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UK Politics

Rennard affair: Who knew what? Five unanswered questions for Nick Clegg


What did Nick Clegg know about the allegations?

Last week the Liberal Democrats insisted their leader knew nothing of Lord Rennard's alleged behaviour, which has been strongly denied by the peer. That changed on Sunday when Mr Clegg disclosed that "non-specific" allegations had been put to his office, but not the specific claims aired by "Channel 4 News". Today, his line changed subtly as he stressed that "no very specific allegations" were put to him.

Why did it take almost a week for Mr Clegg to put the record straight?

Channel 4 put the allegations to the Lib Dems last Tuesday; it was five days later that Mr Clegg made his statement. The tardy response, and dramatic change of explanation, has fuelled accusations of a cover-up.

What action was taken at the time of the claims?

Bridget Harris complained to her line manager in 2003 and Alison Smith to the former Chief Whip, Paul Burstow, in 2007. Jo Swinson, who is now the Equalities Minister, said she knew of the accusations, and the Lib Dem leader confirmed his office heard "non-specific" complaints in 2008. It appears Ms Swinson and Danny Alexander, then Mr Clegg's chief of staff, raised the concerns with Lord Rennard who then – as now – denied them. Ms Swinson is understood to have interviewed several women about the complaints.

Did Ms Swinson and Mr Burstow tell Mr Clegg?

Unclear, as neither has been prepared to comment in detail.

Did they hope Lord Rennard's resignation on health grounds would draw a line under the affair?

Clearly yes, a position that has returned to haunt the party three years later. Its president, Tim Farron, admitted it had "screwed up". Ms Smith has claimed that the former party president, Baroness Scott, told her that Lord Rennard was quitting in part because of the allegations.