UK Politics

Lord Rennard claims: Police to meet Lib Dem officials

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Media captionNick Clegg: "I cannot - and my party will not - provide a running commentary on every shred of speculation"

Liberal Democrat officials are to meet Metropolitan Police officers to discuss allegations made against the party's former chief executive Lord Rennard.

The Met said it was working with the party to establish whether any criminal activity had taken place.

A number of women have accused the peer of sexually inappropriate behaviour. Lord Rennard denies the allegations.

The Lib Dems are carrying out their own investigations. Lord Rennard has told of his "shock" at the allegations.

Nick Clegg said people needed to allow the police, and the two inquiries set up by the Lib Dems, to do their job, rather than "act as self-appointed detectives trying to piece together events".

"In the meantime, I cannot and my party will not, provide a running commentary on every shred of speculation about events that happened many years ago."

Election shadow

The question of how to handle the claims against Lord Rennard will be considered not only by the party but by the Specialist Investigations Command of the Metropolitan Police.

The meeting between the Met and Lib Dem officials on Tuesday comes after Lib Dem officials approached the force.

The Labour MP John Mann says he has also written to police asking them to investigate.

He said the Liberal Democrats had been trying to "politically manage" the issue rather than conducting a "proper investigation" into the allegations.

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Media captionEx-Lib Dem activist Alison Smith who reported inappropriate behaviour by Lord Rennard in 2007, spoke to Newsnight

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said Lord Rennard disputed allegations that were first broadcast last week and have cast a long shadow over the party's by-election campaign in Eastleigh.

The Lib Dems are preparing to defend the Hampshire seat on Thursday, following the resignation of Chris Huhne.

Alison Smith, one of those who has made allegations about his conduct, told the BBC's Newsnight that there was an "intolerable" culture within the party.

"It is going beyond a pat on the knee a lot of the time and even if it was just a pat on the knee who gets to decide what's an acceptable advance and what's not an acceptable advance? The power dynamics in these situations are quite scary," she said.

The Lib Dem investigations will consider claims about how allegations made among Lib Dems were handled in the past and what action should be taken in the future.

The party's deputy leader Simon Hughes said the police announcement was "compatible with what we want to do which is to make sure that nobody thinks that we're trying to hide anything.

"We're not, we're an open and transparent party."

Key strategist

The Lib Dems are conducting two inquiries - one into the specific complaints against Lord Rennard, which will be chaired by Alistair Webster QC, a criminal lawyer and former head of the Lib Dem Lawyers Association.

The other is into how the allegations were handled in the past, which will be independently chaired.

Image caption Lord Rennard has described the allegations as a "total distortion" of his character

Two women told Channel 4 last Thursday that Lord Rennard had abused his position by inappropriately touching and propositioning them.

One of the women said she had spoken to two senior party figures about her claims but said no action had been taken.

Allegations from more women were broadcast on Friday. The incidents are alleged to have taken place between 2003 and 2007.

Lord Rennard, who was also a key strategist and adviser to a succession of party leaders, said he was "deeply shocked" about the allegations and said they were a "total distortion" of his character.

The peer said he knew of no complaints against him in his 27 years working for the party but he has temporarily stood aside from the Lib Dem group in the Lords to avoid "embarrassment" to the party.

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