Lord Rennard sexual harassment claims: Embattled Liberal Democrat election guru issues extraordinary public statement after suspension from party
Peer now faces an investigation for 'bringing the party into disrepute'
Lord Rennard has been accused of attempting to portray himself as the true victim of the Liberal Democrat groping scandal, after revealing he had considered self-harm over the allegations.
Breaking his silence with an intensely personal statement, the peer spoke of his long battle with depression – and pointedly refused to apologise to his female accusers.
The statement, released minutes after his party membership was suspended, intensified the turmoil within senior Liberal Democrat ranks over charges that their former chief executive made unwanted sexual advances towards several women.
But his attempt to win sympathy brought a withering response from Susan Gaszczak, a parliamentary candidate, who says she was harassed by him. “I am upset he’s trying to portray himself as the big victim. He’s not the victim,” she said.
Nick Clegg’s leadership is coming under fresh pressure with Lord Rennard expected to mount a legal challenge to a decision to strip him of the party whip in the Lords.
In his statement, Lord Rennard, who denies all the allegations, said he had suffered “severe stress, anxiety and depression” for much of his life and described his black mood when he faced allegations of sexual impropriety in 2010. “The depth of depression that I felt and the consideration of self-harm is difficult to describe, so I will not do so,” he wrote.
The peer said 27 years’ serving the party had done “great damage to his health” and that he was warned six years ago he was entering “a high-risk zone for a stroke or heart attack”.
He claimed he had been the victim of smears, both over his expenses and a “whispering campaign from those bearing personal grudges”.
The peer regretted “any hurt, embarrassment or upset” he had inadvertently caused anyone. But he said: “I will not offer an apology to the four complainants. I do not believe people should be forced to say what they know they should not say, or do not mean.”
He accused the Liberal Democrat leadership of treating him unfairly and said the party should have let the matter rest when an internal investigation by Alistair Webster QC concluded “no further action” was necessary.
Nick Clegg can’t sack Lord Rennard, and Lord Rennard can’t apologise. It’s just another day of lose-lose politics
The peer’s ally, the MEP Chris Davies, said other people could have been “driven close to suicide” if they had been subjected to the same treatment as Lord Rennard.
Lord Rennard said he was taking “legal advice with a view to civil action against the party”. The move would trigger a vote of Liberal Democrat peers, many of whom are sympathetic to him, to decide whether or not to readmit him.
One told The Independent: “If Chris Rennard hadn’t given his life to the party, many Lib Dem MPs would not be in Parliament and Nick Clegg would not be Deputy Prime Minister.”
His refusal to back down came after Mr Clegg told him he would not be allowed to sit on the Liberal Democrat benches unless he apologised. Minutes before the Lords was due to hold its first session, it was announced Lord Rennard was being suspended from the party and would face a fresh disciplinary investigation for bringing the party into disrepute by refusing to apologise.
A party spokesman said the move meant he could not resume the Liberal Democrat whip. In his statement Lord Rennard said: “It is impossible to describe how enormously distressed I am by this situation and I am certainly too ill to attend the House of Lords.”
Bridget Harris, one of the women who alleged she was harassed by the peer, welcomed the decision to suspend him. “I think Nick felt deeply responsible that all of this happened and technically, on paper, it felt like there was very little the leadership could do,” she said.
Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat International Development minister, said: “I am very sorry for Chris personally. He is clearly in deep distress over this, but so are the women who have suffered over the years. On my part, I think an apology is in order.”
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
Putin accuses US of causing global instability
Eleven members of same family hospitalised after eating deadly pufferfish
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Phone-hacking: The Piers Morgan connection - Mirror admits some stories during Morgan's tenure may have been obtained by illegal means
Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
Poppy Appeal 2014: This is why I won't be wearing a red poppy this year
£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...
£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...