Former Liberal Party leader, Lord Steel, leaves the Liberal Democrats

The BBC reports:

Former Liberal Democrat leader (sic – he was leader of the Liberal Party) David Steel has quit the party and the Lords after an inquiry said he “turned a blind eye” to claims of child abuse.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse criticised political groups for not acting on complaints.

It accused Lord Steel of an “abdication of responsibility” over accusations against the late MP Cyril Smith.

Lord Steel said he was quitting because he wanted to avoid “distress” for his family and “turmoil” for his party.

The former MP and MSP also said he was being made “a proxy for Cyril Smith”, the former Rochdale MP who was investigated over allegations about the abuse of teenage boys in 1969.

Here is Lord Steel’s statement in full:

For the last ten days I have been visiting old friends and projects I have supported over the years in Africa.

Despite poor phone and email reception I have been made aware of press speculation about the IICSA report which I have now been able to read after its publication. I am angered by it as many others will be.

Knowing all I know now, I condemn Cyril Smith’s actions towards children. Children deserve protection from predators, especially those in authority. Dealing with such cases is the IICSA’s legitimate role. I believe in the highest standards of human rights, particularly for young and vulnerable people.

I regret the time spent on pursuing Leon Brittan, Lord Bramall and others, who it is clear had done no wrong. Not having secured a parliamentary scalp, I fear that I have been made a proxy for Cyril Smith.

Nowhere do IICSA explain what powers I was supposed to possess to investigate 14 year old allegations against someone (who at the time of the actions alleged was not even a member of my party), that the police and successive DPPs reviewed with access to all files.

IICSA refused my offer of clarification on my oral testimony to them, which has since been widely reported.

Contrary to some reports, at no point did Cyril Smith admit to me the truth of the allegations in the Private Eye report. He admitted that there had been an investigation by police of acts alleged against him whilst he was a councillor in another political party, as was reported. Smith and I did not discuss further what IICSA counsel himself correctly described as “a very very brief conversation” in 1979.

My legal advisers have expressed concern to me that the Inquiry should have delayed my appearance until they had sorted their failed “loop” hearing system for my hearing aids. They are right, and I did not have legal representation when giving evidence to IICSA. I should have asked for a delay myself as the transcript shows, I had difficulty hearing their questions.

Cyril Smith was a well-known MP for Rochdale for 15 years, at the end of which he was granted the then customary knighthood, that having been approved by the Honours Scrutiny Committee, and by PM Margaret Thatcher after again considering the full available information.

That Smith was never a friend of mine is exemplified by his public decision not to speak for any constituency party which had voted for me as leader in 1976.

I have received indications that some in the Liberal Democrat Party wish me suspended and investigated again, despite a previous disciplinary process in Scotland which concluded that no further action was required. I am told that others are threatening to resign if a new investigation is started.

I wish to avoid any such turmoil in my Party and to prevent further distress to my family. I have therefore thanked my local party secretary for their stalwart support through the whole IICSA process, and have informed the local Party that my resignation is with immediate effect.

As to membership of the House of Lords, friends and colleagues including The Lord Speaker are aware that I have been contemplating retirement next month to coincide with the 55th anniversary of my election as an MP. With considerable personal sorrow, and thanks to all I have worked with in the Party and more widely, I have now decided this is what I should do as soon as possible.

My wife has suffered poor health this past year. I shall now stop the weekly travel from Scotland to London and enjoy a quiet retirement from public life.

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41 Comments

  • Johnny McDermott 26th Feb '20 - 8:44pm

    Personal integrity should be at the core of all politics, but especially our liberal values. This is a weak statement that should be condemned. There is little issue with what was heard, when what was said is so damning. The not my problem attitude lacks integrity, but this failure to take any accountability is worse. The Scottish party should have dealt with this properly in the first investigation.

  • Former Liberal Democrat leader (sic – he was leader of the Liberal Party).
    He was actually leader of the LibDems (jointly, with Bob MacLennan) for a few months in the spring/summer of 1988. So they’re not wrong to describe him as such. But yes, his main gig was leading the Liberal party, 1976-88.

  • “Cyril Smith was a well-known MP for Rochdale for 15 years, at the end of which he was granted the then customary knighthood”.

    There were no ‘customary knighthoods’ granted by previous post-war Liberal Party Leaders. It was a ‘custom’ introduced by the former Sir David, later, Lord Steel.

