Lord Rennard row: Battle lines drawn as Lib Dem peer's friends call for reinstatement

 

Deputy Political Editor

Friends of Lord Rennard today rounded on the women who complained they had been sexually harassed by the Liberal Democrat peer, with one ally accusing them of showing “scorn” for the investigation into his conduct.

Their fightback came after three of the four women called for the Lib Dems’ former chief executive – who finally apologised for invading their “personal space” 15 months after their claims emerged – to be kicked out of the party.

Internal Lib Dem tensions over the issue have piled fresh pressure on Nick Clegg, who is already facing a grassroots rebellion over last week’s disastrous European and local election results. The party fears the Rennard episode could drag on for months.

It has emerged that news of the apology had been held back in an attempt not to distract from the election campaign.

The peer’s friends raised the stakes as they insisted that Lord Rennard, who has currently been suspended from the Lib Dem whip, should be reinstated.

They argued that a line should be drawn under the episode following an investigation by the QC Alistair Webster, who recommended that Lord Rennard should apologise but face no further action.

Mr Webster concluded the claims against him were credible, but could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The peer’s legal adviser, Lord Carlile of Berriew, said he had issued a “very generous” apology despite there being no finding against him.

“Lord Rennard has done everything that was asked of him by Alistair Webster in his independent report. Let’s start from this point: all right-thinking people condemn and deplore any sexual harassment in work, home or elsewhere."

“But the point about this case is that twice it has been found that there should be no action against Lord Rennard on the grounds of insufficient evidence, once after a seven-month police inquiry and then after Alistair Webster. So he’s given a very full apology and that should be the end of the matter.”

Lord Carlile told the BBC that Lord Rennard sent his apology to the four women several weeks ago and showed a copy to Mr Clegg.

He added: “What has happened now is that three of the four complainants are choosing to scorn the independent process and the independent QC Alistair Webster.”

Lord Carlile, a Lib Dem peer, also refused to endorse Mr Clegg’s leadership and said party members should be consulted on his position.

Lord Steel of Aikwood also insisted that the time had come for the party to put the Rennard controversy behind it.

“He’s brought closure to what has been a very unfortunate episode,” the former Liberal Party leader said. “I think he should come back; he’s made an apology.”

However, Bridget Harris, one of the women who complained about the peer, called for his expulsion from the party.

She said: “I would just ask the question, who does Rennard speak for any more? He has been shown to have on many occasions acted completely and deeply inappropriately towards women and has taken advantage of his position as a very powerful member of the Lib Dems to do so.

“I think it's a fairly cut and dry case that the party as a whole should accept that they no longer have their favourite campaigner working with them and instead they have to ask him to leave and I think it's as simple as that.”

Lord Rennard and the three women are pursuing separate legal challenges under the party’s complicated structure. They could take until the autumn, with Mr Clegg powerless to intervene.

News
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, dropped out of Stanford University just before graduation to develop his app
techAnd yes, it is quite a lot
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
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

Retail Business Architect

Flexible for the right candidate: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: I have a fa...

Calypso Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Calypso Developer Calypso, J2SE, XML, ...

IT Developer/Analyst

£35000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A market leading financia...

Pricing Manager, Finance, Edinburgh, £250-350p/d

£250 - £350 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is cur...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis