Ros Scott writes about Chris Rennard’s resignation

I first met Chris Rennard in the run-up to the 1999 European elections, when I was the number two on the East of England list. Of course I knew who he was, a campaign legend, whilst I was just starting my career in politics. Then, as now, he was a source of wise advice, exceptional strategic judgement and personal support.

Chris has worked for the party for 27 years. His political activism began in Liverpool where he delivered half of a focus round because his mother wouldn’t let him cross the main road! The Liberal cause has motivated Chris ever since. He has been the pivotal figure in transforming our party into the formidable campaigning force which it is today. Literally dozens of Liberal Democrat MPs owe their seats to Chris’s efforts over the years.

Chris’s resignation today will come as a blow to the party. But I am confident that once he has left the post of Chief Executive he will continue his involvement with the Party in a variety of ways. One of Chris’s lasting legacies is the highly professional team he has created in Cowley Street and in constituencies across the country, which will take us forward into the next General Election and beyond.

I know what a difficult time this is for anyone involved in politics but our Party is stronger than it ever has been. During the course of this very tough few weeks Nick, myself and Party colleagues have been working hard to deal with the current issues facing all political parties. Tomorrow I will be setting out the measures we have agreed to take which will continue to put us ahead of the curve in creating a political system in which the public can have confidence.

Ten years from my first meeting with Chris we are again facing European elections. So for the next two weeks I will be out and about with activists delivering leaflets and knocking on doors. With Nick Clegg and Vince Cable leading our party, and your help, I am confident that on June 4th we can give Chris Rennard the send off he deserves.

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  • I trust you will ensure that there is a full investigation into the allegations surrounding Lord Rennard’s allowances claims which should be entirely separate to this issue.

  • Don’t mention the sleaze! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

    If this ‘resignation’ is permitted to be his “get out of jail free” card, the party will rightly be viewed with contempt.

  • Yes, a great campaigner, but does he seriously expect anyone to believe the “unconnected with expenses allegations” statement?

    This was stitched up at FE last night I presume. Hardly edifying behaviour at Cowley St, but at least it was relatively quick.

  • Martin Land 21st May '09 - 4:59pm

    Having been a strident critic of the Rennard Strategy for many years, it would be hypocritical of me to bemoan his departure too much.

    Obviously, on a personal level I wish him the very best. He’s always seemed a nice enough bloke, who obviously cares deeply about the Party.

    Wherever he goes, I hope some of his silly acolytes follow him.

  • A nice hagiography however it totally misses the point that his porky snout being in the trough has brought great shame to our party. I would rather see that addressed. We cannot take a leaf out of Gordon Browns book and lavish praise on the troughers when they are caught out. He leaves in shame and ignominy.

  • He leaves to spend his time in the Lords, on massive expenses, where they spend their time getting wealthy people to bribe them to change the law.

  • David Allen 21st May '09 - 5:45pm

    “Tomorrow I will be setting out the measures we have agreed to take which will continue to put us ahead of the curve in creating a political system in which the public can have confidence.”

    Let’s hope Meanydew has got it wrong, then, and that Ros Scott has not “totally missed the point”.

    Even Gordon blooming Brown is talking about some kind of internal party review mechanism that will punish the wicked. If we can’t even match Brown for lightning reactions and emotional intelligence, we’re not precisely ahead of the curve, are we?

    Besides which, we seem to have quite a lot of people under suspicion who actually deserve to be let off with no more than a talking-to, or indeed exonerated. We could do that through some sort of internal review procedure, and maybe save a few seats that could otherwise be at risk from the sleaze charge. But – That will only be remotely credible if we also take a very tough line, as and when we find the guilty!

  • I first came across Chris Rennard when he was Liberal Party Area Agent in the East Midlands.

    This was in the mid 1980s, shortly after he had succeeded in getting David Alton elected in Liverpool Mossley Hill, despite the fact that the Tories had made big gains in the City Council elections the previous year.

    It was while East Midlands Area Agent that Chris wrote his famous book that became the bible for successful local government election organisers.

    I next bumped into Chris at Greenwich in 1987, where he and Peter Chegwyn turned round a feeble SDP campaign and got Rosie Barnes elected from third place and with no local government base. Remember “Going for gold” and “Say hello to Rosie Barnes”?

    Eastbourne was very much a turning point. The new party had been mortally wounded by David Owen’s spoiling antics and was rubbing along on about 5% in the national polls. How could the Lib Dems win a byelection when the sitting Tory MP had been murdered by the IRA? But we did, and that is thanks pretty largely to Chris.

    Then there was Newbury (22,000 majority), Christchurch, Eastleigh and Littleborough & Saddleworth. And the last three General Elections. A legendary record if ever there was one.

    Chris is a really nice man, not a backstairs creep. I hope we continue to get his input.

  • I endorse all the praise for Chris’s terrific work for the party.

    But I also endorse the view that any allegations of impropriety need to be examined with rigour.

  • Mark Littlewood 21st May '09 - 7:36pm

    Let’s be absolutely clear about the official line here.

    Chris has resigned for personal and family reasons.

    The party has made it clear that this has absolutely nothing to do with the expenses allegations.

    So when are we going to hear what the FE actually decided about expenses? It’s been three days since their meeting ended for chrissake.

  • Cheltenham Robin 21st May '09 - 7:50pm

    Can we leave the public linen washing to those fools over at Con Home?

  • Now pay back the money that was stolen and given to the Lib Dems.

    Regardless of whether the donation was permissible, retaining it is immoral.

    Until then, the Lib Dems remain the benficiaries of a theft that puts MPs fingers in the till firmly in the shade.

    Pay back the money that you know is stolen.

  • Roger Roberts 21st May '09 - 9:08pm

    As someone who has worked with Chris for many years I can but marvel at what he has achieved in that time. He struggled to try to get me elected in Conwy – but we never quite succeeded !- and was an inspiration to every one of us. The Liberal Party and then the Lib-Dems owe him and Ann a tremendous debt of gratitude. Their dedication has known no bounds. A million thanks.

  • rochdale cowboy 21st May '09 - 10:05pm

    I first met Chris at a ULS conference in 1981 – a few months later a friend and I were in Liverpool contemplating switching from Durham Univ to Liverpool. We got lost and then I spotted Chris – reintroduced myself and he ended up taking us through Liverpool to our destination. I have never forgotten that act of kindness and whenever I bumped into him at subsequent party events he always came over to me and said hello – greeting me as though he knew me really well – an approach others in the party would do well to adopt. I admit I know nothing about any problems with expenses but I do know that Chris is a most generous, kindhearted and very friendly person who produced some fantastic results for the party. Well done and thanks Chris.

  • Yet another smoke screen,an amazing coincidence & insulting to people’s intelligence.

    Please just tell us whether or not the £41,678 in second homes allowances Rennard claimed is going to be repaid to the taxpayer?

    A simple yes or no is fine.

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