Tim Farron’s email to Lib Dem members explaining the suspension of Lord Rennard

The following message from Lib Dem party president Tim Farron has just been emailed to members:

It has been a difficult few days for the party. Many of you have contacted me directly to express your anger and disappointment at Lord Rennard’s refusal to apologise following the recommendations of the investigation into his behaviour. As President, I wanted you to hear from me.

Along with Nick Clegg, I made my view absolutely clear – Lord Rennard’s refusal to apologise is unacceptable. Most importantly, Lord Rennard is actively rejecting calls to apologise from party members and is refusing to comply with a formal party body.

This refusal was grounds for further action.

Today it has been decided that Lord Rennard’s membership of the Liberal Democrats will be suspended, and that he will be subject to a fresh investigation over his refusal to apologise.

This decision was taken by the Regional Parties’ Committee (the body which adjudicates on internal disciplinary matters in England) following a large number of complaints from party members. This decision means he will not be able to sit as a Liberal Democrat in the House of Lords, and will not be allowed to sit on our party’s Federal Policy Committee.

I understand why some people have chosen to strongly defend Lord Rennard. He was instrumental in much of our electoral success, and has given many years of service. However, everyone in the party has a responsibility to treat others with respect, and no length of service can or should lessen that obligation.

No doubt some of you will want to share your thoughts on this issue with me directly. I hope that you do.

As President, I want to make sure that you always know that your thoughts, feelings, and feedback matter to me.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for everything you do for the party.

Very best wishes,
Tim

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66 Comments

  • George Miles 20th Jan '14 - 4:59pm

    Good.

  • paul barker 20th Jan '14 - 5:00pm

    This really should mark the end of the argument, at least till the Commitee reports. Theres an important Parliamentary By-Election in 3 weeks, called with absolute minimum of notice. Clearly Labour have worries too, can we get back to talking with the Voters.

  • Gosh. Is it really fair to characterise dislike of the way the party is handling this situation as “strongly defending” a man because of long service?

    I suspect that a lot of members are like me – not really sure to what to make of the initial allegations, but horrified at the complete horlicks of an aftermath which has involved several investigations and lots of innuendo. We also might like to think that once allegations have been found not strong enough to warrant further action, they should be dropped.

  • I opened this post expecting to see a rational argument for this decision. Instead what I see is:

    This guy Rennard won’t do what we want.
    So how about this other process which hasn’t been involved before decides on a sanction out of the blue -thats more like it
    I want it and Clegg wants it as well (so that makes it ok).
    So thats it then.
    End of argument.

    It’s like something out of a Kafka novel and this is counter to just about everything I used to admire Liberals for.

  • We need to get this sorted unequivocally as quickly as possible before we exhaust our credibility with party members and the electorate alike.

  • Robin Gardner 20th Jan '14 - 5:32pm

    Since The Libeal Party survied the Thorpe Trial we should not regard the Lord Rennard case as a long term disarster !

  • So the Regional Parties’ Committee has decided to suspend Lord Rennard before a proper hearing and after Nick Clegg told him to apologist or else . Setting aside the fact the man be innocent, it seems to me the Regional Parties’ Committee has simply done what the leadership were urging it to do.

  • Adam Robertson 20th Jan '14 - 6:03pm

    I welcome the e-mail from Tim Farron, the President of the Party, but I have not received an e-mail despite being a Party Member. This is the first time, I have seen this e-mail from Tim Farron. It seems that Tim Farron, only wants to listen to those who agree with him. I think this is a very dangerous path to take.

    This is what I am referring to, “I understand why some people have chosen to strongly defend Lord Rennard. He was instrumental in much of our electoral success, and has given many years of service. However, everyone in the party has a responsibility to treat others with respect, and no length of service can or should lessen that obligation.”. Even if someone wants to defend Lord Rennard, it will not be treated equally to those calling on for Lord Rennard to apologize, this is because Tim Farron has already made an assumption that Lord Rennard should apologize, so what is the point, if you want to defend Lord Rennard, if Tim Farron has already made an assmuption. I think in this situation, TIm Farron, should be in the middle, possibly a mediator not acting like judge and jury, as this e-mail comes across to me.

