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.

Lord Rennard: His statement in full

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”.

Lord Rennard has exposed the Lib Dem attitude to women  

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.”

Lord Rennard analysis: A battle between rules and political expediency  

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.”


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral