The ongoing crisis within the Liberal Democrats shows no signs of abating. Last week the party were forced to suspend their former Campaign guru [Lord] Chris Rennard and the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth, Mike Hancock following the alleged revelations of sexual harassment.
An internal inquiry into the allegations surrounding Rennard found that the complaints made against him were ‘broadly credible’ but could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt which is the test laid down by the party rules should these circumstances arise. The inquiry concluded that best all round if Rennard apologised and they could then all move on!
Rennard, who has always maintained his innocence in these matters, said that any apology could be seen as an admission of guilt and threatened to sue the party if the suspension is not lifted and the party take any further disciplinary action against him. For some in the media, the Rennard and Hancock affairs are evidence that the Liberal Democrats could not run a bath, let alone co-run a country.
But the most serious charged laid at the door of the Liberal Democrat is that the party that has perhaps shouted more loudly than most about the need to champion women’s rights and equality have known and tried to cover up both the alleged conduct of both Rennard and Hancock. There seems to have been a culture of secrecy about the internal inquiries and who knew what and when within the party hierarchy.
The scandals do shine a light on the glaring reality however that the Liberal Democrats are for some, not the party they proclaim they are or want to be when it comes to women. Only just over 10% of its MPs are women which is the lowest percentage proportion of any of three main parties. This demonstrates that the party is without question a bastion of male domination who seem to have been indifferent and somewhat insensitive to the impact the alleged behaviour of Rennard and Hancock has had towards women.
Perhaps the person most damaged from this ongoing crisis will not be Rennard or Hancock, but Nick Clegg? Clegg has been accused of trying to abdicate responsibility for the scandals and questions remain about what he knew as party leader and when did he know it, but simply suggesting that he cannot provide the decisive leadership required to get a grip of this crisis because party rules prevent him from doing so may just come back to haunt him with the many of the electorate.