Lord Rennard apologises to Lib Dem activists

Lib Dem activist Bridget Harris says Lord Rennard's position is "untenable"

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Former Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard has issued an apology over his behaviour towards female party members.

The peer, who had previously denied claims of sexual harassment by four activists, admitted "he may well have encroached upon "personal space".

In a letter, he said he wanted to "apologise sincerely for any such intrusion and assure them that this would have been inadvertent".

But one of the women said the apology does not go far enough.

Lord Rennard was asked to apologise after an internal party probe by QC Alistair Webster in March.

It concluded the claims were credible but could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

He threatened to sue the party after he was suspended pending a further probe into allegations he brought the party into disrepute.

The peer had previously been unwilling to apologise amid concerns that he could open himself to civil action in the courts.

But in a letter issued by his lawyer, he says he wants to "achieve closure" on the issue.

Disciplinary appeal

The letter adds: "Lord Rennard wishes to make it absolutely clear that it was never his intention to cause distress or concern to them by anything that he ever said or did.

Who is Lord Rennard?

Lord Rennard
  • Chris Rennard, 53, has worked for the Lib Dems since his student days in Liverpool
  • He first gained attention as a local activist and then party agent for former MP David Alton, helping him win successive election victories in the city in 1979 and 1983
  • He then became campaigns and election director for the whole party, overseeing a host of by-election victories between 1989 and 2003 as the Lib Dems grew in size
  • He was chief executive between 2003 and 2009, serving three leaders Charles Kennedy, Sir Menzies Campbell and Nick Clegg
  • He stepped down in 2009 citing ill health and the difficulties of managing a diabetic condition
  • He became a peer in 1999

"He also hopes that they will accept that the events of the last 14 months have been a most unhappy experience for him, his family and friends and for the party."

One of the women, former Welsh assembly candidate Alison Goldsworthy, said the apology was a "start".

She told Channel 4 News: "I am relieved that some acceptance has now started to come forward from Chris Rennard that what he did was not okay but very frustrated that I have had to spend the last 15 months talking about things that are really very private and quite intimate to me to be able to achieve it.

"If he had accepted and offered this apology up 15 months ago then things may be very different."

She called for the party to expel the peer.

A spokesperson for the peer said he has yet to receive a response from the party.

A Lib Dem spokesperson said: "An appeal has been submitted by three of the original complainants against the outcome of Alistair Webster's investigation.

"Separately, an appeal has been submitted by Lord Rennard against the disciplinary process for bringing the party into disrepute by his failure to apologise, and his conduct after the publication of Webster's conclusions.

"Both appeals will be considered by the English Appeals Panel in accordance with the rules of the party. We cannot comment further on any aspect of that process while it is ongoing."

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  25.  
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  26.  
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  27.  
    @DuncanWeldon 12:25: Duncan Weldon, Economics Correspondent, BBC Newsnight

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  29.  
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  30.  
    @patrick_kidd 12:23: Patrick Kidd, Editor of The Times Diary column

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  37.  
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  41.  
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  59.  
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  63.  
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  71.  
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  74.  
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  78.  
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  80.  
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  81.  
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    Philip Hammond
     
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  83.  
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  84.  
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  85.  
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  86.  
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  87.  
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  88.  
    11:18: Iraq action

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  89.  
    @afneil 11:17: Andrew Neil, BBC

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  90.  
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  91.  
    11:14: Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, is addressing the conference
    Philip Hammond addressing the conference
     
  92.  
    11:13: Hammond time

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  93.  
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    Michael Fallon
     
  94.  
    11:10: Trident

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  95.  
    11:09: David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the conference centre
    David Cameron arriving with his wife Samantha
     
  96.  
    11:07: Jobs

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  97.  
    11:03: IS 'barbarity'

    Michael Fallon says the UK now faces "new threats to our security" - as he talks about the "chilling barbarity" of Islamic State militants, which if left unchecked would result in "a terrorist state on Europe's doorstep".

     
  98.  
    11:01: Services tribute

    Michael Fallon pays tribute to the 453 British servicemen and women who died during combat operations in Afghanistan, and all those who were injured. A round of applause ensues.

     
  99.  
    10:59: Defence budget

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  100.  
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    The opening lyrics:

    White lips, pale face

    Breathing in snowflakes

    Burnt lungs, sour taste

    Light's gone, day's end

    Struggling to pay rent

    Long nights, strange men

     

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