Wednesday 12 June 2013

Two disclosures, tucked away

I’ll leave it to others to decide on the accuracy of Helena Morrissey’s report on how the Liberal Democrats dealt with, or didn’t, allegations of sexual harassment, and the validity of her recommendations.

Most of her report deals with allegations about Chris Rennard (which he has denied), though other cases that clearly do not involve him are also included.

However, her report (party statement here; pdf of full report here), issued by the party today, includes an extensive section on how Rennard came to accumulate an unusual degree of power in the party – whether real or imagined – and about what happened when his accusers despaired of internal processes and went to Channel 4 News last winter.

At the time, there was wide criticism of the party’s inept and constantly changing response to who had known, or not known, what and when about the allegations, which was barely got under control after a week of catastrophic headlines on the eve of polling in Eastleigh.

If you thought that was bad enough, what are we to make of this startling aside in Morrissey’s report:
“A self-interested approach would have actually suggested a much quicker response from the Party when it was given three weeks’ advance notice of the ‘controlled explosion’ of the Channel 4 News programme.”
Three weeks? She does not say who gave this warning, but it sounds like quite long enough for some more adequate media response to have been prepared.

The other revelation here concerns shifting attitudes to ‘Rennardism’ – the practice of concentrating resources on target seats to the exclusion of most activity elsewhere. This paid rich dividends in the 1997 general election but, towards the end of Rennard’s era in charge, was coming under question as some felt it was effectively letting the party wither in the rest of the country.

She writes of Rennard’s resignation as chief executive in 2009:
“It appears that Nick Clegg had accumulated doubts about him, which included the harassment allegations and the expenses issue, but also the fundamental concern that ‘Rennardism’ was not the way forward for the Party.”
As far as I’m aware, this is the first time time that any such ‘accumulated doubts’ on Clegg’s part have been referred to in public. But if Clegg felt ‘Rennardism’ was doubtful, has he changed much? It is still widely expected that the next general election, like the last several, will be fought as 70-odd by-elections.

1 comment:

  1. I will say that, with the present electoral circumstances, fighting the next general election as 70 odd by elections is probably the best strategy. The problem will be if we continue to fight elections in that manner once the immediate danger of decimation has passed.


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