  • David Steel is right. He is being scapegoated to hide the fact that the Inquiry has been a damp squib and has uncovered nothing significant. The villain of the piece is Tom Watson with his unfounded allegations, and to a lesser extent Thersea May who set up the useless Inquiry.

    David Steel may have made some errors of judgment but basically he is being criticised for not telling the police something they knew already. To say that he covered up for Cyril Smith or facilitated subsequent abuse by him is daft.

    And it’s characteristic of David Steel to put the Party’s interests before his own by bowing out graciously. Well done that man.

  • I can only wish David Steel a long and happy retirement. It was because of him that I joined the LP in 1982, and he restored so much to the party – literally kept it alive. None of us know what was known about Cyril Smith, he was always difficult and over-sensitive and, I think, has a major role in bringing down the Lib-Lab pact too. He despised Labour, which was odd because he has been quite senior in the Rochdale Labour Party. The time of allegations about his behaviour coincided with his time in labour (sth they quite disgracefully ‘forget’). Now it might be quite hard for people who weren’t adults in the early 80s to understand that there really was nothing for David Steel to do about Smith. Am so sad for him that his long and reforming political career has ended because of this. Cyril Smith should not be Lord Steel’s political legacy.

  • That’s actually a very strong statement by David Steel and it’s a shame, in fact a travesty, that this has been so poorly reported in the media. It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that he’s been made a scapegoat and this is really an exercise to paper over the failings of those whose job it was to investigate such matters.

    I haven’t always agreed with his political judgement but it’s a sign of the great integrity of the man that he has born this injustice with great fortitude and taken steps to protect the party from further damage, at his own expense.

  • Johnny McDermott 27th Feb '20 - 9:03am

    Johnmc: “Now it might be quite hard for people who weren’t adults in the early 80s to understand”… how futile action was? That sounds an awful lot like “it was a different time”. Perhaps it really was, but we kids would love to hear the likes of Lord Steel (and others in politics and the media) explain to us just what it was that made that sort of behaviour more acceptable, and when things changed. That would at least show the integrity to say “I knew and did as little as anyone else”. Fair enough. I have some sympathy as so few others have been held accountable. But far more for the voiceless. As a party, holding an inquiry today (given things are so different), we should have dealt with this properly the first time, and maybe our opponents wouldn’t have it as their front pages (hypocritically or not – and remember, nobody likes someone that says “It wasn’t just me!”) with claims of inaction.

    The responses do get to heart of the pile on culture problem, however, and rightly note, despite my being facetious, we were not there. So, explain it to us then, Lord Steel/ people who were there. What changed?

  • This is almost the same ‘ground’ as reported by ‘the voice’ in 2014…Even the comments seem to follow the same pattern.
    Regarding Lord Steel I will just refer to what, at least to me, was the most telling of those 2014 posts….
    “In a statement made by the press office in 1979 concerning Cyril Smith following the publication of the Private Eye article …It was this; “It’s not a very friendly gesture, publishing that. All he seems to have done is spank a few bare bottoms”
    This seems to me to demonstrate beyond doubt that the Liberal Party, led then by David Steel, were aware of Cyril Smith’s sexual proclivities.”…

    That was written, by the press office, in a different era but ‘facts are facts’ and the second part of the old adage about evil. ” is for good men to do nothing.” was never more true…

  • John Marriott 27th Feb '20 - 9:49am

    Like ‘Johnmc’, David Steel, and particularly a PPB he gave around 1979, was the reason why, after several years toying with the idea, I finally joined the old Liberal Party. I met him once, when he visited Lincoln in the 1983 GE to support our SDP candidate, the late Freddie Stockdale. I remember how self effacing he appeared to be in private, at least to me.

    Despite that infamous ‘little David in big David Owen’s breast pocket’, which ‘Spitting Image’ crafted some four years later, Steel had the guts to stand up to the doctor and to go for the merger of their two parties.

    Many generations of women should never forget his choice of Private Member’s Bill, which was instrumental in Parliament passing the 1967 Abortion Act, something for which he consistently over the years has modestly refused to claim sole credit for.

    As ‘John’ has said, I do hope that the case of Cyril Smith will not prove to be the soon to be ex Lord Steel’s political legacy.

