Legal action to be launched by Lord Rennard unless Lib Dems lift membership suspension

The BBC reports:

Lib Dem peer Lord Rennard has written to his party giving it until Thursday to lift his suspension, the BBC understands. If it fails to do so Lord Rennard is threatening to seek costs from those involved in his suspension, including party president Tim Farron.

The former Lib Dem chief executive was suspended after four female activists accused him of sexual harassment. He denied the claims, but was asked to apologise by an internal investigation. The investigation, led by senior barrister Alistair Webster QC, concluded the claims against Lord Rennard were credible but could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and Lord Rennard rejected its demand for an apology.

As a result, he faced accusations of bringing the party into disrepute, and has been suspended pending a fresh investigation into the disrepute claims. The peer is thought to be seeking an injunction to overturn his suspension on the grounds that it is unlawful and flouts the party’s own rules and constitution.

Update – Statement from Lord Rennard:

Lord Rennard has not made known the existence or contents of any formal correspondence between the party and him or between him and the party. Lord Rennard has supported mediation throughout the last 50 weeks and confirmed this in writing at every stage.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • The fun just runs and runs.

    Every day this drama runs on is another bad day for the Lib Dem’s.

  • Tony Greaves 10th Feb '14 - 4:05pm

    I have just had the following email from Chris Rennard (in response to one from me asking “what the hell is going on?)”

    “I don’t know about BBC report, but party appears to be spinning. I have only responded to letter telling me I am suspended from party and that a new disciplinary inquiry is seeking my expulsion. I have said nothing. C”

    Who knows what is going on. But whoever leaked this story to the BBC is bringing the party into disrepute, at a time when we thought an attempt at mediation was taking place. I think we have a right to know who did this.

    The rraction throughout the party will be one of despair.

    Tony Greaves

  • Andrew Whyte 10th Feb '14 - 4:07pm

    This would not “tear the Lib Dems apart” as the telegraph claims, it would merely shift a small coterie of time expired pols from the rest of the party.

    Whatever Rennard and Carlile may have done for the party in the past, they now seem intent on dragging the party through the mud with their over legalistic response to the enquiry.

    If discomfort has been caused to somebody, however innocently, failing to apologise is just bad manners. If I let a door go in someone’s face, I say sorry from good manners, not to avoid a lawsuit. And if Alrx Carlile cannot come up with a non actionable form of apology, he’s not the lawyer I though the was

  • Grace Goodlad 10th Feb '14 - 4:13pm

    It is very disturbing that this has happened – especially as it appears that he has named a number of individuals involved in the administrative process in this letter:

    Given that Lord Rennard has significant health problems at the moment, to the extent that he has not been able to sit in the Lords I do wonder about how wise a court action really is at this juncture. Surely this sort of action would be extremely stressful and only worsen his health concerns?

    Equally, given that he has been suspended for 14 weeks subject to an investigation it does seem a highly expensive and destructive act. If those making the decision can show it was reasonable for them to believe that the situation may have been bringing the party into disrepute then the suspension will be justifiable. It is very important to remember the 14 weeks in this – does a 3 month suspension (at most) justify this sort of legal action?

  • For those with legal knowledge, what kind of law applies to the rules of a political in these matters and how could this situation fall under them?

  • Bill Chapman 10th Feb '14 - 5:44pm

    This story will run and run. Thank goodness thjere are no by-elections on the horizon.

  • paul barker 10th Feb '14 - 5:56pm

    As I see it, we have no choice but to contest this. Giving in to Legal threats would destroy Party discipline & make us a laughing stock.

  • Peter Andrews 10th Feb '14 - 7:19pm

    Big mistake by Rennard the party should not give in to threats like this and I would to say threatening to sue the Party is incompatible with membership of the Party anyway.

  • John trundle 10th Feb '14 - 7:44pm

    If the BBC report is true, I hope Tim doesn’t back down on the right and proper stance he has taken . Don’t give in to bullying and fight for what is right for party.

  • Why on earth has this festered for so long? Why could the women not handle it themselves? A firm ‘no’, and if continued a slap in the face, and further hassle responded to by a knee in the groin if still a problem. Or is this too simple a remedy?
    UKIP manage to sort out troublemakers very rapidly, the gay floods man has been expelled. Why can we not be equally decisive?