    What worries me now, is that there are motions what have threatened to censure Lord Carlile, for defending Lord Rennard. Is Lord Rennard, not even allowed someone to defend him? I am glad that the Scottish Executive, decided not to include the part to condemn, Lord Carlile. It would be a travesty if Lord Carlile, got condemned for defending Lord Rennard. Lord Rennard is entitled to a defence, which could be seen as a character assassination to a point. I think Lord Greaves, in an earlier post on another article, was right to point that out. Also worries me, that Lord Greaves, is now being pointed out, which could be borderline in terms of appropriateness of comments on Liberal Democrat Voice.

    I am also a Liberal Youth member, I was shocked to hear that the Liberal Youth Executive Committee, decided to make a statement on Lord Rennard, calling on him to apologize, without referring the issue to its members. Certainly, does not represent my view and I think prior consultation could have been had, instead making an assumption that we would all agree. In our preamble, the start says, “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society’, which I completely upheld the values of this but when a fair and impartial process has dealt with Lord Rennard, in shape, of a police inquiry and Webster Report, it has ascertained that he is not guilty. Yes, we can argue whether it should be based on beyond reasonable doubt or balance of probabilities. However, this is becoming where it can be argued that, the Liberal Democrats, are not being fair in justice to Lord Rennard.

    Helen H, is right to point out that the Party is at war with itself, but the leadership have to take blame for this. Namely Nick Clegg, but more importantly, Tim Farron. I think Tim Farron, is an excellent President, although I think he has badly misjudged this and I think this will not do his any future leadership ambitions any good. Tim Farron is a good bloke but I think how he has handled this, is abysmal.

  • This action can be criticised but it is better than letting Rennard take his seat in the Lords this afternoon.

    Here is the text of the comment I have made (as we are all invitedd to do) in reply to Tim Farron –
    “It is a great pity that Chris Rennard (aided and abetted by Lord Carlile – acting as Paddy Ashdown has said as Rennard’s advocate, not his friend) has chosen to accept and rejoice in one part of the Webster report and to reject the other (the need for him to apologise at least for the “invasive” behaviour that Webster considers to have occurred.

    In these circumstances the party is taking the only sensible action open to it. The comments made by Chris Davies MEP in particular are utterly appalling and demonstrate the degree to which too many senior Lib Dem representatives need to grow up and understand the world as it now is.”

  • Michael Berridge 20th Jan '14 - 6:13pm

    It is literally tragic to see a great strategist set on a course that can only do his reputation more harm. Whatever the truth of the allegations, few now believe Chris Rennard when he says that nothing happened and therefore there is nothing to apologize for. The fear – groundless, I sincerely hope – is that much more happened than we have heard so far.

  • Terry Gilbert 20th Jan '14 - 6:32pm

    Except that is not what Webster found, is it Helen. Have you even read his statement about what he found? I do agree it’s a Horlicks, though.

  • The arguments here are as baffling as tbe mess the party has made of handling it.
    Dear oh.

  • Tim Farron like Alistair Webster QC, have been very economical with the truth, as have others, such as Nick Clegg et al. In so doing they have permitted a grossly distorted view of matters to be put into the public domain, that has probably done more to “bring the party into disrepute” than Chris Rennard’s actual actions and supposed non-actions!

    Fundamentally, none of them have addressed the simple question why has Chris Rennard (and Alex Carlile QC) not been given a copy of the report.? Until he has seen the report, he really is unable to make any meaningful comment or even consider making the apology, that various people claim the (unpublished) report suggests; but since no one (including Chris Rennard) is able to confirm exactly what is said in the report on this specific matter we don’t actually know…

    Additionally, we should remember the report cannot be seen by ANY ONE outside of the current RPC, as to do so would effectively publish the report and hence immediately breech the Data Protection Act; since Chris Rennard has not and todate is unable to reasonably give his permission for publication/wider circulation. On this matter it is also unclear whether the complainants, making the allegations, have seen (and hence approved) the full report.

    I’m interested to know who will conduct the investigation, as the RPC can’t since they are effectively also under investigation and hence who ever does the investigation (if not the RPC) cannot read the report ie. cannot access the available evidence…

    I wouldn’t surprise me that now the party has acted, Chris Rennard doesn’t start legal proceedings against named individuals (including the complainants) for defamantion of character.

  • Alex Baldwin 20th Jan '14 - 7:51pm

    @Tim Farron “I understand why some people have chosen to strongly defend Lord Rennard. He was instrumental in much of our electoral success, and has given many years of service.”

