Nick Clegg and top Lib Dems 'failed to take tough enough action' over Lord Rennard sex harassment allegations

 

Nick Clegg and two senior Liberal Democrat colleagues failed to take tough enough action to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard, the party's former chief executive, an investigation has concluded.

The Deputy Prime Minister admitted the report into attitudes towards women in his party made "sobering reading" and promised a drive to eradicate sexism from within Lib Dem ranks.

The inquiry was commissioned by Mr Clegg after several women claimed this year that Lord Rennard had harassed and propositioned them and accused the party of failing to act on their complaints.

The peer, who stood down as chief executive because of ill-health, denies all the accusations.

The investigation, conducted by the prominent businesswoman Helena Morrissey, cleared senior party figures of conspiring to cover up allegations.

But it accused Mr Clegg, Danny Alexander, who is now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Jo Swinson, who is now the Consumer Minister, of blundering by not launching a formal inquiry into the allegations.

Ms Morrissey said: "Mistakes were definitely made. They were made by Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and Jo Swinson. I think you can make a mistake and learn from them - it's different from setting out to mislead or to do something wrong."

She said of Mr Clegg: "He and others should have asked more questions for the sake of Lord Rennard and everyone else."

Two women approached Ms Swinson, who was chairing the party's gender balance task force at the time, with complaints about Lord Rennard in 2008.

Ms Morrisey's report said she did not keep a formal note of their allegations because they said they wanted to remain anonymous and simply put "sticky notes" in her Filofax to remind her to contact the women again.

Ms Swinson then approached Danny Alexander, who was Mr Clegg's chief of staff, to raise the allegations without naming the women. He then passed the complaints to Mr Clegg and Paul Burstow, who was the party's chief whip. Mr Alexander challenged Lord Rennard, who denied the claims.

The report said: "The issues were 'handled' informally, principally by Jo Swinson and Danny Alexander, because that is what they thought the women wanted - primarily to protect their identities.

"While their actions were, I believe, in good faith, this approach was ultimately not sufficient."

Mr Burstow has apologised for not encouraging the women to make a formal complaint.

Scotland Yard is investigating allegations against the peer and an internal party investigation is on hold pending the outcome of the police inquiry.

Mr Clegg said: "Over a 20 year period a series of mistakes were made which left a number of women feeling seriously let down and for that there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever.

"The report also shows that the individuals who dealt with their complaints had the right motives, but there weren't the right processes in place to support the women who'd come forward. And as Leader of the Liberal Democrats I take responsibility for that."

Ms Morrisey heard 32 complaints of sexual harassment and misconduct in different sections of the party, including one councillor who complained she endured "aggressive, sexist and patronising" behaviour from colleagues.

Mr Morrisey, the chief executive of Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club which campaigns to increase the proportion of women in company boardrooms, said: "There is definitely a mismatch between what the party espouses as its ideology and reported behaviour at local party level."

NHS chief denies gagging cover-up

The head of the NHS in England has denied claims that he staged a "cover-up" over the use of gagging orders to prevent staff speaking out about conditions in hospitals.

Appearing before the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Sir David Nicholson angrily denounced the claims made by Tory committee member Stephen Barclay as "erroneous and wrong".

Prior to the hearing, Mr Barclay said figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that since 2008 at least 52 staff had been prevented from speaking through the use of confidentiality clauses at a cost of £2m to the taxpayer.

Mr Barclay said that Sir David had either been complicit in a "systemic cover-up" or had failed to ask questions about what was happening in the NHS.

Sir David told the committee: "I can absolutely refute that I have ever been involved in any kind of cover-up in relation to the expenditure that's identified. I have been absolutely honest and truthful."

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
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
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

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
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?