  • Julian Tisi 27th Feb '20 - 9:51am

    “Nowhere do IICSA explain what powers I was supposed to possess to investigate 14 year old allegations against someone (who at the time of the actions alleged was not even a member of my party), that the police and successive DPPs reviewed with access to all files.”
    This to me is key. There is no way on earth that he would have had the ability, even if he had wished to, to investigate the claims. That was the job of the police.

  • David Langshaw 27th Feb '20 - 10:02am

    Just a quick note to add my support to the comments above from GaryJ and Johnmc. Steel has been scapegoated for something for which he was not responsible.

  • Doug Chisholm 27th Feb '20 - 10:29am

    This has been a tragic a miscarriage of trial by media. A symptom of our “woke” generation. As he says “Nowhere do IICSA explain what powers I was supposed to possess to investigate 14 year old allegations against someone (who at the time of the actions alleged was not even a member of my party), that the police and successive DPPs reviewed with access to all files.”

    I would imagine that all political leaders, employers and managers are now at danger of this revisionist wokism.

  • I used to have enormous respect for David Steel but he has let down himself, the country, his party and above all, the children abused by Smith.

    Once he knew that Smith was a danger to children he should have reported him to the police and kicked him out of the party. That would have been the right course of action. Instead, he did nothing and as a consequence more children suffered.

    Claiming to be a scapegoat just further harms Steel’s reputation. He should show some remorse.

  • @Peter “Once he knew that Smith was a danger to children he should have reported him to the police and kicked him out of the party.”
    When was that then? What information do you have that he knew anything the police did not already know?

  • He’s admitted in evidence (and years ago in press interviews) that Smith told him the reports were true, so his statement is splitting hairs at best. He (Steel) has also said that he assumed the facts in the reports were true.

    That’s ‘spanking bare bottoms’, washing bottoms, holding testicles. Of young boys. When a low level politician in circumstances where it was ‘probably wrong’ (I may be misremembering his precise words there) and he was unclear on how Smith was in a position to do it. And he left it at that. No further questions asked.

    Different times, perhaps, but that is still one heck of an error of judgment and symptomatic of how predators like Smith got away with it. As the comments above re people in other parties attest, we’d be far less tolerant of this if it wasn’t David Steel. Which is again symptomatic of how predators like Smith got away with it.

    It shouldn’t be his legacy, but nor should his legacy give him a free pass.

  • David Steel is not being scapegoated. He is being asked some questions. That is what happens when politicians make errors of judgement.
    Personally, I think the Cyril Smith case illustrates the dangers of not questioning the behaviour and motives of “Right Honourable Gentlemen”. Deference, rather than it being a symptom of a different time, is what protected him. There were lots of care home scandals and even arrests throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It’s simply not true to say that public attitudes were vastly different or that we’ve suddenly become “woke”. What has changed is a shift away from accepting an official denial as the end of the matter.

  • Tony Greaves 27th Feb '20 - 12:40pm

    David Steel has been one of the most decent and honest political figures of the last 50 years and what has happened to him is a disgrace. Liberal Democrats who are joining the hue and cry of the national media should think very carefully about what they are doing. I have not been so angry for a long time.

  • @Julian Tisi asks ” What information do you have that he (Steel) knew anything …”
    As others have already pointed out, Steel, himself, said that after having a conversation with Smith in 1979 he assumed that Smith was responsible for carrying out child abuse.

    I know this because it has been widely reported in the news media.

    Perhaps you can tell the people here which part of that is incorrect?

  • Peter: You do not seem to have read the points made by GaryJ, Julian Tisi and others. The police and prosecutors knew about this already and took no action. Steel says Smith made no admissions. Steel’s statement has received little or no mention. The press and other media are determined to use every opportunity to destroy the Liberal Democrat Party.

  • David Allen 27th Feb '20 - 1:44pm

    Lord Steel: “I wish to avoid … turmoil in my party and to prevent further distress to my family. I have therefore … informed the local party that my resignation is with immediate effect.”

    Resignation, whether by corrupt police officers or by politicians under suspicion, is an illegitimate manoevre to avoid “turmoil” and “distress”. The political parties all deserve to suffer turmoil and distress on child abuse. If the Liberal Democrats want to avoid being accused of ongoing complicity in a cover-up, Steel’s offer to resign should be refused.