    I had no idea who Lord Rennard was before these allegations came out. I am simply rather sensitive to people being treated unfairly, as seems to be the case here.

  • Having read Chris Rennards response, in the absence of proven misbehavior , he appears to be offering a generalized apology for any inadvertent distress he has caused.

    It is an apology in all but name

  • Robert Hamilton 20th Jan '14 - 7:56pm

    I agree with you Helen, and many members will not. I am reminded of the split in the Party over same sex marriage. The party seems stumble over gender issues as the Tories do over the EU and Labour over blairism. We just have to live with it, as the C of E have lived with the split over women bishops. Paul Barker points a way forward for the time being.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Jan '14 - 8:37pm

    If you apologize, then you would be agreeing that you had done wrong.

  • Morgan Inwood 20th Jan '14 - 9:07pm

    I too want this matter dealt with ASAP because it is deeply upsetting that the Party is tearing itself apart over this.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 20th Jan '14 - 9:08pm

    I have responded to Tim Farron along the following lines : “As a Lawyer and Lib Dem party member and without knowing much about the in’s and out’s of this matter I nevertheless simply cannot understand: Why one would have an Inquiry, effectively ignore the findings, demand an apology, and when it is not forthcoming go for a 2nd Inquiry ? ! Frankly I would be amazed if Chris Rennard were NOT seeking Legal Advice re: the possibility of suing the party ? !!

    Cllr. Nick Cotter.

  • @Helen Tedcastle

    Absolutely right Helen – I too am shocked by this ‘if you dont agree with me, then you must be on the wrong side’ tone that is coming out of people who up to now I thought had a lot more common sense about them.

    Im really not sure about guilt or not – what I am deeply concerned about is this sort of ‘lets try things until something sticks approach’ . And if there is even a hint of truth (I desperately hope not) ithat some members are thinking of censuring those such as Carlile for defending Rennard then the party might as well pack its bags

  • All I can see is that this will reflect increasingly badly on the party.

    When Webster’s report was completed, the findings should have been discussed directly with Rennard and a response negotiated prior to its release. I thought it as normal in investigations for those criticised to be shown the findings in advance.

    This incendiary issue was set off prior to the Eastleigh by-election, a time that could be expected to maximise damage to the party; it has flared up again and the issue has been reset to flare up yet again; and still there is little specific explanation of what Rennard supposedly did.

  • I just don’t believe that if this was a woman who had been accused by men of doing something wrong, that she would be treated in the same way as Rennard.

  • @Helen Dudden – “if you apologize, then you would be agreeing that you had done wrong”.

    No, no, no. What is wrong with a form of words – “It was never my intention to cause any offence or distress, and I deny any suggest of inappropriate behaviour, but if my actions have caused any inadvertent distress then I offer an unreserved apology.”

    I’m sure Chris has some expert advice to make sure any statement would be legally sound.

  • Tim Farron doesn’t say how to contact him with feedback & there is nothing on the Party website. Can anyone enlighten me?

  • In his second statement, Webster talks about “The suggestion that Lord Rennard might wish to apologise was not one I envisaged as being contentious. ”

    How can not complying with a suggestion (as opposed to an instruction) be “refusing to comply with a formal party body”?

    I think this has all the potential of getting really messy if, as suggested this evening, it is bound for the courts. If it is shown that senior officials have deliberately failed to follow the Party’s formal policies will they have brought it into disrepute?

    Labour, UKIP and the Tories will be the only winners…

  • There has been criticism in the past of various aspects of the Party’s management of its participation in the Coalition. Has the manner in which this matter has been dealt with been designed to make those other actions pale into insignificance?

    Whatever you think about Chris Rennard and what he did or did not do, those who have been dealing with these matters in the past few months – and the last few days – bring the Party into disrepute.

  • Hard to say which is bigger shambles: handling of Rennard affair or Geneva Two conference

  • “Today it has been decided that Lord Rennard’s membership of the Liberal Democrats will be suspended, and that he will be subject to a fresh investigation over his refusal to apologise.”

    So we’re still in a hole, and we’ve just brought in a couple of brand new spades to carry on digging with. As James Landale comments, “The other political parties … know that only the Lib Dems could have got themselves into such a mess. Other parties would have eased Lord Rennard out a long time ago once the allegations of sexual harassment first emerged. …The fact that the Lib Dems have allowed this to go on for so long tells us a huge amount about the party today.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25805033

    An effective party would give its leader much more autonomy, and would then judge the leader on his / her use of that autonomy.

