Nick Clegg angers press with 'self-appointed detectives' jibe
Deputy PM's attack doesn't stop former Lib Dem MP saying she warned him about Rennard in 2007
NICK CLEGG has angered some quarters of the press by criticising as "self-appointed detectives" those journalists who have discovered further allegations of sexual harassment against the party's one-time chief executive Lord Rennard. As the peer continues to deny any improper behaviour, these are the latest developments:
'Self-appointed detectives': Clegg has been accused of betraying his liberal roots after labelling journalists "self-appointed detectives" and saying they should leave investigations to the police. The Daily Mail said the Deputy Prime Minister's comments showed he "just doesn't get it", adding: "It's called a free press for a reason, Mr Clegg". Alison Smith, the former Lib Dem activist who went public with allegations that Rennard groped her, criticised Clegg's remarks as an attack on the "free press".
MP's warning to Clegg: Former Lib Dem MP Sandra Gidley says she told Nick Clegg about allegations surrounding Rennard in 2007, when he became party leader. Clegg previously claimed he had only heard "indirect and non-specific" concerns about the peer but Gidley told the Daily Telegraph she spoke to him in person. "I am hoping his memory might be jogged," she told the Telegraph. "Shall we leave it at that?" Clegg told LBC Radio this morning that he "recollects" a "general conversation" with Gidley but that she raised no "specific" concerns.
'Red-hot babes': In an interview with Radio 4's World at One, a former Lib Dem councillor known only as 'Susan' said when she raised concerns about Lord Rennard's behaviour in 2008 that someone within the party referred to her and others as "Rennard's red-hot babes". Susan said she knew of nine other women allegedly molested by the peer and had told health minister Norman Lamb about Rennard's advances.
Whistleblowers 'silenced': The Daily Mail reports that only this Monday a senior Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Stoneham, made an "aggressive" phone call to a female party activist who had contacted the paper to complain the party had ignored allegations she made against Rennard. Stoneham, the party's former director of operations, was reportedly "furious".
Rennard statement: The former Lib Dem chief executive yesterday broke his silence over the sexual harassment claims, with a spokesperson issuing a statement denying any impropriety: "In 27 years of working for the Liberal Democrats he received no complaint or allegation about his behaviour. Nor is he aware of any personal complaints being made in the three-and-a-half years since he stood down as chief executive until last week."
Leadership 'crisis': Conservative MP Conor Burns, commenting on the Rennard scandal, said: "Only someone with the genius of Nick Clegg could have a sex scandal that doesn't involve sex and turn it into a leadership crisis."