Thursday, January 16, 2014

The different treatment of Chris Rennard and Jenny Tonge

Have I got this right? The Liberal Democrats asked Alistair Webster to decide whether there was a better than even chance that an inquiry would find beyond reasonable doubt that Chris Rennard had intended to harass women in the party.

So we didn't hold an inquiry: we asked a QC to guess what would happen if we did.

If it were not so damaging to the party's reputation, our adoption of this byzantine approach would be comic.

This is a difficult issue for me to write about, because I have known Chris Rennard for almost 30 years. When I first heard of the allegations against him my reaction was to hope they were not true. I make no comment on them now beyond what is contained in Alistair Webster's statement.

But I am struck by the difference between his treatment and that of someone I first met even before I met Chris.

When Jenny Tonge suggested that Israel would not last for ever in its present form, she was given an ultimatum by Nick Clegg: apologise or resign.

When she failed to apologise, Nick told the Guardian:
"I asked Baroness Tonge to withdraw her remarks and apologise for the offence she has caused. She has refused to do so and will now be leaving the party."
If Nick has the power to force someone out of the party like this, why is he not exercising it now?

The kindest explanation I can think of is that Nick is scared of Alex Carlile.


Simon said...

One of my few achievements as a Liberal Democrat was to prompt Alex Carlile to write a hatchet job of me on Lib Dem Voice. Quite why he thought that was a good idea I cannot imagine, but still I'm not afraid of him and I don't see why Nick should be either!

The only annoying thing was that the bastard was actually right about something.

Paul Walter said...

"If Nick has the power to force someone out of the party like this, why is he not exercising it now?"

It should be noted that Jenny Tonge is still a member of the Liberal Democrats. She was not forced out of the party. She resigned the whip in the Lords.

Anonymous said...

Surely in any normal workplace there would be a proper formal inquiry if credible, multiple allegations were made? I cannot see why this has not happened.

I cannot see how Webster's report is in anyone's interest. It neither clears Chris or allows the allegations to be properly investigated.

Bill Chapman said...

I'm afraid the LibDems have tied themselves in knots on this. Anyone in favour of a breakaway Liberal Party?

Anonymous said...

unless I'm mistaken, there's been a (albeit very small) Liberal Party that broke away when the merging with the SDP took place. Maybe it's time that party was revived