    An effective leader would quickly act to deny both sides total victory, to bury the poisonous words “sexual misconduct”, and equally to bury any pretence that there was not abundant evidence of boorish, upsetting behaviour which demanded a handsome apology. An effective leader would have decreed a punishment, probably time-limited, cutting Rennard down to size, but avoiding expulsion and the risk of martyrdom. We don’t have an effective leader. Party structure, rather than Clegg on this occasion, would seem to be the main reason why not.

  • Mick McAndrews 21st Jan '14 - 12:12am

    Methinks for what its worth you have made a pigs ear of a pigs ear……..

  • What is wrong with a form of words – “It was never my intention to cause any offence or distress, and I deny any suggest of inappropriate behaviour, but if my actions have caused any inadvertent distress then I offer an unreserved apology.”

    I got the impression that Rennard denies not only that he intended to cause offence or distress, but that the events as described ever occurred.

    The form of words you suggest would be tantamount to an admission that the events had, in fact, occurred.

    Therefore if Rennard still denies the events occurred, he cannot use the form of words you suggest.

    It would be as if someone accused me of punching them, and I deny I ever even touched them, and you were to suggest that I apologise by saying that it was never my intention to cause harm or pain, and if my actions had caused unintended harm or pain then I offer an unreserved apology.

    I cannot consistently deny that any contact ever occurred, and apologise if I unintentionally caused harm or pain — because to apologise for causing harm or pain is to accept that contact did occur.

    So Rennard simply cannot apologise for distress caused by his actions, if he is to continue to deny that those actions ever occurred.

  • I am not privy to any information about the internal processes or deliberations of the Liberal Democrats. Consequently, I cannot assert that this or that happened. However, the way things have played out can be interpreted in the following way: that the inquiry was stage-managed to reach a predetermined result, one which would mollify the complainants by not questioning their credibility, while at the same time avoiding anything that would or could result in further processes against Lord Rennard, with Lord Rennard issuing a pro formâ apology. Whether there was a formal agreement to this I doubt, but I suspect that many people in the party thought there was an “understanding.” For reasons best known to Lord Rennard, he refused to fulfil his part of this understanding, and instead trumpeted the results as a complete exoneration. The party leadership felt let down and have retaliated in the only way they have — since it is not now possible to go back and revisit the inquiry without an even more devastating embarrassment (or worse) to all concerned.
    That is how I imagine events could have transpired. It is possibly, perhaps even probably, utter rot from beginning to end. Nonetheless, if this is the impression it leaves on me, I suspect it will make the same impression on others, or a more damaging one — for instance, that there was a corrupt bargain with Rennard to let him off with the lightest possible penalty — a mere apology — and that Rennard tricked the leadership into thinking he would comply while never intending to do so, in fact quite the reverse — to paint himself as an innocent victim.
    If the truth is other than this, it is really highly desirable that a truer story be told — credibly — as soon as possible.

  • Maggie
    Are you a member of the Liberal Democrats?

  • http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25811715

    Some things used to be acceptable that now aren’t

  • @crewegwyn

    What’s ‘wrong’ with what you are saying is that’s what you would like to happen, and Rennard is under no obligation to offer that sort of statement. That’s not his fault, it’s the fault of lousy processes that have led up to this situation. Take what you are saying to its logical conclusion, I suppose we would all like criminals to confess to their crimes, but as liberals we would be aghast if after a trial we said, we’ll actually we don’t like that verdict so please could you make a state ment about it and (worse) let’s have another trial while we are at it, and in the meantime here’s a bit of punishment to go along with it.

    Cllr Nick Cottons legal view simply makes mores sense .

  • “Labour, UKIP and the Tories will be the only winners…”

    I don’t think this will have much, if any, impact on Lib Dem polling. This sorry mess may well have a huge impact internally but I don’t think it’s what voters care about. They care about getting the policies they want delivered and the competence and integrity of the politicians in office. This affair has no impact on policy and doesn’t really mark out the Lib Dems as being much different to other parties in being a bit useless and containing a few bad apples. As far as polling is concerned, the real damage to voters’ perception of policy delivery, competence and integrity was caused by tuition fees et al. I think you’ll still be polling the same in a months time as you have done for the last three years.

