‘Liberal’ has its limits: After the Lord Rennard decision, Lib Dem rules may have to change

 

Share

There is no major party in the UK more democratic than the Liberal Democrats. Other parties, including Ukip, have dealt swiftly and effectively with members who bring them into disrepute, but it seems nigh impossible for Nick Clegg to take action against any Liberal Democrat, no matter what they do. Under the party rules, disciplinary action requires that there is a case against the offender that is “beyond reasonable doubt”, a standard of proof higher than is required in a civil court action.

In Portsmouth, Liberal Democrat councillors stood by the Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock for months while he denied sexually harassing a vulnerable constituent, until finally he owned up. By then, a woman Lib Dem councillor, Eleanor Scott, had been driven to resign.

This week, the Liberal Democrats have decided not to discipline David Ward, the MP who tweeted that if he lived in Gaza he might fire rockets into Israel. A separate decision has led to the reinstatement of Lord Rennard, the peer against whom there were complaints of sexual harassment from four women. A QC found the women’s stories “broadly credible” but without independent witnesses, and with Lord Rennard maintaining that he had done no more than invade their “personal space”, no action was deemed to be possible. One of the accusers, Susan Gaszczak, resigned from the party last month: it is unlikely she will want to go back.

In the same dreadful week for the Liberal Democrats, the admirable Pauline Pearce, the “Hackney heroine” who faced down rioters in summer 2011, pulled out of the contest to be party president because of its “Neanderthal views on diversity”. Again, unless she can prove her case “beyond reasonable doubt”, nothing is likely to be done.

It is a fine legal principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but within a loosely run organisation like the Liberal Democrats what it can do is protect the guilty and drive out the innocent. The Liberal Democrats need a change of rules.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there