Lib Dems warn of 'bloodbath' as Lord Rennard considers legal action over sexual harassment allegations row

As Nick Clegg demands the peer apologises to the women involved, former leader Lord Steel calls for 'compromise so the party can continue its normal work'

The Liberal Democrats' civil war over Lord Rennard's fate has escalated as a former leader defied Nick Clegg and called for the peer to be allowed back into the party.

Lord Steel of Aikwood's intervention came as party leaders braced themselves for a damaging court battle with their former chief executive who has faced allegations of sexual harassing several women. One source warned of a possible “blood bath, the like of which the party has not seen before”.

Lord Rennard, who denies all the claims, has been suspended after refusing to bow to calls from Mr Clegg to apologise to the women.

It emerged that the peer had consulted lawyers over seeking an injunction to lift his suspension and to block fresh disciplinary action against him.

He received influential backing from Lord Steel who told ITV News the party was in the “most awful mess”.

The former leader said: “I think even now they could withdraw the threat to suspend him from membership and try to get an agreed compromise so the party can continue its normal work.”

He added: “Collectively the party leadership should get a grip on this and say it's got to be reversed. There should not be a threat of expulsion. Chris Rennard should withdraw his threat of legal action and we should get this sorted out once and for all.”

Lord Rennard has won the support of several other influential peers, also including the former Cabinet minister Baroness Williams of Crosby, in a dispute that is dividing the party's representatives in the Commons and Lords.

A spokesman for Mr Clegg said the party had no intention of lifting the suspension and was determined to fight Lord Rennard's threatened legal action.

The peer is due to seek the court order within days, arguing that the party failed to follow “due process” in investigating the harassment allegations against him.

He says the issue should have been laid to rest following an investigation into the claims by the QC Alistair Webster who concluded “no further action” was necessary, although he called on Lord Rennard to apologise.

Mr Clegg's spokesman responded: “We are confident we have followed the party rules to the letter. We've sought legal counsel all the way through.”

He said the episode was an “absolute personal tragedy” for the peer and added: “It's quite distressing to see everything he is going through.”

Lord Rennard: His statement in full

Addressing his MPs, Mr Clegg insisted he had got the key judgement of the episode right by insisting that Lord Rennard apologised.

Reflecting the alarm in the party's hierarchy over the internecine strife, another former leader, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, appealed to Lord Rennard to say sorry to the women who claimed he harassed them.

He insisted the peer could apologise for any offence he may have given without compromising his legal position.

“It is very easy to do. No one is suggesting Chris (Lord Rennard) should put his own innocence, as he claims it, in jeopardy,” Lord Ashdown said.

However, a female friend of the peer came to his defence, accusing the women who have complained about him of behaving like 12-year-old girls.

Carol Davies made the comments came after her husband, the Euro MP Chris, apologised after coming under fire for comparing the allegations to Italian politicians “pinching bottoms”.

Mrs Davies said: “What he was saying was that the whole thing was disproportionate. He said the accusations were not of a sexual nature.

”It's ridiculous. If somebody touches your leg, you ask them to move their hand or move your knee. I mean, how old are these women? They're not 12."

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution