MP Sandra Gidley 'told Nick Clegg of Rennard concerns' after he became leader

 

A female former Liberal Democrat MP said she told Nick Clegg about allegations surrounding the party's then chief executive Lord Rennard shortly after he became leader in 2007.

Mr Clegg has said he heard only "indirect and non-specific concerns" about the Lib Dem peer until last week, when a Channel 4 News investigation alleged that he had behaved improperly towards women in the party on a number of occasions.

Sandra Gidley, who was MP for Romsey for a decade before losing her seat in 2010, yesterday said she hoped her comments would jog the Deputy Prime Minister's memory about their conversation.

Asked by The Daily Telegraph whether she told Mr Clegg "face-to-face" about the allegations, she replied: "Yes, that is true, but at this point I don't want to go any further. I am hoping his memory might be jogged. Shall we leave it at that?"

Ms Gidley later said that she did not have precise details of alleged incidents when she approached the Lib Dem leader.

In a statement issued by the party, she said: "I spoke to Nick Clegg about general concerns. I didn't know of any specific incidents and neither did he."

A spokesman for Mr Clegg said: "Sandra Gidley once raised general concerns with Nick Clegg about Lord Rennard's conduct. She did not know of or raise specific allegations.

"As Nick Clegg has said, he was aware of general concerns which were acted upon by this then chief of staff, Danny Alexander."

Lord Rennard, who stepped down as chief executive on health grounds in 2009, today said he was ready to "co-operate with any properly-constituted inquiry" into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

The peer issued a strenuous fresh denial of any wrong-doing as senior Liberal Democrats met Metropolitan Police officers to discuss the case.

Scotland Yard said the meeting was held to help ascertain whether any criminal activity had taken place, adding: "That work continues."

A party spokesman said that two internal inquiries into the allegations will continue, adding: "It is important that people with information have the confidence to come forward and that their information is dealt with sensitively and appropriately."

One woman, who claims the peer followed her to the toilet at a candidates' event in Peterborough and propositioned her when she came out, said she knew of nine women claiming to have had similar experiences.

The former county councillor, who gave her name only as Susan, told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme she was "extremely distressed" after the peer allegedly touched her leg and invited her back to his hotel room.

Lord Rennard held an "almighty amount of power" in the party and was a "man who could control your future", she said.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem care minister Norman Lamb - a close aide to Mr Clegg from 2010-12 - revealed that a woman had approached him some time ago with allegations about Lord Rennard, and that he advised her to speak to the party's spokeswoman for women and equality Jo Swinson.

Mr Lamb told the Eastern Daily Press: "I knew Jo was dealing with a number of women... and I know that Jo was taking it seriously. Jo and I both felt the same, that action had to be taken."

Ms Swinson's intervention led to Mr Alexander - now chief secretary to the Treasury - speaking to Lord Rennard in 2008, he said.

Lord Rennard issued a statement last night after being notified by the party of an internal investigatory panel.

His spokesman said: "Lord Rennard refutes these allegations. He will co-operate with any properly constituted inquiry."

Lord Rennard "notes that under the party rules concerned it is for any case made against him to be proved by evidence to the requisite standard," said the spokesman.

"He denies impropriety. He would reiterate that in 27 years of working for the Liberal Democrats he received no complaint or allegation about his behaviour.

"Nor is he aware of any personal complaints being made in the three and a half years since he stood down as chief executive until last week."

Mr Clegg insisted the truth would only come out if the police were allowed to "do their job" and the investigations he has ordered ran their course.

Quizzed outside his home in South West London yesterday, Mr Clegg declared he would not "provide a running commentary" on the allegations and appeared to take a swipe at journalists investigating the claims.

He told Sky News: "I understand there are many people who appear to want to act as self-appointed detectives trying to piece together events that happened many years ago, but the only way that we are going to get to the bottom of the truth, the only way we are going to ensure that the women whose allegations were broadcast on television last week are properly listened to, the only way we are going to establish exactly what happened and who knew what and when, is by allowing the two investigations that I established immediately after the Channel 4 broadcast to do their job and, indeed, to allow the police, whom we have now approached, to do their job as well."

PA

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