    That is not to say that Steel’s legacy of achievement should be irretrievably tarnished by a single, if serious, mistake. It is harmful even to think in such terms. If we cannot honestly talk about mistakes, while maintaining our self-respect and ambition, then we shall never adapt to what the future needs from us.

    “All he seems to have done is spank a few bare bottoms.” said Steel. Was Steel entirely confident that he was describing a minor behavioural aberration, akin to the then accepted practice of corporal punishment, which could validly be discounted? I rather doubt it. Was Steel, on the other hand, deliberately downplaying behaviour which he fully recognised, at the time, as being vile abuse with hugely harmful effects on its victims? I doubt that too. As is so often the case, the truth probably lies somewhere in a muddled middle.

    Let’s – both the Lib Dems and Britain as a whole – stop wildly oscillating between overblown pride in our past, and self-flagellation over its faults. It does us no good. we need clear sight. Yes, terrible things happened in our recent past, and we are now so much more enlightened about child abuse, sexual equality, and a host of other things. On the other hand, the present ain’t so much better as it pretends to be. Democracy is collapsing around the globe. If all we can do in response is try to downplay past mistakes, we’re not coping!

  • Brian Ellis 27th Feb '20 - 2:57pm

    I have taken time to read the IICSA report in full. After which I read the Parties current Safeguarding policy and complaints procedure. These are easily found on the parties website, and should be read by all as they relate to the here and now. Then I considered the reporting in the media of this matter. It is perhaps a matter of some concern that the media reporting was so one sided in what is a serious issue . Why for example did they fail to mention the Conservative who amongst other things rose to be the PPS of a Prime Minister. A case which is covered in some detail in the IICSA report.
    I was an activist throughout the time of David Steels leadership, I did not always agree with the direction he sought to lead and on one occasion told him took a delegation to meet him and told him so to his face.
    However we should note the wise words of Tony Greaves (that activist warhorse of days past). We should not climb on a bandwagon. But we should make sure we have in place policies and procedures that are robust enough to deal with any similar situation that arises today. Hence the need for all to pay attention to the parties safeguarding policy and the parties complaints process.

  • Stephen Booth 27th Feb '20 - 3:21pm

    Strongly agree with Tony Greaves on this. It’s an absolute calumny that Steele has been treated this way. I too am angry and deeply saddened. I recall David’s election to Parliament in a by-election for Roxburgh, Selkirk & Peebles. At that time as was part of a small rentacrowd of young Liberals who worked in central London and could be called in at short notice to the National Liberal Club to provide an audience if the leader, Jo Grimmond, needed to make a statement. We gave a very warm welcome to the newly elected Steele, then the ‘baby’ of the House of Commons.
    I didn’t meet Steele again until nearly 20 years later when he came to Knebworth House with other leaders of the newly formed Alliance to enjoy a great weekend of fun, along with the late David Penhaligon. All good memories. I wish David a long and fruitful retirement; he deserves it. His action in resigning from the party confirms him as a man of honour.

  • Last occasion I met David Steele was at Durham University in late 1979 when he addressed several hundred students. A very gracious and amiable person.
    My eldest son was in his carry cot 10 weeks old, (he slept throughout the proceedings) but together with my wife, who votes Conservative, was introduced to the party leader.(He has voted Liberal Democrat! ever since). I was the local Liberal chair at the time hence my invited attendance, we soon had the Gang of 4 for which David Steele he was mainly responsible, the sensational by election victories, 26% at the 83 election, missing out in Durham by 2,000 votes. They were happy political days, we must not forget his commitment to left of centre politics, the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats, it would in my view be most disingenuous to do so. He inspired many to join the party and like Tony Greaves recognise what he achieved for Liberalism during the period of his leadership.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Feb '20 - 5:39pm

    I really do think we need to take a moment to pause here.

    As one who believes that Liberal means being pro conscience, rule of law, innocent until proven guilty , and then staunch in defence of the vulnerable and with the Mill Harm Principle at heart, we must see this, issue in general, case too, here, based on the evidence.

    Lord Steel was talking to the odious Smith and got the answers he needed. Not guilty of anything other than carrying out volunteer duties at a home for boys he co ran. Steel asked him, if he did what he was rumoured to have done, questioned about by the police et al. Smith replied no, he inflicted punishment, as described, smacks. He categorically denied abuse. Steel knew he had said the same to the police, who accepted that and made no charges.

