Lib Dem deputy Jo Swinson savages party over failure to oust Lord Rennard

Posted On: 
19th November 2017

Jo Swinson has said the Liberal Democrats' failure to expel Lord Rennard from the party despite a string of sexual harassment claims against him has left her feeling “deeply frustrated”.

Jo Swinson said it "feels wrong" that Lord Rennard was not expelled from the party
Credit: 
PA Images

The party’s deputy leader said she felt “sadness and anger" over the peer not being removed as a member and that it makes her “blood boil” to hear women who spoke out were not believed.

Former party chief executive Lord Rennard, a close ally of current leader Vince Cable, was investigated internally in 2014 over complaints by a number of women.

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The probe concluded that while the claims were "broadly credible”, they could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Asked about the peer's future within the party last week, Sir Vince told the BBC that Lord Rennard has “no role” in representing the party and that be has “no intention of going down that road”.

However the leader's deputy slammed party management for not going far enough in a blog post on the website Medium. 

“That Lord Rennard remains in the party, showing no remorse or contrition, while many of the women involved have left, fills me with sadness and anger,” she wrote.

“When I hear suggestions that the women who spoke out should not be believed, or that they were somehow manipulated, it makes my blood boil.

“Vince - and Tim [Farron] before him  - have repeatedly, publicly said Rennard is not welcome anywhere near their frontbench team, even as an adviser.

“I remain deeply frustrated that he was not expelled from the party through its disciplinary process. It just feels wrong, and I do not want Lord Rennard to continue as a member of the party.

“As far as I am concerned, he is not welcome.”

'LONELY MISSION' 

The East Dunbartonshire MP, who returned to Westminster in June, said two of her friends complained to her "almost exactly ten years ago" that Lord Rennard had touched them against their will.

Ms Swinson said while she felt she did all she could to ensure action was taken to investigate at the time, there were “quiet internal solutions to harassment mask the scale of the problem” and a failure to “tackle the root”.

"I’ve reflected long and hard about my actions a decade ago. Did I do enough? My fear is that I did not," she said.

"At the time I thought I had done everything I possibly could, trying to support these women - my friends  -  while getting the party to act on the problem, in what felt like a lonely mission.

She said the incident taught her that “no single individual in any organisation should be allowed to hoard as much power as Lord Rennard did within the Lib Dems.”

"No one wanted to challenge him, and even to this day, he has not admitted what he did was wrong nor properly apologised to the women,” she added.

Ms Swinson, who sits on the recently formed cross-party group to tackle harassment in parliament on behalf of the Lib Dems, said the party now have “a much better system” to deal with harassment complaints, but that “it is not perfect.”