Clegg refuses to back down over Rennard legal threat

Nick Clegg

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Nick Clegg is refusing to reinstate a Lib Dem peer accused of sexually harassing female colleagues.

Lord Rennard is threatening to start legal action in the High Court against the party by the end of Thursday if his suspension is not lifted.

But Mr Clegg said his position had not changed - and he repeated his call for Lord Rennard to apologise for any distress caused to the women.

Lord Rennard denies claims of harassment by four female activists.

He was asked to apologise after the party said an internal party investigation concluded the claims against him were credible but could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

As a result, the peer, the Lib Dems' former chief executive who masterminded its election campaigns, faced accusations of bringing the party into disrepute, and was suspended pending a fresh investigation into the disrepute claims.

'Apology'

The peer's spokesman responded to Mr Clegg's comments by saying: "There will be no court action if the party simply follows its own rules, or if there is a realistic prospect of mediation succeeding.

"In the meantime, Lord Rennard is still waiting to see the report of Alistair Webster's investigation, as was promised to him.

"He was, however, informed by Alistair Webster personally that the report's only decision was that there should be no further action, as there was insufficient evidence to hold a disciplinary hearing. Any lawful party action and any mediation will have to reflect this."

Lord Rennard

Speaking on his weekly LBC radio phone-in, Mr Clegg said he would "rather not see these things end up in court" but he added: "What Lord Rennard's lawyers want to do is up to them. My view hasn't changed at all."

He went on: "If you have a report, after a meticulous independent process, which says 'look, an apology is due, because, frankly, intentionally or otherwise distress was caused to these women', I don't think it's unreasonable of me, as leader of the party to say, after that process, that should happen.

"An apology should be issued in those terms."

A letter before action was served last week by Lord Rennard's lawyers on Lib Dem party HQ.

It is understood to name individuals involved in the suspension decision, including the chairman of the Lib Dem regional parties committee, Mike Wheatley, and chairman of the English Council of Lib Dems Peter Ellis and party president Tim Farron.

A source accused senior Lib Dems of driving "a coach and horses through their own rules to placate the party and to get rid of Chris Rennard".

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