    There is film of Steel under oath and it is clear he did not hear the points that were put to him. I noticed this and read up and researched. A great role model to me was Ludovic Kennedy, of our party and much besides. Lack of justice must be Liberal concern.

    Steel made a mistake only in his seeming to be complacent. His rather diffident and very subtle outward persona is the only cause of that. I believe he has been misrepresented/traduced by some.

    Smith was a really awful, very arrogant, extremely overbearing man, typical, as with Weinstein, etc., of this kind of abuser and they are often, other than their loathsome behaviour, a dominator of people.

    Steel is nothing like that. Lord Greaves, who I regularly disagree with but always respect, describes him, in ways those like him, know. We must not let the evils of Saville, Smith, destroy the reputations of those like Heath, accused but found to have done nothing wrong, or Steel, accused of nothing but complacency and, not,, it seems really complacent but perhaps too trusting.

    I, as a boy then, know, the attitudes, the tittle tattle, the norms, values. Good is good and evil is evil. No morally relativist liberalism does it for the likes of me.

    Steel though is a decent man. He should not be the leader mentioned in the same breath only as Smith who was vile.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Feb '20 - 5:49pm

    A thought, having referred to my admiration for Sir Ludovic Kennedy. He stood for Rochdale, as a Liberal but lost in a by-election. If he had won, Smith would very definitely not become an mp. And, Steel might not have become leader, as Kennedy would have probably been a terrific mp and stood and won the leadership!

  • David Evans 27th Feb '20 - 6:21pm

    Oh dear Johnny McDermott – 0/10 for old fashioned Lib Dem empathy for an 88 year old fellow Lib Dem, with poor hearing, being asked to explain over an inadequate sound system, detailed questions about what happened 41 years earlier; 10/10 for new Lib Dem woke anger by being able to focus on a separate comment by someone else, take it completely out of context by abbreviating it at the key juncture and then asking a loaded question totally ignoring the point being made; and finally then to show good legal training by restating the same question again in a very professional attempt to pretend it is the nub of the problem.

    For a public enquiry into a scandal wanting to make a big point by loading its conclusions and limiting its enquiries so that clarification in such unjust circumstances is rejected, such an approach may be understandable if reprehensible. For a Liberal Democrat, to side with the strong mob against the weak individual chosen to be the easy scapegoat for an injustice where all the real perpetrators have passed away, while sugar coating his points with concern for the even weaker, as if that was not the concern of everyone, is to totally fail to understand the real lessons all liberals need to learn.

  • Lorenzo, Charlie Kennedy became an MP six years after Steel became Leader. The contest was between Steel and John Pardoe, after Thorpe resigned. Ludovic Kennedy was in the SNP by the time Cyril Smith became the candidate. Tom Hobday and Nancy Seear had been the candidates in between. My good friend Garth Pratt had taken over as PPC when the Smith gang pushed him out.

    Smith was a thoroughly nasty piece of work… his so called ‘plain speaking and common sense’ included support for capital punishment and he once appeared in a Party broadcast with a certain Savile person.

  • Brian Ellis – Actually I think Peter Morrison is also unfairly treated in the Report. Unlike with Cyril Smith there is no evidence against Morrison, just innuendo, much of it wishful thinking by Labour activists in Chester. And the only thing we learn about Margaret Thatcher is that she wasn’t homophobic in private

  • Johnny McDermott 27th Feb '20 - 11:23pm

    You missed the point, David Evans, and I fear rather failed to make your own. Which makes sense, given your aversion to full stops. Glancing through the replies, there are those scrutinising his weak responses to perfectly legitimate questions on an incredibly serious matter. One you deride as “woke”. Then there are those infuriated. Most met or knew or joined around Lord Steele’s time.

    Objectivity is crucial. We should hold our own party, in any previous iteration, to the same standards we hold others.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Feb '20 - 11:24pm

    David

    Was not referring to our former leader Charles, only to Ludovic.

    Let me say more. After winning Rochdale, in the fifties, if he had but clearly didn’t, Ludovic would have, aided by publicity and style and substance, from his amazing wife and real contributor to our culture, who I adored, Moira Shearer, yes, dear old Ludo would have become a very popular mp. He surely would have stood in the election for leader, when Thorpe did, avoiding Thorpe as leader all together thus, or later when the contest between the two good men you refer to, in which case we might have had him as leader then.