  • Mick Taylor 10th Feb '14 - 8:59pm

    A decent period of silence on all sides is called for.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Feb '14 - 9:22pm

    Why are all these posters saying these strange things. Have thy not read Chris Rennard’s complete disclaimer that he has made any statement about legal action whatsoever?

    What could he sue for, anyway?

    I remain unconvinced about the new disciplinary offence (revocation of membership) of “refusing to apologise for something you say you haven’t done and no one has proven that you have done.” 🙁

  • “I have only responded to letter telling me I am suspended from party and that a new disciplinary inquiry is seeking my expulsion. I have said nothing.”

    What can he mean? He only responded; he didn’t say anything. Did he stick a blank sheet of A4 in an envelope and post it to them?

  • @Peter: ” I would to say threatening to sue the Party is incompatible with membership of the Party”

    Isn’t that pretty directly incompatible with liberalism? Or any concept of natural justice? What should people suck up for the good of the party? What, exactly, should members be willing to suck up without resort to justice for the good of the party?

    Seems to me you’ve spouted the kind of nasty, unpleasant appeal to loyalty that has silenced every minority interest since, well, forever. Rennard isn’t a minority, of course, but that doesn’t mean we should endorse the kind of “if you’re not with us you’re against us” rubbish that has soiled politics for centuries.

  • If discomfort has been caused to somebody, however innocently, failing to apologise is just bad manners. If I let a door go in someone’s face, I say sorry from good manners, not to avoid a lawsuit

    But isn’t the point that Rennard denies he let the door go, indeed, denies that he was ever anywhere near the door?

    In which case he cannot consistently apologise for the discomfort caused by the shutting door.

    The non-apology apology only works if you admit you did something that caused discomfort, and then apologise for the discomfort without apologising for the act (‘I’m sorry you were offended by what I did [but I am not sorry for doing it]’).

    If you deny even the act, you can’t use a non-apology apology. You can’t say, ‘I’m sorry you were offended by the way I touched you’ if you deny any touching ever took place.

  • Firstly let us hope that there is no deadline for charges to be dropped regarding Lord Renards. Secondly the thing to remember in this, is that his suspension it is unlawful because it flouts our own rules. To be clear the investigator can only say if there is a need for a disciplinary hearing, he can not demand an apology, in fact at no stage of the disciplinary procedure can an apology be demanded (this should be corrected and it should be part of possible outcomes).

    @ Andrew Whyte – “over legalistic response to the enquiry” It would seem that this respond may be called for because the party can’t follow its own rules, which I have been informed on many occasions include natural justice and are up held within the British legal system.

    Lord Rennard has issued an apology I believe for unintended harm but not his conscious actions. He wrote, “If ever I have hurt, embarrassed or upset anyone, then it would never have been my intention and, of course, I regret that they may have felt any hurt, embarrassment or upset.”

  • Heartily agree with Andrew, Paul and Peter. Why can he not apologise (preferably) or failing that, at least go away (along with Andrew’s “small coterie of time expired pols” – well put!)?

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Feb '14 - 9:05am

    I agree with Rennard. The party is slapping the electorate in the face by saying “one set of rules for you, another for us”.

  • Julian Tisi 11th Feb '14 - 9:13am

    What a mess. Like it or not, the investigation by Alisdair Webster was not a trial. Chris Rennard continues to deny everything and understandably his only “apology” to date has been of the “I’m sorry if I’ve unintentionally caused harm…” variety. He can’t realistically offer more than this if he claims he’s innocent. And that should be the end of the matter. Were the party rules good enough at the time? Maybe not and maybe they should change. Were the allegations dealt with properly and as soon as they were made? Clearly not and I understand changes have now been made. But as for Chris Rennard, the party now doesn’t have a leg to stand on. You can’t punish someone for something they not been found guilty of. Some humble pie is required from Messrs Farron and Clegg.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Feb '14 - 9:17am

    Oh right, there is an update where he says he hasn’t said anything. Well, I’m not judging guilt or not, I’m just saying I think playing hard and fast with the rules by suspending him for refusing to apologise was wrong. It fills me with resentment that the party calls for more employment laws one minute and then calls to throw someone not proven of guilt to the wolves the next.

  • Why NOT apologise for something he has not done! -It wouldn’t kill him.
    I think, he thinks, it is “his” party, and that he is more important than the Party.
    I wish he would “grow a pair” just say sorry and let’s get on with the much more important job of saving the Party.

