First things first. I have no idea what Lord Rennard did or did not do. I don’t have access to the evidence. I have an opinion but that is based solely on the evidence that has been leaked through the media. This opinion is pretty hardened and it would take significant new evidence to move me from my position but I suspect that will not happen.
Lord Rennard was ‘won’ in that he’s had his party membership restored. The allegations against him are credible but not proven. A situation that happens all the time in many different guises in many different professions. In many of these situations I look at those accusing and try to work out if they have a hidden agenda or a bias that would make me skeptical as to their allegations. In this situation I haven’t seen any of that.
The problem Lord Rennard has is that whilst he may feel vindicated, he is perceived as guilty by the vast majority of Liberal Democrats. Most want him gone because they feel he encapsulates the older part of the party and doesn’t embrace what younger liberals think. The Lib Dems as a party do have an issue with gender equality but I don’t think this is because of any inherent sexism within the party, but more to do with legacy and some older members of the party (and lets be honest here – some older members of society as a whole) still struggle with equality as a concept.
The Lord released the following statement:
I am obviously pleased that all disciplinary investigations against me have been brought to an end and that the suspension of my party membership has been lifted.
This has taken a long time. The English Regional Parties Committee began a new disciplinary investigation in January 2014. I was informed by the Committee that this latest investigation was on the basis of, “media and social media comments made by you, endorsed by you and made on your behalf that have attacked the party and the party processes publically (sic) since the announcement of the Webster report results.”
This investigation followed the one conducted last year by Alistair Webster QC, and which resulted in a finding of “no further action through insufficient evidence.”
I am grateful to Chris Willmore, a barrister, parliamentary candidate and now a law lecturer who acted as the ‘independent investigator’ in this latest process. She was extremely thorough in her approach. I was informed by telephone late this afternoon of the conclusion that “there would be no further action”. The rules provided for the investigator either to recommend “charges,” or to say that there was insufficient evidence to proceed further to a disciplinary hearing.
All allegations made about me have now been investigated thoroughly, including by the Metropolitan Police Service, and fell at the first hurdle as there was insufficient evidence to proceed further.
The English Appeals Panel confirmed in July that I could not be criticised over my reaction to the previous report by Alistair Webster QC, as I was not given sight of the report for eleven weeks. The worst that might be said of me in that independent report was that I may have inadvertently encroached on the “personal space” of some of the complainants, and I apologised for this to all four of them.
I remain a committed member of the Liberal Democrats and a strong believer in the principles of the party, as set out in the constitution, and based on the values that led me to join the Liberal Party in my teens.
So basically reading between the lines his defence is that there was insufficient evidence to move forward. He never once said he did not do what he had been accused of or that he was innocent. Just that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with disciplinary procedures and the same at the Met.
He says that at worst he inadvertently encroached on the personal space of several people. Now not to be a wise-ass here but it is pretty hard to inadvertently encroach on someone’s personal space. As human beings we all know what our personal space is and should know what another person’s is. If you don’t then I have serious doubts as to your ability to function as a human being. It isn’t rocket science.
I am very much an innocent until proven guilty guy but in this case I think it is pretty clear that Lord Rennard’s behaviour was not acceptable. Whether that equates to criminal charges I think possibly not because they have investigated and cannot prove anything, fair enough. However internal disciplinary requires a different standard of proof. the fact the Lib Dems bottled it – and lets not beat around the bush here – the people who had this decision to undertake bottled it – the fact they decided to take no further action showed two things. They didn’t want a long protracted fight that would have rumbled in the media for weeks and months more and secondly that Lord Rennard believes that he didn’t do anything significantly wrong.
And that folks might be the most depressing thing of this whole matter. Lord Rennard doesn’t believe his actions were wrong to any significant degree. If I inadvertently encroached on someone’s personal space and they informed me of it I’d be freaking out about it for months. He seems to not see it as a problem. I’m sitting here writing this and still shaking my head.
He hasn’t won anything bar his membership of a political party that doesn’t want him any more. He won’t be a pariah but he is the figurehead for everything wrong within the party according to many people. The Lib Dems should be the radical party who want to make the world a better place, a more equal place, equality in all terms, sex, race, background, sexual persuasion, equality across the board and you have a senior party member who at best (and I stress at best) seems to not know how to act as a basic human being when it comes to women that he has come in contact with.
Now I’m not saying the Lib Dems are the only party with these issues. I am positive other political parties have similar issues as do many businesses. I would like to think that these issues are being dealt with and that the next generation of people coming through are more about equality and believe in it not only to give it lip-service but also in terms of actually looking at other human beings and treating them as equals no matter what their differences are.
The end game is though that the public perception of the party is not good. As the party of the radicals, it comes across that we aren’t that radical and that we can’t take the big decision when faced with one. The party would without a doubt be stronger had Lord Rennard either not been allowed back or had he walked away. Sometimes in life you find that you are not wanted and that the best way to move on is to walk away.
I have found that recently in what was a significant aspect of my life and no matter how much I didn’t want to walk away, it was the only way forward. Lord Rennard should have done the same. If he truly believes in the Lib Dems as the radical party of change then he should know that by him being in the party, that radical change will be harder to accomplish and that is the dagger to the heart. He is too selfish to put the liberal philosophy before his own ego and sense of self-worth.
Lord Rennard will never have the respect of the Lib Dems again and the party as a whole has another big bruise that it will struggle to shake off. All in all everyone loses and nobody wins.
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