The Lib Dems say Danny Alexander spoke to Lord Rennard when ‘indirect and non-specific concerns’ about inappropriate behaviour reached Nick Clegg’s office in 2008. But the alleged behaviour continued after that, too, I have learned. A well-placed source tells me that long after that 2008 conversation with Alexander in which the then chief executive was told that such behaviour was unacceptable, there was another incident.
In late 2011, the peer (who was no longer chief executive by this point) attended a party with Lib Dem staff. At the end of the party, he took a number of women back to his home in taxis, where the drinking continued and Lord Rennard was behaving in a tactile fashion towards at least one of the women who was in an advanced state of inebriation to the extent that another guest left, feeling uncomfortable. This incident was not followed up by Lib Dem HQ, and it was discounted in conversations about the evening as unsurprising behaviour. A spokesman for Lord Rennard last night declined to comment on these new allegations. The peer issued a statement yesterday afternoon denying impropriety.
The attitude at Lib Dem HQ, I understand, was that these sorts of incidents were what you’d just have to expect from Lord Rennard, that he was so essential to the party and so very powerful (more influential than the leader himself even long after his resignation, right up until these allegations surfaced last week) that any attempt to really fight him would damage the party itself. Sources said he continued to attend meetings regularly on election strategy with party staff after resigning as Lib Dem chief executive, which his spokesman says was not true.