  • Joe King
    Why could the women not handle it themselves? A firm ‘no’, and if continued a slap in the face, and further hassle responded to by a knee in the groin if still a problem. Or is this too simple a remedy?

    I thought this nonsense had been exploded a long time ago.

    No they couldn’t because Rennard is a senior party member & they were women wanting nomination for candidature at the next election. Women are intimidated by men holding power over them.

    Why shouldn’t Rennard be expected to keep his hands to himself ? Why should women have to put up with behaviour like that ?

    The party have handled this whole business in an atrocious manner & even now, can’t admit they failed these women.

  • Julian Tisi 11th Feb ’14 – 9:13am
    What a mess. … … … Some humble pie is required from Messrs Farron and Clegg.

    I agree with Julian TIsi. Unfortunately humility seems in short supply at the top of the party.

    Touring the drugs capitals of Latin America and writing vague pieces for The Observer is deemed to be a priority.

    When it comes to the major vote in parliament on protecting children from smoking in cars, Clegg is AWOL and has the support of only FOUR Liberal Democrat MPs.

    In Wythesnhawe tomorrow there will be one of those little local things of which Clegg knows little and cares even less.

    What a mess indeed !

  • Rennard’s particulars of claim will look something like this…


    Chris RENNARD Claimant


    XXX Defendant 1
    YYY Defendant 2
    ZZZ Defendant 3

    sued on their own behalf and on behalf of all the other members of the Executive Committee of the Liberal Democrats.

    The purported suspension was contrary to the Party’s rules…
    The purported suspension was contrary to the principles of natural justice…
    The purported suspension was mere caprice and/or actuated by malice…
    The purported suspension was wholly unreasonable…

    AND the Claimant claims:

    (1) A declaration that the resolution passed by the Committee of the said Party which purported to suspend the Claimant’s membership of the said Party and exclude the Claimant from the premises of the said Party is illegal, unlawful, in breach of the Constitution of the Party, and/or contrary to natural justice, and/or invalid, and/or ultra vires and/or null and void, and a declaration that the Claimant was at all times, and still remains, a member of the said Party, and entitled to all the privileges of such membership, and compelling the Defendants to re-admit him to the full advantages of membership;

    (2) An injunction to restrain the said committee and each and every member thereof whether by itself, or by any sub-committee, or by any officer, servant or agent of the said committee or by any member of the said Party or otherwise howsoever from enforcing the said resolution or interfering with the Claimant in his use and enjoyment of the benefit of membership of the said Party and the buildings and property thereof,

    (3) Damages;

    (4) The aforesaid interest pursuant to section 69 of the County Courts Act 1984 to be assessed.

  • Peter Andrews

    “… parties cannot contract to oust the ordinary courts from their jurisdiction. … They cannot prevent its decision being examined by the courts. If parties should seek by agreement to take the law out of the hands of the courts and put it in the hands of a private tribunal, without recourse at all to the courts in case of error, then the agreement is to that extent contrary to public policy and void.” per Lord Denning in Lee v Showman’s Guild of Great Britain [1959] 1 All E.R. 1175

    not that there is any such purported agreement in the Lib Dem rules.

  • Tony Greaves 11th Feb '14 - 7:11pm

    I suppose it was inevitable that this would unleash all the original views and comments on the allegations. The question here is however different – it is who leaked this letter (which Lord Rennard or his lawyers sent in response to a formal letter from the party informing him of the suspension) – and why. (ie an individual with their own agenda, or an “authorised leak” aimed at – what? Undermining any mediation process that may be taking place?

    It does seem that it was leaked by someone at the receiving end. In which case we need a clear statement by the powers that be at party HQ that they did not authorise the leak, and a check on who had the opportunity to do so – assuming that a letter of this nature would have been restricted on a very strict need-to-know basis.

    The silence so far on these matters is a matter of concern.

    Tony Greaves

  • The silence so far on these matters is a matter of concern.

    Hopefully everyone going to the conference in York will be asking plenty of questions at the appropriate point in the agenda.

    Hopefully the Conference Committee has already anticipated this and has already rescheduled that part of the agenda to make sufficient time available, so that those responsible in the party can be held to account.

