Rennard went beyond 'a hand on the knee' says accuser
Lib Dem activist to speak to police but Shirley Williams says peer was no Jimmy Savile
LORD RENNARD faces "very, very serious" allegations of sexual impropriety beyond just a "hand on the knee", says the woman leading complaints against him as she prepares to meet police about the Liberal Democrat peer's behaviour. Speaking to the BBC, former Lib Dem worker Alison Smith (above) said she went public with the claims last week amid concern Rennard, who stepped down as party chief executive four years ago, was making a "comeback".
Now a politics lecturer at Oxford University, Smith said even "very senior" Lib Dem MPs were scared of Rennard because of his power to "make or break their careers". She claimed while there were never explicit "casting couch" scenarios for women looking to advance in the party, Rennard had what was known as "favoured daughters". She said: "It was just a feeling that we had that if you would do what he wanted then you could get a lot out of it and if you didn't then there could be consequences."
Smith spoke out as party leader Nick Clegg came under renewed pressure following his admission that Rennard's alleged "inappropriate behaviour" had contributed to the peer stepping down as Lib Dem chief executive in 2009. According to The Spectator, the Deputy Prime Minister was also warned about the inappropriate activities of Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock but a written complaint from a constituent went unanswered by Clegg.
However one of the party's most senior figures, Baroness Shirley Williams, has defended Rennard, telling the BBC last night she believed the scandal had been "hopelessly exaggerated". She said: "Let's be frank, the bad stuff is basically what's happened to Savile. It's abusing children, it's abusing very young innocent women, it's using the temptations of celebrity. I don't think anything that's been said about our chap is in the same category at all."
Lord Rennard denies the accusations, thought to involve at least 10 women.