    H speculated on that in his memoirs. He never was a member of the SNP, he was friendly with some and voted for them once or twice when there was in his area, no Liberal or Liberal Democrat. He left the party, ours that is, to stand as an independent, lost and joined again, a member till his last.

    A great figure in broadcasting and jounalism a man I disagreed with on a good bit, and, a bit like with Hoe I feel about you David, could n’t but like!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Feb ’20 – 5:39pm….I really do think we need to take a moment to pause here. As one who believes that Liberal means being pro conscience, rule of law, innocent until proven guilty , and then staunch in defence of the vulnerable and with the Mill Harm Principle at heart, we must see this, issue in general, case too, here, based on the evidence…..”Lord Steel was talking to the odious Smith and got the answers he needed. Not guilty of anything other than carrying out volunteer duties at a home for boys he co ran.”………………

    Lorenzo, Based on the evidence, how do you equate, “All he seems to have done is spank a few bare bottoms”, with “Not guilty of anything other than carrying out volunteer duties at a home for boys he co ran.”?

  • I agree entirely with Tony Greaves. Agree with him or not David Steel has contributed a huge amount to the Liberal Party and Liberal Democrats and is someone we should be proud was our party leader.
    The response to this sort of event of many years ago has to be proportional and what we see here and in the press is just unpleasant bullying. Who now would want to be a member of a party who’s members post such comments. I too like Tony any extremely angry but also sad that a very decent man like David Steel can be treated like this.

  • David Allen 28th Feb '20 - 1:24pm

    David Steel is a decent man who gave this party good leadership and will be remembered for his achievements. He also made a serious mistake, as did many others, in turning a blind eye to a fellow politician’s misdeeds. (And yes, in a sense the mistake is mitigated by the likelihood that Steel genuinely did not perceive those misdeeds to be anything like as serious as they actually turned out to be).

    Neil says “Who now would want to be a member of a party who’s members post such comments?” Well Neil, who now would want to be a member of a party which cannot honestly address past mistakes and resolve not to repeat them?

  • Mike Falchikov 28th Feb '20 - 6:21pm

    Like your last two contributors and also Tony Greaves and many others, I am very sad to see what has happened to David Steel. He has made a distinguished contribution to liberalism and from the few contacts I had with him seemed a thoroughly decent, fair-minded and public-spirited person. The whole Smith business was thoroughly murky, not helped by ineptitude, favouritism and possibly corruption in the milieu in which Smith operated. Very easy to be misled in those circumstances.

  • Katerina Porter 28th Feb '20 - 10:07pm

    I had never joined a party until the Alliance, and David Steel was probably the person who was most successful in getting people together. He always struck one as decent, honest and able. The IICSA, however does not strike one like that. What does strike one as strange that they did not wait for the things that would make him able to hear, as well as other difficulties, the way they treated Leon Britain, Lord Bramall and others. I never heard that Mr Heath was formally cleared, presumably as there was no family to insist .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Feb '20 - 1:35pm

    Expats

    I get what you ask. I do not relate to or agree with the Steel perception. I merely present here what he seems to have reckoned, that Smith justified his activity at the boy’s home, seems to be that he lied, and said he was inflicting mild punishment. The cane, birch, were used in this country until much recently , this is not to like it, it is to explain the extremely disgraceful but rather obvious, now, lying by Smith. Steel seems guilty of being trusting of the testimony to police and his leadership probing. Who are we or an inquiry, to accuse Steel?

  • Tony Greaves
    “David Steel has been one of the most decent and honest political figures of the last 50 years and what has happened to him is a disgrace. Liberal Democrats who are joining the hue and cry of the national media should think very carefully about what they are doing. I have not been so angry for a long time.”

    Hear hear!

  • I also wish to associate myself with the comments made by Tony Greaves and others. It is deplorable that some one who has given so much to our party has been driven out so unfairly. The Zero tolerance attitude has a lot to answer for. Guilty until proved innocent.
    Hindsight used to condemn behaviour which seemed plausible at the time.
    I recall one comment of David Steel’s many years ago to the effect that you don’t gain support from your opponents by insulting them. I hope that who ever takes over as leader will always have that in mind

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