a powerful man denigrating the women instead of tackling the root cause and using an process universally acknowledged as flawed to pronounce ‘ innocence’ and calling protesters ‘a lynch mob’.

  • David Evans 15th Nov '15 - 6:25pm

    Ruth Bright – Thank you for being so clear. The final question has to be “What do you want a special conference to achieve where lots of people will have to attend and with all the associated costs, that cannot be achieved by the constitutional review where those costs would not be incurred?” That will clearly set out the benefits you expect to get from the party’s time. Then everyone including myself can assess whether they judge that what you expect to gain is worth the cost or is indeed a waste of time.

  • This is a nightmare. Unfortunately the anger from May is being rekindled and I’m very much afraid that the Party will destroy itself. A Shakespearean tragedy involving us all with each side having some justification for their actions. The only way out of this that I can see is for Chris Rennard to resign and I would beg his friends to ask him to do this to save the party for which he has already done so much. If he can bring himself to do this I hope that people could finally forgive him for the fatal mistake which brought us to this impasse and that the party will take resolute steps to overcome any prejudice, whether overt or subconscious, which may be damaging the opportunities of any individual to succeed in the Lib Dems.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Nov '15 - 9:08pm

    More defamatory stuff here which a balanced moderator would remove including the anonymous post by “Jenny”. At least I am not a coward. I am however a Liberal. I do also take offence at the comments on me by Caron but I can live with them.

    It should be put on record that Alistair Webster has said that if the burden of proof had been the civil one of “balance of probabilities” his decision WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SAME.

    Anyway all Caron’s blustering comes down to a clear admission that LDV IS biased in this matter – and that she wants to kick the Lords rep off the FE, quite separately from whether it’s Chris Rennard.

    Perhaps she thinks it’s worth bankrupting the party to achieve that? Or why it can’t be discussed at an ordinary conference? Ah – the screaming mob can’t wait for that!

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 15th Nov '15 - 9:11pm

    Sue S – why should someone who has done nothing wrong beg for forgiveness? “Fatal mistake”? People are dead in Paris and Sinai this weekend but not here. There is only one individual involved here and that is Chris Rennard.

    If a raging mob (assisted by enemies in the media) is able to overturn any election result it does not like, we are on very dodgy and illiberal ground.

    Tony Greaves

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 15th Nov '15 - 9:42pm

    It should be put on record that Alistair Webster has said that if the burden of proof had been the civil one of “balance of probabilities” his decision WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SAME.

    Where did he say that, Tony? I’ve just read both of his statements again, (both of which are reproduced in this thread) wice, to see if there was something I was missing. These are the only public pronouncements he has made on the matter and what you are alleging is simply not there.

    I’ve also said many times on record that I didn’t sign the request for the special conference because I didn’t want to put the party in the position of spending all that money. However, I do think that the decision by Chris Rennard to stand and the Lords to elect him was extraordinarily insensitive. I think in the interests of the party, he should stand aside and put himself for election by the full membership, not rely on his mates to propel him against the party’s wishes onto its most influential committee which is charged with implementing the Morrissey recommendations.

  • Caron – Alistair Webster stated he couldn’t find enough evidence to refer the case to a disciplinary panel and they use the civil “balance of probabilities”. So I think it’s fair to accept Tony is right.

  • Andy Hinton – Thanks I’ll gladly admit that I’m no legal expert. However, I would have thought that with the QC deciding the case was not even worthy of sending to a disciplinary hearing – who do use a “balance of probabilities test” – it’s fairly obvious that he thought the decision would have been the same.

  • “with the QC deciding the case was not even worthy of sending to a disciplinary hearing – who do use a “balance of probabilities test” ”

    The panel would use a “beyond reasonable doubt” test

  • Katharine Pindar 16th Nov '15 - 9:15pm

    STOP! Please don’t continue this argument, because it must harm the Party. Plenty of members like me who aren’t personally involved must feel that we can see all the various points of view presented above, but don’t like the tone of some of the comments from people who are. And please don’t hold a Special Conference, it must be a terrible waste of the Party’s funds and energies as well as bad publicity. There are other ways of discussing and solving this dispute.

    Fellow members who feel passionately about all this, could you try for a little tolerance, even forgiveness? We all share the same deep-rooted liberal values, and to be pursuing this at a time when there is so much suffering in Europe seems out of proportion. I’m glad our Leader is continuing to campaign on international issues.

  • Hywel – I think you are wrong. I’ve looked up several cases that have been referred to a disciplinary panel and all use the “balance of probabilities test”.

  • I’ve voted Liberal and LibDem since 1980. Sometimes I wonder whether I should become a member but incidents like this remind me why I never have. You’ve lost the best MP you had -Julian Huppert, another fine one, Andrew George. Ŷou have Tory-lites such as Tom Brake in the Commons and the most illiberal “liberal” I have ever seen in Alex Carlile. The actions of your Lords really makes your party look like a joke; a male, pale and stale joke.

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