The Rennard case: what Caron Lindsay and Stephen Tall have said about it

Lib Dem Voice’s co-editors, Stephen Tall and Caron Lindsay, have both written on their own blogs about the fall-out from the independent investigation into the allegations against Lord (Chris) Rennard.

Stephen wrote on Friday summarising the background to the mess the party finds itself in here: Q&A on the allegations against Lord Rennard. (My conclusion: it’s a mess.)

And on Sunday Caron posed the question, How is the party going to get through this?

There is an obvious path to peace.

It’s not too late for Chris Rennard to apologise, and to do it well. I really think that he should call off Carlile, say no thanks to Chris Davies MEP’s pledges of money to fund high court actions and just do it for his own sake as well as everybody else’s.Those women should get the apology that they, according to the person who has seen all the evidence, deserve. Stephen Tall rightly pointed out that an apology extracted under duress wouldn’t make any difference or satisfy anyone. What I’m suggesting is that he actually makes it sincerely. It takes a lot of courage to unpaint yourself from a corner, but it can be done.

There’s a report in the Independent on Sunday which states that Chris’s supporters are saying that he can’t apologise in case he gets sued. If you think about it, this is quite insulting to the women. This has never been about money. They were purely motivated by concerns about the safety of women in the party and its failure to treat allegations of sexual harassment seriously, pure and simple. Having said that, if that perception is a barrier to an apology, I wonder if it would help if they were able to say explicitly that they would not seek civil damages.

However, and I’ve changed my view on this in the last 24 hours, I don’t think it’s appropriate, even with an apology to allow him back into the Lords group just yet. Not after the way his legal adviser has been talking all over the media, misrepresenting what Alistair Webster said. And the comparisons he’s made to Henry VIII’s torturers and to North Korea are really ridiculous. I mean, he’s saying that an oppressive legal system which gives people no freedom and where political rivals face the firing squad is better than the disciplinary processes of the Liberal Democrats. That Henry VIII’s people torturing in search of evidence is better than the admittedly imperfect procedure that’s just taken place. Such statements make me question the credibility of everything else that he says.

A time of contrition after all the bluster is now called for.

I think we also need to try and take the temperature down somehow. People need to try and be calm and temperate in their language. There are very strong emotions involved in this and we need to respect where others are coming from and frame our remarks accordingly. It is possible to have these differences without letting them overwhelm our ability to function and work together.

The four women have now filed an appeal against the process. I don’t know the details of it, but we’ll have to wait for due process on that. There may well be further evidence, further hearings and legal action in the public courts.

The European elections take place 4 months on Wednesday. We all need to work together to get a decent result in that and the many sets of local elections also taking place. We need to get our focus back off this and on to the doorstep. That’ll be a lot easier if the Lords do the right thing tomorrow, whether they want to or not.

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  • I would completely accept that references to totalitarian regimes is over the top, but having as situation where a process is gone through and because some people are unhappy with the outcome another group of people applies a sanction in a complete arbritary way does rather remind me of how they work.

  • Stephen Tall’s blog from Friday contained this in his Q+A —

    But didn’t Nick Clegg threaten to withdraw the whip from Baroness (Jenny) Tonge for comments she made about Israel?

    Yes, he did. But Baroness Tonge didn’t dispute making the comments that she made (though their interpretation was a matter of controversy) … …

    Unlike with Lord Rennard, there were no internal enquiries, no investigations, no appeals, no ‘due process’ .
    Only threats from Clegg and an ultimatum that Jenny Tonge should apologise for what she had said or “leave the party”. Jenny refused to apologise for telling the truh. She resigned the whip in the Lords but remains loyal to the party.

    Given what is being said today about treating others in the party with respect and common decency, how are we to judge. Nick Clegg’s actions less than two years ago?

  • What I am unable to understand is that you are tearing yourself apart over one man when you all went along with the Welfare cuts that have made the poor poorer, caused suicides and created an increase in food banks. Perhaps a good long look at yourselves? It has certainly not helped when Liberal Democrat Peers seem to excuse the behaviour by saying things about Italians pinching bottoms or that half of the House of Lords probably have. Is this where the problem lies? Are there many politicians of all parties in both houses and in local constituencies holding their breath waiting for men and women who have suffered inappropriate behaviour to now feel empowered enough to come forward?

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