EXCLUSIVE: Ros Scott announces no permanent replacement for Rennard as Lib Dem Chief Exec ’til 2010

Here’s the statement from Baroness (Ros) Scott, Lib Dem party president:

After some considerable deliberation, the Leader, the Chair of the FFAC and I have decided not to proceed immediately with the appointment of a new permanent Chief Executive to replace Chris Rennard, but to appoint an acting Chief Executive to be in post until shortly after the next General Election. Our overriding aim is to maintain the current smooth running of the party organisation and to avoid significant disruption in the run up to the General Election.

Chris’ departure as Chief Executive on 30th September 2009 provides an opportunity to look afresh at the role of Chief Executive and further build the Party’s organisational capacity after the General Election. This is a process which will benefit from wide consultation & input from the various stakeholders within the Party.

I have written to invite all members of the Senior Management Team to apply for the posting of acting Chief Executive from 1st October 2009 until shortly after the next General Election.

It is our intention to interview all applicants after 22nd June and to make an appointment as soon as practicably possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their hard work during the recent local & European elections. Your commitment to the Party is very much appreciated.

Ros Scott
Party President

In case you were wondering, here’s the list of the party’s senior management team:

  • Director of Campaigns and Deputy Director (North): Hilary Stephenson
  • Director of Finance: Nigel Bliss
  • Director of Headquarters: Ben Stoneham
  • Director of Marketing, Fundraising and Member Services: David Loxton
  • Director of Policy and Communications: Chris Fox
  • My immediate reaction? It seems to make sense to pause and re-think the role of chief executive, which is now so strongly associated with Chris Rennard – his departure leaves a big gap, and it’s sensible to ask if anyone else could or should try and be a direct replacement.

    However, there is always the risk of a power vaccuum in the lead up to the general election, almost certainly in May/June 2010, let alone the personal strain on whoever among the five potential candidates finds themselves as Acting Chief Executive alongside their own existing responsibilities.

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    • Secret Squirrel 12th Jun '09 - 1:27pm

      Well it won’t be Hilary or Chris, as it is quite clear the new Chief Exec won’t have Campaigns responsibilities.
      In fact if it isn’t Ben Stoneham (who walked into his present job after he interviewed all the other applicants…) I will eat my hat.

    • Herbert Brown 12th Jun '09 - 2:11pm

      At the risk of sounding like Cato the Censor – has anything at all been heard of the investigation into the allegations against Chris Rennard that were published nearly five weeks ago?

    • Well, I’m only a hick from the sticks, but this decision looks blooming crazy to me. Would we go into the next election with an Acting Leader, then?

      At the very least, it should be portrayed as a short-term appointment to a specific job to be done for the next election. Not a “nobody’s really in charge” position. Can’t we even try to look professional?

    • Herbert Brown 13th Jun '09 - 10:00pm

      Well, “Our overriding aim is to maintain the current smooth running of the party organisation and to avoid significant disruption in the run up to the General Election” certainly sounds as though Rennard is going to carry on running things unofficially behind the scenes.

      So where have we got to?

      It’s been alleged that the party’s Chief Executive made false statements in order to claim tens of thousands of pounds of public money he wasn’t entitled to. The Chief Executive hasn’t so much as disputed the factual accuracy of the allegations. But a few weeks later he announced he was giving in his notice, supposedly on grounds of ill health. Upon which the party leader and president showered him with praise, without so much as mentioning the allegations of impropriety.

      And it’s been announced that an independent assessor was to be appointed “immediately” to investigate claims for allowances by Lib Dem peers. But several weeks on from that announcement, no one seems to know whether anyone has actually been appointed, let alone what the timescale is.

      And now this. At least I hope we’ll be spared any further cant about how the party won’t tolerate wrong-doing by its parliamentarians.

    • Oh OK, I’m getting there, slowly. The reason for this odd “acting chief exec” designation is that Rennard hasn’t actually gone. He has only pretended to go. Wonderful!

      Since nobody seems to be prepared to do the right thing, perhaps we should settle for not doing the grossly wrong thing. The party should keep Rennard on, and pay him £41768, ASAP, on condition he hands the money straight back to the Crown.

      This would, at least, bring us up to the dizzy heights of financial probity exemplified by Hazel Blears. At the moment, Blears is well ahead of us.

    • Grammar Police 14th Jun '09 - 12:15am

      Lest we forget, of course, perhaps Chris hasn’t actually done anything wrong at all, and did just resign because of health reasons?

    • Herbert Brown 14th Jun '09 - 12:26am

      Grammar Police
      “… perhaps Chris hasn’t actually done anything wrong at all …”

      Well, perhaps.

      But if the allegations were untrue it seems more than a little odd that a PR guru of his stature wouldn’t say so. Particularly given the potential for damage to the party if they went unchallenged.

      So perhaps we can just agree that the allegations should be properly investigated as soon as possible.

      If that’s the case, then I find it absolutely incomprehensible that it should take more than a month to answer the simple question of whether Lord Rennard’s main residence is in Eastbourne or London.

    • Stewart Rotherham 17th Jun '09 - 10:35am

      As just an Agent, out in the field, the idea of not having a replacement Chief Exec. – as a specific post with a specific individual – is daft. If any of the existing “senior management team” has the time and energy to do this job left over after their existing day job, we should be asking whether we need their day job.

      Nonetheless, the key requirement for the post must be someone who is well practised at real campaigning with our typical motley crew of volunteers. We do not need a head office commissar in either the short or long term. One of Chris’s greatest strengths is his feel for the grass roots of our party’s politics, and we do need someone from a similar mould.

    • Just mention the name, “Chris Rennard”, and watch how quick the trolls come crawling out of the woodwork.

      Some trivia about Lib Dem senior managers:

      (1) Ben Stoneham came within 1,500 votes of winning Stevenage for the SDP in 1983 and was the (very) unsuccessful Labour candidate in the 1977 Saffron Walden byelection.

      (2) Nigel Bliss’s twin brother was beaten by Tim Prater on 4th June.

    • Martin Land 17th Jun '09 - 9:09pm

      I don’t know why, but I find this deeply troubling…

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