Sunday 26 January 2014

Another casualty from the Rennard controversy?

Quite apart from the impact on both his accusers and Lord Rennard himself, there could be wider casualty from the last week's events.

Just consider both Nick Clegg's bemoaning that party rules constrain him from acting as he would wish to, and media commentators condemning him as weak for being unable to simply throw Rennard out of the party by personal diktat.

The potential casualty is party democracy itself. There will be those who will point to the embarrassments caused and say that they would not have happened if the leader had been able to act 'decisively' unconstrained by the tiresome requirements of a democratic party.

Those ever ready with bleating demands for 'strong leadership', under which the Lib Dem membership would be reduced to a fan club - as are members of the other main parties - will be only too happy to point to these events and argue that they show a 'serious' party in power ought to dispense with its internal democracy.

No-one suggests that this was an outcome sought by the women who have made complaints, or indeed by Lord Rennard, but there is the danger of it being an unintended consequence.

Clegg has pointed out that he led a political party and "not a sect". He would though probably be less than human if he didn't fancy being able to solve party problems by simply issuing instructions.

This crisis may have presented those who would like that outcome with a golden opportunity. Be on guard.

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