UK Politics

Lord Rennard quits Lib Dem ruling body

Lord Rennard Image copyright Getty Images

Lib Dem Lord Rennard has quit the party's governing body after leader Tim Farron called on him to stand down.

The peer's election to the Federal Executive had triggered a bid from within the party to get him removed.

The ex-Lib Dem chief executive was accused of sexual harassment by four party activists, which he denied, and disciplinary action against him was dropped last year.

He said he had agreed to step down in the "interests of party unity".

Lord Rennard had been elected by fellow peers last week.

Critics of his appointment to the Federal Executive called for a special conference to amend the rules to stop members of the House of Lords from sitting on it.

Mr Farron said: "Chris (Rennard) was entitled to stand for election and the Lords were entitled to elect him. That does not mean his decision to put himself forward was in the best interests of the party."

'Sadness'

He said a special conference would harm the party by diverting "considerable time, energy and resource" away from the Oldham West and Royton by-election and the party's "growing fightback" after its general election thrashing.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lib Dem leader Tim Farron had urged Lord Rennard to stand down

"It is right I should not be allowed to reverse outcomes just because I or others don't like them," he said.

"I am, though, entitled to an opinion on the decisions taken by our party and whether I believe they are in our best interests."

Lord Rennard said it was with "sadness" that he was withdrawing from the executive and criticised the party for its "very poor" communication over the outcomes of the investigations into the allegations made against him.

Independent investigation

He pointed to an inquiry led by businesswoman Helena Morrissey into the internal culture and handling of complaints in the Liberal Democrats that called for a "paradigm shift" in the party's attitudes towards women.

He said: "In the interests of party unity, and on the basis that the party will over time implement in full all of the proposals in Helena Morrissey's final report, I have agreed to withdraw from the Federal Executive."

Lord Rennard was suspended in January 2014 for bringing the party into disrepute after failing to apologise over the allegations.

Disciplinary proceedings against the peer were dropped in August 2014 and he was reinstated to the party.

Following a party review, he said he may have "inadvertently" encroached" upon "personal space" of the women involved, and apologised.

The independent investigation, by Alistair Webster QC, concluded that the evidence against him was "broadly credible" but said wrongdoing could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.