‘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

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Assistant - Windows XP/7/8, Networks Firewalls/VPN's

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Assistant - Windows XP/7/8, Netwo...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day + Flexible with benefits: Randstad Education Group: Key St...

English Teacher (Full time from Jan - Maternity Cover)

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: This good to outstanding school...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain  

Abortion is safe, and it should be as available as easily as contraception

Ann Furedi
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album