  • This “if you’re not with us you’re against us” attitude from the leadership is most unhelpful and the assumption that anyone who defends Rennard must be motivated either by an outdated sexist outlook or by personal loyalty is highly offensive. It’s entirely possible to deplore sexual harassment and to feel completely neutral towards Chris Rennard as a person, but still to be appalled at the way he seems to be being treated here. Being asked to apologise for something this serious, based on a report you’re not allowed to read, even though you deny the allegations and there is apparently more than a little doubt over what really happened, would offend many people’s sense of justice. We, more than any other, are supposed to be the party of fairness and due process. We have been bullied into abandoning those principles by the media.

    Tim Farron has handled this appallingly, in my opinion, and if he is a future leadership candidate I hope there will be strong alternatives. Not that Nick Clegg has handled it well either but at least he hasn’t been so patronising as to assume the only people defending Rennard must either be his friends or dirty old men.

  • I agree with Steve Way, the wording of the email is disingenuous at best.

  • @Adam Robertson – try your “Junk Mail” folder – that’s where my e-mails from Tim Farron arrive.

  • Maggie
    If you have received Tim’s email, there is a link to Contact him.

    crewegwyn – The problem with your approach (and many others, including Nick Clegg to be fair) have suggested that it could clear the area, are 1) It has been tried in the past, and because 2) At least one, if not more, of the accusers, do not find that an adequate form of closure for them. It could be argued, I am sure, that the broad idea of mediation, assisted by such apologies have not been pursued hard enough before the issue emerged into the media, but the accusers are now pretty much hard line on Chris Rennard’s removal, certainly from any positions of influence with candidates, members etc. They also believe, a I understand, that there is no point in doing things “behind closed doors” because they don’t think action like they want will emerge.

    It is clear that you have to be a multidimensional QC to have any positive effect in this contentious type of situation. This case sees, for instance, Alistair Webster being naive about likely human reactions, Alex Carlile being overly aggressive. But ultimately, this case is not unique as one involving people (or groups) having major concerns about the behaviour of others. Some involved in politics are notorious for their wish to impose their will on future action. That has in various cases, led to accusations of bullying. I am sure all political parties are familiar with the difficulties of dealing with this, without massive public fallout. Often, as in this case, those accusing get fed up with attempts to mediate, or describe the situation as “a personality clash”, and in the end feel there is no alternative to going public. Often those accused have positions of power or influence, which enables them to continue with the contested behaviour.

    We, in the Liberal Democrats have an especially difficult situation. After all, many companies and others have torn themselves apart over accusations of a bullying or harassment nature. Political parties are even more vulnerable because they are in the public eye, they need to be seen to maintain certain moral and behavioural standards, they have lots of people who are not employed in a conventional way (ie paid or contracted for their work) and many of these have significant influence or power over others, either paid or unpaid. In the Liberal Democrats, many hold multiple roles, and it is sometimes difficult to see what hat they are wearing when they take particular actions. The flow-chart shown on TV of the interrelationship of party bodies, plus public office holding etc makes it extraordinarily difficult. And above all, we have our moral approach laid out in the constitution and its preamble.

    Let’s not try to pretend this is easy.

  • @ crewegwyn Alison smith has tweeted that such a “politician’s apology” would not be accepted by her.

  • “Why one would have an Inquiry, effectively ignore the findings, demand an apology, and when it is not forthcoming go for a 2nd Inquiry ?”

    As far as the ‘findings’ go, it seems Rennard and his supporters are very keen on one of the findings – that there is a less than 50% chance of proving beyond reasonable doubt that he had intended to act in an indecent or sexually inappropriate way – but want to throw all the rest of them out of the window – that the allegations were credible, that the suggestion the incidents had been invented was specifically rejected, that Rennard’s behaviour had caused distress to a number of woman, and that not only an apology but a “commitment to change his behaviour in future” was appropriate.

    In the light of all that, can anyone believe that Webster would have found “no case to answer” if the standard of proof had been the civil rather than the criminal one? So is it really credible to view Rennard as the victim here?

    To my mind the most offensive thing is not the refusal to apologise, but the claim by Rennard (or on his behalf) that the women were lying about what happened – and I think it’s very clear indeed that Webster did not accept that.

  • @Maggie

    “to contact Tim about an issue relating to his role as Party President : [email protected]
    [Source: ]

    A quick google, shows he has several other email addresses and means of contact, but this would seem to be the best one for party related matters.