    And as someone who will not be able to attend York, I hope there will be some reporting back to us ordinary members about what on earth has been going on for the last year.

    Maybe Nick Clegg could accept the invitation from Ch4 News and tell us what his involvement in this has been for the last six years.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Feb '14 - 3:22pm

    I hesitate to write anything more about this but the following information appears to me to be accurate and relevant.

    The York event is the federal conference. All the actions in relation to the investigations into and suspension of Lord Rennard have been taken by the English Party – not accountable to conference.

    It seems we have a deep silence from party HQ on the questions I asked about the fact (I do now believe it is a fact) that the stuff about the correspondence between the obscure English Party’s Regional Parties Committee and Lord Rennard was leaked to the BBC by someone at party HQ.

    It does seem that the plot is thickening. I understand that the RPC decision to suspend the membership of Lord Rennard, announced on 20th January on the basis of his failure to apologise, may now have been superseded at a further meeting of that body by a decision to change the reasons for the suspension of his membership to statements made by Lord Rennard via the media and social media, or made by other people. I have no idea which statements (if any) this refers to.

    I separately understand that the contents of the letter from Lord Rennard’s legal representatives to the RPC consist largely of a detailed and lengthy explanation of how the RPC has repeatedly not acted according to the party’s own rules. I do not know the details of these claims.

    Separately again, I also understand that the mediation process which looked set to be put in place a fortnight ago, with a leading professional in the field in charge, has stalled.

    The prospects for a quick and constructive end to this dispute do not seem good.

    Tony Greaves

    Again a statement of clarification by the English Party (or anyone else) would be helpful.

  • Tony Greaves 12th Feb '14 - 3:32pm

    @ Philip Young

    “Was Rennard given the verdict of the last inquiry (the second such inquiry, given the police spent seven months and came to a similar conclusion ) ….or was he just shown a copy of a press release?”

    It seems that Lord Rennard was provided in writing only with the conclusions of the Webster report and not with the full Report (which the party rules apparently state he should have).

    “Did the official verdict request an apology, or, was this an aside, made afterwards, as a suggestion only?”

    It was not part of Webster’s findings which were restricted to a recommendation to the RPC for no further action.. It was a suggestion which he added (described by David Steel as obiter dicta). He later said it was in an attempt to be helpful.

    “Have the women agreed to accept an apology on the basis that if its given, they wont be taking legal action for some sort of compensation? Rennard has offered mediation – which presumably goes on while there is a second inquiry (odd) – but mediation can only surely happen if the party, and the women complaining, also agree….so, other than Rennard, who else has agreed?”

    This is not clear.

    “Has Rennard been given a copy, or, shown a copy, of the findings of the inquiry, or has the punishment being sent out without the justice being seen to be done? ”

    See above.

    Tony Greaves

  • Rennard has a cast iron case. Every rule (explicit or implied) that could be broken, has been broken.

    Within hours of the suspension, an uncomfortable-looking Webster QC went on Sky News to say “I didn’t ask him to apologise. I asked him to consider it…”

    So the reason for ‘suspension’ was fatally holed within hours of its launch. If some committee is now trying to move the goalposts for the reasons for the suspension, I fear they will be leaving court not only with a big bill, but some judge’s choice comments in their ear. The whole affair has been characterized by mala fides, and the courts don’t like that…

    What a balls-up.

  • Jack “Rennard isn’t a minority, of course”

    0.000002 percent of the UK population describe themselves as Lord Rennard, while 99.999998 percent describe themselves as Non-Rennard. The smallest minority in the world is a minority of one, that is why liberalism is about protecting the individual, regardless of whatever groups he or she may belong to.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Leekliberal
    @nigel hunter: Hear hear!...
  • James Fowler
    Simon R has it right, as does James Moore. A Corbyn-lite slab of radicals' pet interventionist, illiberal policies won't turn the polling dial a millimetre. The...
  • Denis Loretto
    ....agenda. Buried within these motions is lots of good stuff but when is it publicised? We need to cut these down to crisp statements of the points that really...
  • Richard
    ... tell me aint so. How could one party be in favour of legalising sales of cannabis and at the same time banning sales of tobacco. Surely consistency would re...
  • Denis Loretto
    I reckon the problem is not too little policy but too much. Twice a year we have national conferences which earnestly work their way through worthy but hideousl...