Statement from Clegg on harassment allegations

7:45 pm - February 24th 2013

by Newswire    

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Statement from Nick Clegg:

The allegations made on Channel 4 concerning Lord Rennard last Thursday were extremely serious and distressing to the women involved. It is critical they are investigated thoroughly and dealt with properly and they will be.

But I would like to make one thing crystal clear. I did not know about these allegations until Channel 4 informed the party of them shortly before they were broadcast. I have today spoken to one of the women in the broadcast who I respect and admire and who confirmed that she had never raised the issue with me.

I am angry and outraged at the suggestion that I would not have acted if these allegations had been put to me. Indeed, when indirect and non-specific concerns about Chris Rennard’s conduct reached my office in 2008, we acted to deal with them.

My Chief of Staff at the time, Danny Alexander, put these concerns to Chris Rennard and warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable. Chris Rennard categorically denied that he had behaved inappropriately and he continues to do so. He subsequently resigned as Chief Executive on health grounds.

As my office only received concerns indirectly and anonymously, as those involved understandably wanted to maintain their privacy, there was a limit to how we could take this matter forward following Chris Rennard’s resignation. It is incorrect to state that there was any other separate inquiry by my office or anybody in it.

I recognise from the Channel 4 broadcast that there are legitimate concerns that issues raised with the party were not handled as well as they should have been. In particular the suggestion that a complaint was made but was not dealt with as a formal complaint. I am therefore determined that we carry out a thorough investigation into our procedures and how we applied them at the time to ensure we have a full and clear picture of what happened and the lessons that we need to learn. This review will be independently chaired.

A separate investigation into the specific allegations about Lord Rennard will take place under our disciplinary procedure. It is essential that this is carried out with due process and for that reason I cannot provide a running commentary on it. But I am absolutely determined that both these investigations will be carried out thoroughly and comprehensively. These investigations may well reveal flawed procedures, and clearly the women concerned feel they were not properly listened to. But I totally reject the insidious suggestion that my office or I are responsible in any way for a deliberate cover up.

The full truth of what happened and what failed to happen and who said what to whom will be revealed by these investigations.

But in the meantime, I will not stand by and allow my party to be subject to a show trial of innuendo, half-truths and slurs. The important thing is that we respect the women who have come forward and do everything to get to the truth. That is what will now happen.

(via LibdemVoice)

UPDATE: here is Labour’s response, from Kate Green MP

After days of total denials – some only hours ago from LibDem MPs Vince Cable and Jeremy Brown – Nick Clegg has now been forced to admit that he did know of what he calls ‘indirect concerns’ about Lord Rennard in his role Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats.

Nick Clegg’s statement raises more questions than it answers about his judgement and the willingness of the Liberal Democrats as a party to properly investigate such serious allegations at the time they were made.

At issue is not just a series of serious allegations from a number of women, but how the Liberal Democrat Party responded to those allegations.

Only with a fully independent investigation can the public have confidence that the truth will prevail and lessons learned for the future.

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Reader comments

1. Jim Hutchon (@DopeyJim)

This is a typically soft and ineffectual speech of “I didn’t know”. Internal inquiries, fudged by splitting process and accusation, will inevitably be run by Rennard’s friends and ex-colleagues – even if independently chaired – and are destined to run into the sand. The party is apparently not really serious about getting to the truth, and I trust its self-righteous flabbiness will come back and bite it.

2. kevin Leonard

This is no doubt not the first set of allegations which have been stopped short by the one being accused “retiring on health grounds” or “spending more time with Family” now I suspect will it be the last.
I do feel however that ALL political parties are subject to the same shortcomings as they struggle to keep their best(not a term I would use) political minds on board in order to help them win the next battle.
The biggest problem for all political parties is their arrogance whereby they truly believe that they are far superior to any of the plebs who cast votes and that any political party member always tells the truth within the party if not to the public.

How wrong they all are and how blind must they think we believe they are, or how blind they believe us plebs to be.


Clegg changes his story again, and again, and again, and again, and again,and again, and again, and again,and again,and again,and again.

You do have to laugh at how pompous he is. The lie dems in all their glory.

Michael Crick on Twitter “intv in 2009, I put it to Clegg 4 times that Rennard was sacked. At no time did he deny that, yet tonight he says Rennard resigned”

Can clegg ever tell the truth about anything?

In practice at this level, the distinction between ‘sacked’ and ‘resigned’ can be entirely cosmetic, or permitted for contractual reasons. Even at the time, we knew (in the sense of ‘we’ = bloggers and ‘knew’ = ‘someone in Whitehall told my friend who said…’) that Rennard had been punted by Clegg for some kind of personal rather than professional misconduct.

Interesting that this got brought back now; someone’s had it in their back pocket for a long time waiting for a chance. Any aspects of this actually relevant to governing were over in 2008, afaict.

What with Opik putting the boot in, Farron left holding his dick and Cleggster looking like a bunny in the headlights, well, could this all be the work of that well known Liberal – Mr Simon ‘i’m not gay Tatchell unlike you, even though I am’ Hughes?

Political Betting have got Cleggy (37 notches, lurdeez, 37) on 6-4 to be putsched by the next election. Geez, when Opik’s you’re attack dog, one should really consider retirement.

Did Rennard know Cyril ‘the disciplinarian’ Smith?

Skeletons are alleged to be in the closet a few critical days before a closely fought election.

Lynton Crosby will be behind this, you mark my words. It is certainly in his style. Channel 4 and BBC should be querying the timing of these revelations with more vigour than they are reporting the story.

To use smear and innuendo as a campaigning tactic suggests to me a lack of integrity. But either Rennard or his alleged victims would be extremely distressed by the situation. To use this purely for political capital is disgraceful. This matter needs properly resolving, but not in the spotlight before a by-election.

The result of this affair, and perhaps Clegg’s career, hang on exactly what he knew or was told. If, as he claims, he was given information “indirectly and anonymously”, then I cannot see what else he could have done but put (or have put) the allegations to Rennard. Given his denial, there was really little else they could do, though it does appear that he was squeezed out of his job as Chief Executive. On this reading, those making the allegations seem to have been happy with the result, but came forwards more recently when Rennard appeared to be taking a more active role in the party.

However, if Clegg, or anyone else senior in the party had specific knowledge of incidents (excluding of course the person(s) who made the statements “indirectly and anonymously”) then he’s finished: for a cover-up in the first case, or for being out of touch/control in the latter.

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