  • @Manfarang yes I am a member. I haven’t had the TF email though. I do get regional & local emails from time to time but have never had anything from Tim (have checked junk).

    @Roland – thanks for the address

  • Tim

    I am a party member and waiting for your E-mail, because I would like to reply to it.
    Why, because there are parts to it which I fundamentally disagree, you are out of order.

    I have never witness such a shambles like this. This party needs to get a grip of itself, not tomorrow but today.

  • Tim

    I am a party member and waiting for your E-mail, because I would like to reply to it.
    Why, because there are parts within it which I fundamentally disagree,.

    I have never witness such a shambles like this. This party needs to get a grip of itself, not tomorrow but today.

  • Lord Rennards Statement
    In his statement Lord Rennard says, “Despite having helped many of my friends in the party and all of the Leaders with ‘crisis management’, I could not handle my own.” How very true and it still is. Crisis calls for brevity and well targeted messages.
    The only three paragraphs he needed in his statement yesterday were:-
    “It is impossible to describe how enormously distressed I am by this situation and I am certainly too ill to attend the House of Lords today.
    I formally offered mediation in October 2013 as a route forward via the Independent Investigator. This was completely rejected by the ‘complainants’.
    (As a result, an) apology (to the complainants) would leave me defenceless in a future civil action.
    Courtesy has always been an essential part of my moral compass. 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.”
    Now that Alison Smith has publically said that she will not pursue a civil action against him if he does make a sincere apology we must hope he will reconsider his refusal to give a more comprehensive apology. If he does it would be nice to see her go further and acknowledge the good work the party has done by both commissioning and implementing the Morrissey report. Maybe the party should be considering mediation again rather than a disciplinary hearing?

  • Fabius Maximus 21st Jan '14 - 12:48pm

    “We need to get this sorted unequivocally as quickly as possible before we exhaust our credibility with party members and the electorate alike.”

    As an interested outsider, I would say in response to the above comment that few people outside the Liberal Democrats know or care who Chris Rennard is. The way the Liberal Democrats are committing hari kiri over this is extraordinary, but in many ways reflects a disconnect between the degree of importance Lib Dems assign to themselves in their own minds, and the degree the wider electorate does.

    I repeat, nobody outside SW1 knows or cares who Chris Rennard is, he is a non-entity.

  • FM What on earth are you talking about? I am sure you also belong to organisations that are a part of your life. Those organisations are led by people, which will make you very interested in how they behave in relation to that organisation and the people in and associated with it. Chris Rennard has been the nearest thing to a de facto leader other than those named as such over a lot of years. Most within the party know exactly who he is, and quite a lot know him personally. The fact that those not in the Lib Dems may not, is hardly relevant to the degree of organisational hurt on all sides.

  • Adam Robertson 21st Jan '14 - 3:17pm

    @Alan Jeffs – I have received an e mail from James Lillis, the Deputy Head of National Campaigns, regarding the National Action Day on the 1st February, but no e-mail from Tim Farron as yet. Has anyone else not had this e-mail from Tim Farron yet? I see Shaun has said he has not got this e-mail. Why has this e-mail not been sent out to all party members? I have paid my subscription to renew my membership and on such a contentious issue, we do not get this e-mail.

    Liberal Youth have also not replied back to me. Still awaiting a response from them. Not expecting one, how things are going.

  • paul barker 21st Jan '14 - 3:25pm

    One minor side-effect of the hysteria about The Libdems “tearing ourselves apart” is that many people in Labour are worried that their Party may do just that.
    For those who dont obsessively read Labour blogs the final deal on The Milliband Reforms was supposed to have been settled last week at The TULO meeting (Trades Unions & Labour Organisation). The meeting failed to agree, with some shouting according to one source. The Final draft is supposed to be revealed at The NEC on February 4th & then ratified at a Conference in London on March 1st. For a process which bagan last July this is leaving agreement abit late.
    The Labour arguments go to the heart of what Labour is & involve real struggles about Power & Money which is why The Media arent interested.

  • Justin Usherford 21st Jan '14 - 5:18pm

    It strikes me that this isn’t a party matter, but a criminal matter and the party should keep out of it.

    Surely the thing to do would be for the accusers to take the matter to the police?

    Then it can be investigated, and if there is grounds for prosecution then the law should take it’s course.

