New Statement from Liberal Democrat Women

LDW believe the entire process from the word go has been mishandled. As a result we have been left with an unsatisfactory position which has not been fair to anyone involved.

We, have been talking to Senior Members of the Party about how LDW can contribute to resolving this distressing situation. Our involvement has been welcomed and we have been working behind the scenes to help in anyway we can. We are speaking to the Leader’s Office to arrange a meeting with Nick Clegg as soon as possible.

LDW is aware that the women who made the allegations against Lord Rennard have raised an Appeal. We call for the party to consider this urgently and give an opportunity for all sides to have their say through a formal Disciplinary Process.

We still stand by our request for Lord Rennard to do the right thing and apologise to the women to whom he has caused distress whether intended or not. If he does not apologise we support the removal of the Lib Dem Whip and we will be writing to the Lords to request it.

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  • “we support the removal of the Lib Dem Whip “. Rennard resigned the whip. he doesn’t currently have it, so how can you ask for it to be removed???

  • Well done LDW. Working behind the scenes has the merit that the party will not be brought into disrepute by anybody. Did this approach not occur too Clegg at any point since he first became aware of these accusations some years ago?

    “…. …. we have been working behind the scenes to help in anyway we can. We are speaking to the Leader’s Office to arrange a meeting with Nick Clegg as soon as possible. ”

    One might have thought that such an initiative might have come from the leader a long time ago. Maybe he thinks rushing to judgement on air on his LBC radio programme is a sensible way to resolve a difficult set of problems.

  • Liberal Neil 18th Jan '14 - 11:18pm

    I’m not convinced that having a ‘formal disciplinary process’ is the best route. What we actually needed was a genuine inquiry into what happened rather than an adversarial approach. It may, however, be too late for that now.

  • Is it possible to know who LibDem Women are?

  • If you are complaining that someone else is bringing the party into disrepute does it help to volunteer the following to The Observer as Bridget Harris has ?

    “You go into politics and you accept the notion of a collective agreement for the greater good. After 15 years working in the Lib Dems I realised there’s no greater good, just everyone doing a shit job.

    “Parliament is a place of blind ignorance, stuffed with racists and sexists and they are all idiots and they are accepted. And that’s why I walked away. I was actually wasting my time.”

  • According to Lord Greaves:
    “At the meeting of the party in the Lords last Wednesday the Chief Whip announced that Lord Rennard would rejoin the Lords group this coming Monday , to some acclamation.”

    My reading is that Lord Rennard temporarily suspended himself from the whip, then asked to resume the whip – a request that was accepted by the leader to happen on Monday. So my assumption is, and I stand to be corrected, that the House of Lords LD party would have to put their disciplinary process in gear in order to remove the whip from Lord Rennard.

    It isn’t going to happen.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 19th Jan '14 - 8:48am

    As an individual and in my roles within the Liberal Democrat Party, I for one stand by the 51% of the population who it would appear reading some of the threads on this matter, to some are not worthy of equality.

    Unless we as a Party can overcome the obvious negative attitudes that still exist towards women in the Party and society then we will fail to combat all other forms of discrimination and abuse either within the Party or elsewhere. Women should never have had to put up with sexual abuse and harrassment, and they certainly do not in the 21st Century.

    I firmly believe that there is a desire within the Party to ‘walk the talk’ and make our Party truly the Party of Equality and Fairness, but we appear to be held back by a powerful minority that ironically owe their positions of influence to the wider membership.

    I am not going to go into whether the Peer in question is guilty or not, because I am not in receipt of the full facts, but neither was the Police investigation or ours in receipt of the full facts, which I am aware is very common (after many years in the police service) in such cases, because the victims do not necessarily have confidence that their concerns will be appropriately heard and that the complaints procedure is robust enough to be truly independent. There is also the small matter of the stigma that attaches itself to those who raise any complaints.

    What I will say about the second investigation is that I am mystified that is was undertaken under the same burden of proof as a criminal investigation (beyond reasonable doubt). Even within the police service a member of staff being investigated internally for similar allegations, following a criminal investigation, they would be investigated under the civil burden of proof which is ‘a balance if probability’. As a result of this failure to use the correct procedure, in my opinion neither the complainants nor the accused in this case have had the opportunity of a fair hearing.

    To all of those people saying that the investigations have not proven guilt, well neither has the word ‘innocence’ been used or proven by the investigators, but rather because of the shambolic nature of the process the opposite has been implied. If I were the accused in this situation, no matter how painful the experience was, and I personally do know, I would be demanding a full internal investigation and hearing, because this is the only way that the complainants, the accused and the Party will be able to draw a line under this, and genuinely learn from the experience.

