Rennard whistleblower given pay-off and gagging order
Police to probe harassment claims against Lib Dem chief as more revelations and accusations emerge
THE METROPOLITAN police are to meet Liberal Democrat officials to discuss whether any criminal activities need investigating following the wave of allegations of sexual harassment against former party chief executive Lord Rennard. The peer denies any wrongdoing, but more women are coming forward with stories of inappropriate behaviour and suggestions of a party cover-up. Here are the latest developments:
'Pregnant whistleblower gagged': The Daily Telegraph reports that one of Lord Rennard's accusers, Helen Jardine-Brown, a former head of fund-raising, made allegations about him four years ago. She was apparently told Nick Clegg would contact her over the claims, but he never did. Two months later, after she told her employers she was pregnant, her position was cut and she left her job after reaching a £50,000 settlement conditional on her silence.
'The party knew': The Guardian claims that senior Lib Dems have admitted that Rennard's resignation in 2009 was down to pressure from the party leadership over "general allegations of sexual impropriety". The paper reports: "Some of the women who had made the complaints were assured by party officials at the time that his departure was linked to the allegations."
Female activists 'in revolt': Many of those who have come forward to make allegations against Rennard say they did so because the peer was "back on the scene" after his 2009 resignation and appeared to be inching his way back towards a frontline role. As The Mole noted yesterday, Rennard had been invited back onto the Lib Dems' federal policy committee.
'Male hierarchy to blame': Lib Dem peer Baroness Hussein-Ece told the Daily Mail that there were similarities to the Jimmy Savile situation. "There aren't sufficient checks and balances in place," she said, adding that the party needs more "high-ranking women in place to curb some of this behaviour. What's liberal about only 13 per cent of our parliamentary party being women?"
'It's overblown': Nick Clegg's friend and biographer Jasper Gerard inflamed the situation further yesterday by claiming that the allegations had been "blown out of all proportion" and contradicted Hussein-Ece by announcing: "It was only touching a woman's knee, it's hardly Jimmy Savile." Another Lib Dem peer, Lord Greaves, said everyone should "just calm down a bit".
New poll low: A ComRes poll for The Independent over the weekend put the Lib Dems in fourth place with the backing of just eight per cent of voters. They were even a point behind Ukip, with nine per cent. A poll by the local paper in Eastleigh, Hampshire, where there is a by-election on Thursday following the resignation of disgraced former Lib Dem minister Chris Huhne, puts the party level with the Tories.