    If it turns out that there is no case to answer or Lord Rennard is acquitted, then the matter should drop.

    And for the party, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suspend his membership while the investigation goes on.

  • @ Adam Robertson – it depends what email lists you are on I think, since there are various. Not all party members get emails by default I don’t think, as some want to join but not be involved and some just don’t want spam.

  • David Evans 22nd Jan '14 - 2:42am

    I rather agree with Justin Usherford, except for the last paragraph. It has gone to the police and they have found insufficient evidence to prosecute. Suspension of membership should have been carried out during that phase. If there is more evidence out there that should go to the police as well, but a policy to suspend pending a second trawl for evidence, and by implication a third, and a fourth etc, could be misused in future and become a means for anyone in the party to be in effect perpetually excluded.

  • Good morning everyone

    Interesting article in the Guardian

    Let’s us move on by Amy Kitcher.
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/21/alleged-victim-lord-rennard-amy-kitcher.

    She deserves high praise. The leadership should take note

    Have a good day, starting to enjoy this blog.

  • Time for a one-question LDV poll on whether people think he should have been suspended?

  • No one should be suspended unless there has been an adverse fact-finding judgment following a careful and proper process of inquiry with a balance of probability determination of facts connected to determination of suitable actions.. Amazingly, this has not happened. It was not even initiated. Instead we had the cul-de-sac of a revocation process precursory analysis which wasted months. Then clumsy intervention by people who had no proper role in the process. 🙁

  • Peter Rainford 23rd Jan '14 - 2:51pm

    Many of us are not defending (or attacking) anyone. I am simply speaking up for the core liberal principle of the presumption of innocence before a proper hearing to judge the evidence. To sum up the facts

    Complaianants made serious alleagations against Lord Rennard and sought his expulsion from the party for “bringing the party into disrepute”
    The independent investigaor (whose job was determine if there was suffiient evidence to warrant a charge of Bringing the party into disrepute determined that there was not.
    That should have been the end of the investigatory / disciplinary process
    A sensible separate option s could have been a recommnedation for mediation (Something lord Rennard had offered already last year)
    However, the recommendation , turned into a demand by the leadership, that Lord Rennard should apologise (for what he deniew he has done ) has crerate this deeply damaging impasse.
    To say that a refusal to apologise, which would in itself weaken his defence against any claim for civil damages, is now in itself grounds for suspension for brining the party into disrepute is a kafkaesque abuse of process.
    As Liberals however we feel about the alleged “bigger picture” of what women minght think of us if we don’t punish theis man who has not even had a hearing. We cannot go where the evidence does not lead.
    I beleive the leadership has made a huge misjudgement and the attempt to tack on the apology recommendation (then demand) to an investigatory process was a misguided fudge.
    I hope thast even at this late stage the party will reconsider what it is doing. I’m sure Lord Rennard does not wish to take legal action, his offer to engage in mediation last year and his offer to co-ordinate press responses to the outcome of the investigation (whatever it found) would certainly suggest so, but in the current circumstance unless the apology demand is withdrwan it is hard to see what other option is open to ihm.

  • Like many party members here I have not received am e-mail from Tim on this. So just in case there is a problem with e-mails getting lost in the post here is the e-mail I have sent to Tim.

    Dear Tim,

    I have only been member of the party since the first day and before that a member of the Liberal Party since 1970 and therefore I have only contributed 44 years of my life.     So I suppose I should not expect to understand too much of what is going on at the top of the party.   

    I expect it would be more convenient to the leadership if I just shut my mouth, stopped using my brain and simply donated more money and delivered a few more tens of thousands of leaflets.

    Is it too much to ask for a simple factual explanation of what happened on Monday of this week concerning the very public suspension of Chris Rennard?

    Who are the members of the Regional Parties Committee?

    Who called the meeting on Monday?

    Which members of the committee were present and voting?

    What precisely was the decision reached?    Was there a vote?   If so was it unanimous?

    Who advised the committee?

    Why is none of this information on the party website?   At the time of sending you this e-mail the most up-to-date information on the Latest News part of the party website is dated 9th January.

    I would be very thankful for a reply to this e-mail.   I hope an answer to these very basic and simple questions is not too much to ask.

    Yours sincerely

    John Tilley,  

    Sent from my iPad

  • Peter Chegwyn 23rd Jan '14 - 10:31pm

    Some valid questions from John Tilley that deserve full answers from the Party President.

