The Lib Dems are not taking any disciplinary action against Lord Rennard and have reinstated his membership, the party said this evening.
Lord Rennard had been suspended from the party as part of the aftermath of allegations about his inappropriate conduct towards a number of women. A party spokesperson said:
‘The Regional Parties Committee met this week to consider whether the party had been brought into disrepute by statements made by Lord Rennard, or on his behalf, following the publication of Alistair Webster’s conclusions.
‘It decided not to proceed with the disciplinary process against him. This brings the matter to a close and means the suspension of his membership is lifted.’
Party president Tim Farron is defending the changes the Lib Dems have made to their culture and practices, saying:
‘No one should ever have to feel that their concerns are being dismissed or ignored and I am clear that the Liberal Democrats should become the ‘gold standard’ for how voluntary organisations treat their members and staff.’
If the party can prove it has changed, that will perhaps be of some comfort to those who have left. But the women who made the allegations about Rennard’s conduct do not seem all that impressed that no action is being taken against the peer.
Very glad I made the right choice in July, the @LibDems have told me I am credible but have no back bone, back to normal then
— Susan Gaszczak (@SusanGaszczak) August 19, 2014
Bridget Harris – one of Lord Rennard’s alleged victims – tells ITV News she is ‘very disappointed’ in the decision to lift his suspension.
— Carl Dinnen (@carldinnen) August 19, 2014
And from the outside, this doesn’t give the best impression of a party that has long boasted about its commitment to women.
UPDATE, 9.50pm: Nick Clegg has offered his thoughts, for what they’re worth:
‘The Liberal Democrats have taken a long, hard look in the mirror since these allegations were made last year and I am confident that the party has changed. It is clear that a number of women in our party felt let down that the party failed to act on their complaints appropriately. I am determined that no member of our party should find themselves in that position again.
‘That’s why I immediately appointed Helena Morrissey to carry out a root and branch review of our culture and processes and made sure we acted on her recommendations. In addition, at my request the Party President and the Federal Executive established a review into our procedures for handling cases such as this to ensure that the party’s rules are fit for purpose in the future. This review has now been completed by a senior barrister who has recommended that we make changes to the current criminal burden of proof and these changes will now be taken forward.’