    Regarding an apology, I see no reason why one cannot be given for even I regret the distress, anxiety and yes harm that these victims have experienced so why cannot others express the same.

    In conclusion I commend the actions and words LDW and all those people who not only desire but are standing up for positive change. I especially commend those heroic Peers who are exhibiting the Party belief in equality and diversity, and have not forgotten why they were elevated to such positions by, I hasten to add, the very Party and membership whom their rebellious colleagues now seem to think that they are greater than. Our ‘Working Peers’ are meant to be just that ‘Working’, for the common good of the Party so that it may deliver fair and equitable policies, not setting themselves up as an elite club with their own rules.

    NB: These are my opinions alone and are not necessarily the same as any group that I am a member of and in other circumstances represent, but I would hope that they are similar.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair
    Liberal Democrat South Central Region Executive – Diversity Officer
    Social Liberal Forum – Member
    Liberal Left – Member
    Newbury Town Council – Councillor for Victoria Ward & Deputy Leader
    Newbury Constituency – Executive Member
    Newbury Branch – Chair

  • jenny barnes 19th Jan '14 - 9:37am

    I’m a woman, and a Liberal Democrat (at least, a member of the party) . Am I part of LDW? Why not?

  • Lord Carlile makes a savage attack on the Party and its Leader over the way they’ve been handling this issue today on the Mail on Sunday. Agree with him or not, it does not make happy reading for a Lib Dem. Who would want to be a Lib Dem Lord tomorrow? 🙁

  • @R Uduwerage-Perera
    This whole apology issue should be secondary to whether any wrong has been done. I would agree with you that I would express regret to anyone who has felt genuine hurt. It is different though if you are the one being accused of causing that hurt. For the apology to be anything but empty words it should be expressed without the need for prompting. Otherwise we are in danger of enforcing our own moral stance on others.

    He clearly feels strongly that he has nothing to apologise for therefore any apology will be meaningless. Whether he should be expelled from the party or have the whip removed should be decided through an open process (by that I mean to the parties not necessarily to the general public or wider membership).

    An apology should be a personal decision and always freely given. Even in the best examples of restorative justice where offenders meet victims, apologies are not forced. The process attempts to show the impact of someones actions and let them come to the realization of their culpability.

    Hold a hearing, air the evidence on both sides, come to a conclusion, decide ramifications if appropriate. An apology may count as mitigation if there is found to be wrongdoing and it is freely given, but not as an end in itself.

  • @ JohnTilley (and others calling for a “behind the scenes” approach to this saga – I agree that would have been far preferable to this public train crash, but how was that ever going to be possible when C4 News was airing it all publicly in the first place? Once the allegations were made public I don’t think there was any feasible way to deal with the fallout privately. Completely agree with you about Bridget Harris though, my opinion of her took a nosedive with every sentence of that article.

    It’s also worth remembering that many of the people now complaining about the outcome were perfectly happy with the way the inquiry was set up originally. I seem to remember the vast majority of comments at the time were applauding the way the inquiries were set up.

  • @ Tony Dawson – thanks for the link. I’ve just read the article and it’s savage indeed. I can understand that he’s angry on behalf of his friend (and I agree with the substance of his complaints against the party’s handling of this), but he doesn’t help anyone, including Rennard, by making extravagant comparisons with Henry VIII and North Korea etc. It seems both sides of this sorry saga are feeling so bitter they are letting anger get in the way of reasonable debate :-/

    Nevertheless, the following part of the article is very pertinent (I’ve quoted it below) and goes to the heart of the matter in my opinion – Rennard’s accusers are free to air their side to the story in the news, but he is apparently constrained from airing his defence for reasons of confidentiality. Quite simply, that is not fair.

    To assist Mr Webster, those of us representing Chris collected material for 100 statements and placed the most relevant 50 before the QC. In relation to the fourth woman’s allegation, we have the picture, and the photographer provided a statement: neither supported the claim. In relation to one of the other three women, we provided a devastating item of contradictory evidence that it would not be appropriate to publish. In relation to another, we were in possession of totally contradictory potential witness evidence that we held back out of respect for requested privacy. In the light of this material, Mr Webster was correct in finding the allegations were so weak there was a less than 50 per cent chance of the charge being proved to the criminal or even the (lower) civil standard.

  • “In the light of this material, Mr Webster was correct in finding the allegations were so weak there was a less than 50 per cent chance of the charge being proved to the criminal or even the (lower) civil standard.”

    What is the basis for Carlile’s claim that Webster found that there was less than 50% chance of the charge being proved to the civil standard? That is certainly not what Webster has said publicly.

