Nick Clegg has in the past few minutes made clear that unless Lord Rennard apologises for his behaviour towards women in the party, he will not regain the Liberal Democrat whip. A party spokesman said:
‘Nick Clegg is of the view that as long as Lord Rennard refuses the very reasonable request from Alistair Webster QC to apologise that it is inappropriate for him to rejoin the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords. Nick has communicated this to the Chief Whip and Leader of the House of Lords group.
‘In addition, a growing number of party members have come forward to make representations to the party that Lord Rennard’s refusal to apologise in itself brings the party into disrepute.
‘The Lords Chief Whip and Leader of the House of Lords group will be discussing the matter with party HQ and will review the reinstatement of the whip on this basis.’
This is an interesting about-turn of events, coming only shortly after a letter of more than 100 party activists demanding that the peer apologise or remain an outcast. In my Telegraph column this morning, I explained that Clegg felt bound by his party’s rules to not take any further action against Rennard when in fact the rules are not the laws of physics but simply rules set out by many votes in many conference halls over many years. Now, it seems, the Liberal Democrat leader is trying to be more of the sort of leader that other parties are used to: one who takes executive decisions, rather than being bound by very worthy but also very restrictive democracy.