Lord Rennard: Women urge Lib Dem leaders to expel peer

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

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Three of the four women who claim they were sexually harassed by former Lib Dem strategist Lord Rennard have said he should be expelled from the party.

The call follows an apology by Lord Rennard, who denied sexual harassment, expressing regret for "inadvertent" intrusion on "personal space".

Lord Rennard is currently suspended from the Lib Dems and his supporters say he wants to rejoin the party.

But the women have called on party leaders to permanently expel him.

One of the women who made the claims, Bridget Harris, said it was down to the leadership to act.

She said: "The real question here is, 'Should the Lib Dems accept him back on the benches in the House of Lords?' And I don't think the answer to that is yes.

"I think that it would be untenable for Lord Rennard to stay as a spokesperson for the Lib Dems on any matter at all. So I think he should be kicked out of the party."

Another of the women, Susan Gaszczak, said the peer should not be allowed back into the party.

She said: "We really have got to draw a line under this. The only way to do that is actually to say, 'Lord Rennard, it's time to go.'"

A third woman, former Welsh Assembly candidate Alison Goldsworthy, said Lord Rennard's apology was a "start" but did not go far enough, and called for him to be expelled.

Lord Rennard is suspended while his case is being considered by the party.

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

Former Liberal leader Lord Steel said he thought Lord Rennard had brought "closure" to a "very unfortunate episode" with his apology.

"I'm glad it is now over and we can get back to normal," he said.

"I think he should come back. He has made an apology - he thinks his conduct was less than it should have been."

'Contentious issues'

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

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

A statement from Lord Rennard's lawyers to the Lib Dem party this week said: "Lord Rennard wishes to achieve closure of the contentious issues that have been in the public domain for the last 14 months by expressing his apologies to Susan Gaszczak, Alison Goldsworthy, Bridget Harris and Alison Smith.

"Lord Rennard personally accepts the full report of Alistair Webster QC as given to him on March 7 in its entirety."

A spokesman for the peer said he had yet to receive a response from the party.

A Liberal Democrat party spokesman 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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