Donald Macintyre's Sketch: With the Rennard affair playing out in the Lords, how they played to the press gallery!

This was a roller coaster,  a crazily swinging pendulum, a tale of the repeatedly unexpected

For once, as their Lordships were only too well aware, the world was watching.

Deep down they will have known that the reason for the attention was the man who, as it turned out, wasn’t there. But it’s nice to have the world’s eye anyway.

And how keyed up we were, having expected Lord Rennard to take his seat. Instead, this was a rollercoaster, a crazily swinging pendulum, a tale of the repeatedly unexpected.

In the morning, after Nick Clegg’s “no apology, no whip” ultimatum, it had all seemed, if not simple, at least a straightforward stand-off.

But as the peers assembled at around 2.30pm, the announcement came that the peer had been suspended during a fresh investigation into his failure to apologise. And then, less than half an hour later, Lord Rennard’s own 2,600-word statement repeating his adamant denials, describing – among much else – his distress and explaining that he was “certainly too ill” to attend.

Many in the chamber may not have realised all this, since unlike in the Commons, a majority do not routinely tap away on iPads.

And anyway no one alluded to the absent  man – except, obliquely,  Labour’s Lord Davies who told Lord Newby, speaking as he does for the Treasury, that he deserved an “easy ride given your other responsibilities as Liberal Chief Whip”.

In fact for a man who, by virtue of that office and through no fault of his own, is stuck in the middle of this imbroglio, Newby was ever the pro, responding on the economy as if he had nothing offstage to worry about. 

Could it be, however, that other peers, noticing that the press gallery was fuller than usual, were having a hard time not playing to it?

Rather more than seemed normal rose to ask about girls’ education, the bedroom tax and Gibraltar – on which Labour’s Donald Anderson and Ukip’s Lord Pearson were both so excited that they spoke at once, obliging the Leader of the Lords, Lord Hill, to plead with them to take it one by one.

Looking down at the Liberal Democrat peers, you couldn’t help reflecting on the secrecy of the inquiry into Lord Rennard’s conduct (which both sides have complained about).

Some critics have unworthily suggested that this was especially odd from a party which had been so het up about secret courts in the Justice and Security Bill.

But this is a slur. Because despite unrest among activists, the Lib Dem legislators – amazingly – voted for the things. So at least they have been consistent.

Read more:
Lord Rennard sexual harassment claims: Embattled Liberal Democrat election guru issues extraordinary public statement after suspension from party
Nick Clegg can’t sack Lord Rennard, and Lord Rennard can’t apologise. It’s just another day of lose-lose politics
Lord Rennard: His statement in full
Lord Rennard has exposed the Lib Dem attitude to women  
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant in secondary school Manchester

£11280 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Teaching a...

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits