Statement from Nick Clegg on Chris Rennard allegations

The following statement by Nick Clegg has just been issued:

The allegations made on Channel 4 concerning Lord Rennard last Thursday were extremely serious and distressing to the women involved. It is critical they are investigated thoroughly and dealt with properly and they will be.

But I would like to make one thing crystal clear. I did not know about these allegations until Channel 4 informed the party of them shortly before they were broadcast. I have today spoken to one of the women in the broadcast who I respect and admire and who confirmed that she had never raised the issue with me.

I am angry and outraged at the suggestion that I would not have acted if these allegations had been put to me. Indeed, when indirect and non-specific concerns about Chris Rennard’s conduct reached my office in 2008, we acted to deal with them.

My Chief of Staff at the time, Danny Alexander, put these concerns to Chris Rennard and warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable. Chris Rennard categorically denied that he had behaved inappropriately and he continues to do so. He subsequently resigned as Chief Executive on health grounds.

As my office only received concerns indirectly and anonymously, as those involved understandably wanted to maintain their privacy, there was a limit to how we could take this matter forward following Chris Rennard’s resignation. It is incorrect to state that there was any other separate inquiry by my office or anybody in it.

I recognise from the Channel 4 broadcast that there are legitimate concerns that issues raised with the party were not handled as well as they should have been. In particular the suggestion that a complaint was made but was not dealt with as a formal complaint. I am therefore determined that we carry out a thorough investigation into our procedures and how we applied them at the time to ensure we have a full and clear picture of what happened and the lessons that we need to learn. This review will be independently chaired.

A separate investigation into the specific allegations about Lord Rennard will take place under our disciplinary procedure. It is essential that this is carried out with due process and for that reason I cannot provide a running commentary on it. But I am absolutely determined that both these investigations will be carried out thoroughly and comprehensively. These investigations may well reveal flawed procedures, and clearly the women concerned feel they were not properly listened to. But I totally reject the insidious suggestion that my office or I are responsible in any way for a deliberate cover up.

The full truth of what happened and what failed to happen and who said what to whom will be revealed by these investigations.

But in the meantime, I will not stand by and allow my party to be subject to a show trial of innuendo, half-truths and slurs. The important thing is that we respect the women who have come forward and do everything to get to the truth. That is what will now happen.

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  • A strong statement from Clegg.

  • If indirect and non-specific concerns reach the leaders office about the chief executive they surely have a duty to ensure that the details are thoroughly investigated.

    Whatever his indignation, and I would agree the gutter press will do their best to find a story whether one exists or not, I would say his office has serious questions to answer. Unless the investigations are seen to be truly independent then this will leave a stain whatever the truth.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Feb '13 - 8:01pm

    A clear and assertive statement. And necessary in the circumstances.

    “I will not stand by and allow my party to be subject to a show trial of innuendo, half-truths and slurs”

    This reminds me of the famous “farrago of twisted facts and alleged events” statement by Harold Wilson.
    Nick Clegg may not ‘stand by’. But the enemies of the party, starting from the ‘Northcliffe end’, will doubtless do their damnedest to extract their pound and a half of horse flesh from this affair, regardless. Whether such efforts will ever reach the 50-per-cent truth threshold, I wonder.

  • A good statement

  • Well, that just raises more questions than it answers.

    Does “indirectly and anonymously” mean that someone did tell Clegg about the allegations that have now surfaced, but didn’t tell him the names of the people concerned? Or did the “concerns” he was told about concern other incidents? If so, why wasn’t he told about these allegations by Paul Burstow and others?

    And if Danny Alexander “put these concerns” to Rennard in 2008, where does that leave Rennard’s claim that “in 27 years working for the Liberal Democrat Party, not a single personal complaint was ever made against me to my knowledge”? Is that really a legalistic way of saying that he knew complaints had been made, but they had been made “indirectly and anonymously”?

  • Richard Harris 24th Feb '13 - 8:29pm

    A strong statement, perhaps. But he should have been more specific – I am not altogether clear on what constitutes an “indirect and non-specific concern”.

  • I agree – a strong statement – coming on the back of a depressing couple of days. I wont comment on the nature of the issue – i dont know enough.
    If Liberalism has an emotional side it is surely one of optimism – I only hope it hasnt put people off going in the run up to Thursday – there are plenty of Tories out there taking great pleasure in Cleggs discomfort – there is still every possibility of wiping the smiles off their sanctimonious faces – I hope the whole party can rally and pull it off.
    To those in Eastleigh now and until Thurs – the very best of luck – keep going until the last Lib Dem has been got out to vote – smile and keep happy – thanks for going – from a teacher who has to teach!

  • So you were aware of unspecific indirect allegations to the extent that he was warned over his context but did feel fit to investigate further … This seems implausible but if so can be considered at best negligent and at worst a demonstration of putting your head in the sand for fear of what you might find. To claim now that you knew nothing is some what weak.

  • I’m reminded of a passage from Albert Speer’s memoirs (i’m not by any means implying that clegg or rennard are of guilty of anything remotely similar but believe the moral analogy stands) on being warned never to visit a camp called Auschwitz due to the unspecified horrors committed there Speer deigned not to dig deeper and later considered this his greatest moral failure. He insisted that he knew nothing of the crimes but acknowledged that he was in a position to have done so and this was sufficient grounds to be confirm his complicit guilt.

  • just as alarming as the allegations themselves is the eagerness of so many to condemn before the accused has had a decent opportunity to explain fully his side of the story. Now I fear that readers of this post will howl “where there is smoke, there is fire” but I was brought up to believe that a person is innocent until proved guilty. Has society changed so much that nowadays we allow the media to be judge, jury and executioner ?

  • Seems to me that Nick Clegg is acting entirely correctly. If an employer were told of concerns but staff affected declined to make their complaint formal by putting their names to it then there would be a limit to what could be done by the employer.

    Also worth remembering that disciplinary action may include action which is less than dismissing a member of staff and it might well not include going public about incidents to protect victims.

    Of course, hindsight and several women now making complaints together gives a different perspectiv to this issue. The seriousness with which this is now been taken is right and I trust that both enquiries will do their duty.

    There is an excellent article by Cathy Newman in the Telegraph about the culture at Westminster and indeed in newspapers – well worth a read:

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