The Lib Dems and Lord Rennard explained
- 20 January 2014
- From the section UK Politics
Are you struggling to follow the "crisis" engulfing the Lib Dems over the Lord Rennard saga? Help is at hand with our brief quiz.
Who took the Liberal Democrats from being a small party of opposition to a large-ish party of government?
Trick question. You thought the answer was Nick Clegg but the answer is, in fact, Chris Rennard - at least it is in the eyes of many of those defending him. The former party chief executive is credited with being the election winning mastermind who transformed the party's fortunes long before Mr Clegg had even left his comfy Eurocrat job in Brussels.
That's why so many of Rennard's generation are willing to back him whilst most younger people in the party aren't. That's part of where the party's problems stem from.
Who is accused of behaving like the North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, the Ku Klux Klan and a witch burner at the Salem witch trials?
Sorry, another trick. The answer this time is Nick Clegg and not Lord Rennard. His supporters feel rather strongly that their friend is the victim of a terrible misjustice - the equivalent of a character lynching, or show trial.
Who is in charge of the Liberal Democrat party?
This time it's neither Nick Clegg or Chris Rennard. In fact, the answer is no-one in particular. The decision about who is a Liberal Democrat peer is one for the Lib Dem peers - many of them close allies and long life friends of Lord Rennard.
Who sits on the party's policy-making machinery is one for, you guessed it, the members of that committee - the Federal Policy Committee.
The issue of who faces disciplinary procedure is one for the Regional Parties Committee. You see this party is democratic or, as Mr Clegg puts it in public "not a sect" (or, as his allies put it in private, "a bloody nightmare").
Look, let's get back to what really matters - what did Lord Rennard actually do?
Oh dear this really is proving tricky. It's either: A) a pattern of sexual harassment and abusing his position of power or: B) invading the personal space of women in a way which left them feeling uncomfortable or: C) Nothing at all.
Or to put it more crudely, Lord Rennard's accusers say he approached them and sometime touched them in a way they hated.
His legal adviser says he denies touching anyone whilst one of his allies says it was just (his emphasis not mine) a hand on a leg through clothing.
So, wouldn't a simple apology solve everything?
No. It could be a disaster for Nick Clegg and Lord Rennard. Lord Rennard would have to apologise for something he insists he never did and fears that would be followed by efforts to drive him out of the party and parliament. It would mean that Nick Clegg would be faced by the resignation of people from all his key party committees who would refuse to sit in the same room as his Lordship.
So, what's the best answer then?
Nick Clegg hopes to persuade party activists to investigate Lord Rennard for bringing the party into disrepute which prolongs the process yet further, but takes it out of the headlines.