    Who indeed are the members of this ‘Regional Parties Committee’ that can seemingly meet at a moment’s notice to suspend MPs & Peers?

    The issue has moved on from what those MPs & Peers may or may not have done.

    It’s now a question of how far-reaching decisions are seemingly being taken in secret by a Committee that many of us have never heard of before and of which there is no information on the Party website.

    I thought we were against secret courts?

  • It is interesting that Tim in his email refers to a committee that does not exist – the Regional Parties’ Committee. Then he states a clear falsehood by saying that this Committee is “the body which adjudicates on internal disciplinary matters in England”.

    Most regions follow the model constitution and so have a Local Parties Committee and the Regional Executive mostly gives responsibility for these matters to this Committee. Therefore maybe he meant to write – “the relevant region’s Local Parties Committee”.

    However the body that does have responsibility according to the English Lib Dem constitution is the English Council Executive.

    We should all be concerned that the party president doesn’t understand our constitution and this may mean he doesn’t understand the English disciplinary process either. Tim together with Nick believe that an apology can be demanded as part of the disciplinary process but it can’t even if a disciplinary hearing has been held (and one hasn’t). Hopefully the English Council will add the possibility of an apology to the disciplinary process (part of the Membership Rules).

  • Peter Chegwyn 24th Jan '14 - 11:10pm

    24 hours on and still no answers to the very valid questions posed by John Tilley.

    Why not?

    Who are the members of this very secretive party committee that has such sweeping powers to suspend MPs & Peers but which none of the rest of us are allowed to know anything about?

    I thought we were opposed to secret courts?

  • Anyone here know Mike Wheatley,? He could answer my earlier questions.

    Thanks to Brian Orrell for this info on the elusive ‘Regional Parties Committee’ —

    In 2012, the English Council Executive (ECE) which represents all 11 Regions under its new Chair, Peter Ellis and Vice-Chair, Mike Wheatley proposed to split the existing English Finance and Administration Committee (EFAC) into two separate committees with two clearly defined roles. One would continue as EFAC and would continue to deal with Finance, staffing, membership fees, including incentives and rebates, statistics and trends and the other would be the new Regional Parties Committee which would deal with any disciplinary issues in Local Parties, Council Groups and Regions including any investigations and revocation of membership. These important changes were approved by English Council in June 2012.

    If you can find the English Party Constitution or any constitution on the Lib Dem Party website, it should have been incorporated there.

    The Regional Parties Committee is chaired by Mike Wheatley whoo is currently the Vice-Chair of the English Party and a former Chair of South East Region.

  • A week since the announcement that —
    …. Lord Rennard’s membership of the Liberal Democrats will be suspended, and that he will be subject to a fresh investigation over his refusal to apologise.

    This decision was taken by the Regional Parties’ Committee (the body which adjudicates on internal disciplinary matters in England) following a large number of complaints from party members. …”

    But still no reply to my e-mail to the Party President and still no response from Mike Wheatley who I believe chairs the committee. Am I being impatient? The. Committee seemed to move with lightening speed last Monday making a decision to suspend Lord Rennard’s membership because he had not apologised WITHIN 48 HOURS.
    I assume the 48 hours deadline only applies to some people in the party and not to requests for information from the chair of the committee. 🙂

  • Thank you John Tilley for posting Brian Orrell’s information on the Regional Parties Committee. This explains why it is not in the English Party’s constitution. The English Finance and Administration Committee (EFAC) is not in the constitution either. I expect both are part of the English Council Executive Standing Orders.

    There is clearly a question about transparency here and if the EC has passed the disciplinary role to a new sub-committee that sub-committee should be included in the constitution.

    Also I have received no reply to my email to Tim Farron regarding this.

  • I have now been in contact with Mike Wheatley, the chair of the committee. He has answered some of my questions and indeed he responded very swiftly once I had discovered his e-mail address. This had in fact been on a public website all the time — I just did not know where to look and so it took me the best part of a week to find it. During the course of which some people went into secrecy mode, which Mike himself did not feel the need to do. Odd how some people have a negative knee jerk reaction to requests for information.
    There certainly is a need for transparency within the party. Over the last few days I have been rummaging around in some of the darker corners of the so-called English Party. I have read Kafka’s ‘The Castle’ and this week at times I thought I was living it.

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