Lib Dem grandees call for Rennard’s return to party
Rennard still denies sexual harassment but has said he is sorry if he encroached on accusers’ personal space.
Lord Rennard should be allowed to return to the House of Lords after making a “generous” apology to the four women who accused him of sexual harassment, the peer’s friend and legal adviser has said.
Lord Carlile, who is also a Liberal Democrat peer, joined former Liberal leader Lord Steel in calling for Rennard to return to the party, contrary to the wishes of at least three of his accusers. Rennard still denies sexual harassment but has said he is sorry if he inadvertently encroached on the women’s personal space.
Speaking on the BBC’s World at One, Carlile also revealed that Rennard had held back from officially sending his apology until after the elections had finished so as not to damage the party’s chances.
Nick Clegg was aware of Rennard’s intention to say sorry long before polling day but did not intervene to make it public before the elections, which saw the Lib Dems lose 300 councillors and come fifth in the European elections behind the Greens.
After a difficult week for his leadership, the deputy prime minister is now facing a dilemma over whether to reninstate Rennard. Clegg has previously said it would be enough for the party’s former chief executive to apologise to the women involved, but Bridget Harris, Alison Goldsworthy and Susan Gaszczak are calling for him to be permanently excluded from the party.
Writing for the Guardian, Harris, a former adviser to Clegg who complained about Rennard, criticised what she said was the peer’s legalistic attitude and the party leadership’s inadequate handling of the issues from the start.
“I thought he would be suspended and that would be that,” she said. “Instead, he hung on, and has been hanging on ever since – hiding behind clever lawyers who are obsessed with trying to ‘get him off’ on technicalities, as you would in a criminal trial.”
She added that Rennard should lose his position on the Liberal Democrat benches in the House of Lords. “He has accepted his behaviour was inappropriate, and said sorry. I don’t think it could be plainer than that. Does this man deserve to stay in the House of Lords and speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrats or indeed the country? I think not,” she said.
- The Guardian,