  • A very duplicitous article by Carlile. Firstly for mistepresenting the situation by claiming Webster found there was ‘no case to answer’ which is markedly different from the finding that the allegations were broadly credible and there was satisfaction that Rennard violated space even if his intent was too difficultto prove. Secondly he is suggesting the interests of natural justice haven’t been served due to adailure to publish evidence or give Rennard a right to reply begore then asserting ” in relation to one of the other three women, we provided a devastating item of contradictory evidence that it would not be appropriate to publish.” Thereby throwing out an unpublished accusation without giving the complainant right to reply – highly hypocritical.

  • Frankly, Alex Carlile should have been out of the Party years ago!

  • Isn’t the problem that this WAS handled behind the scenes for years? And what good did that do us?

  • The point about Carlile’s claim about the civil standard of proof is this.

    It is clear from what he says that the evidence he presented was intended to discredit the women’s statements about what actually occurred (not simply to claim that what occurred could have an innocent interpretation in terms of Rennard’s intentions). If he now claims that “in the light of this material” Webster concluded that the complaint would not even meet the civil standard – the balance of probabilities – the implication is that Webster decided that on balance the women’s claims were factually false.

    That is not the case. On the contrary, Webster said “I have specifically discounted suggestions made during the investigation that the incidents had been invented as part of a political campaign against Lord Rennard”.

    To say that Webster found it was unlikely that the charges against Rennard could be proved beyond reasonable doubt is one thing. But to misrepresent Webster’s findings and make out that he concluded the women were – more likely than not – lying is quite disgraceful.

  • Nick needs to bring this issue to a head; and fast.

  • Its time to stop beating ourselves up about what we might have done better, the story has moved. Rennard has now, apparently threatened to Sue The Party. We cannot back down in the face of threats.

  • Peter Chegwyn 19th Jan '14 - 12:57pm

    So Tim13 now wants to throw Lord Carlile out of the party as well!


  • @ Chris – since neither Carlile nor Rennard are allowed to read the report, presumably Carlile is basing his comments re. the civil standard of proof on something Webster said to him in this famous phone call. Webster needs to come out and clarify this because it is, as you say, an important point. Unless Carlile is lying he clearly has got the impression from Webster that he found the allegations would not meet either the legal or civil standards. And if I’m not mistaken C4 News reported the same thing (before interviewing Carlile so they must have got it from elsewhere?)

    Webster apparently said that he had not made any “determination of fact”, in other words he hasn’t actually decided what happened. Which isn’t very helpful, obviously, but we are where we are. He has discounted the claim that the women were lying as part of some political vendetta but that’s not the same as saying their version of events is the correct one, it just means they are not lying out of politically motivated malice. It could simply be that they honestly have one recollection of events and Rennard, along with some other people present at the times of the incidents, honestly have another. Probably Webster believes it’s impossible to say what actually happened – so he’s come up with a very mealy-mouthed statement saying Rennard is neither guilty nor innocent but should apologise anyway for distress caused by something that may or may not have happened. What a mess.

  • AC Trussell 19th Jan '14 - 2:22pm

    It would help if we knew what took place- but , come to think of it ,if it was really serious he would be in court.
    I know some people are more touchy-feel y than others. I also know that attitudes-throughout society, have changed over the last few years, and people -without realizing it- are super sensitive to things that ; in the past they would have reacted to with a slap or a “what do you think you are doing!!!”.
    I appreciate this would be difficult to do- with this “lord” being in the position he was and your job/future depended(apparently) on him.
    I think that the Party has had a lot on it’s plate the last few years and has failed to spend enough time to set-up systems to deal with these internal events adequately.
    I do wonder about the character of this man though. Is he an arrogant person? I don’t know, but If he thinks he is innocent of any intended harm towards these women(there are rather a lot of accusations)- why not simply say ” I am sorry if I caused you any distress. I didn’t realize I was doing it”- simples! Most of us apologise if we unintentionally bump into someone.
    Surely he must realise the damage he is doing to the Party. The media- being mainly Tory or Lab are very reluctant to print anything positive about the Lib/Dems – that’s why most people think ill of us; but they will enjoy making-up headlines for this.
    There is a shortage of women in this Party- has he been helping this situation or hindering?

  • peter tyzack 19th Jan '14 - 2:34pm

    my Mum used to say ‘least said, soonest mended’..

  • “my Mum used to say ‘least said, soonest mended’..”

    Which also seems to have been the party’s attitude, when these matters were first brought to its attention. It only goes to show how wrong you can be.

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