A ‘call for evidence’ for Liberal Democrats to submit allegations of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard gives them less than one week to to do so. With a police probe dropped on 26 September, an internal inquiry into the peer is being conducted by QC Alastair Webster.
Chief executive Tim Gordon included an appeal for information in his regular email to members at the weekend — but the closing date for submissions, which must be in writing, is this Friday:
“Anyone who may have relevant evidence, against or in support of Lord Rennard or who wishes to make a statement should contact Alistair Webster at firstname.lastname@example.org. All statements should be made in writing and sent to Alistair Webster by 22nd November”
The call comes after just 22% of members told Lib Dem Voice that top brass had communicated their first probe into sexual harassment ‘effectively’. The report by Helena Morrissey looked at “processes and culture” within the party but was blocked from examining specific allegations against Rennard while the police’s investigation was ongoing:
In contrast, Morrissey made no less than three open calls (two here) for evidence on the popular party blog.
This doesn’t look great for those claiming ‘cover up’.
The Liberal Democrats are to change their party constitution in an attempt to draw a line under a sexual harassment scandal which has rocked the party. After an internal report criticised Nick Clegg and equalities minister Jo Swinson for their handling of ‘sex pest’ allegations against Lord Rennard, the following clause will be voted in by members at party conference in September:
“As a Member of the Liberal Democrats, you must treat others with respect and must not bully, harass or intimidate any Party member, member of Party staff, member of Parliamentary staff, Party volunteer or member of the public. Such behaviour will be considered to be bringing the Party into disrepute.”
Oddly enough, the amendments don’t mention anything about covering up the scandal and lying about it on the radio.
Nick Clegg’s version of events on the harassment allegations against Lord Rennard is unravelling at an alarming rate. The deputy prime minister had previously claimed that his office were informed of “general concerns” regarding the party’s chief executive in 2008.
But with a former Lib Dem MP revealing she told the deputy prime minister about Rennard’s behaviour when he became party leader in 2007, Clegg was forced to defend himself on a radio phone in this morning.
His poor attempt to account for this gap is already being likened to Richard Nixon:
“I can only tell you the truth as I can recollect it now”
And it got worse, with caller “Cathy from Dulwich” turned out to be, errr, Cathy Newman from Channel 4 News, who seized on his admission that Rennard didn’t simply resign as chief executive for “health and family reasons” as claimed at the time. LBC producers didn’t seem to be impressed, however, and cut her off before she could follow up.
If it looks like a cover up and smells like a cover up …