When the Mail has a hissy fit, you know the story’s a smokescreen.

The Daily Mail

Spivs Comment

Obviously, this story is either a smokescreen for something else, or it is printed in an effort to distract attention away from the investigations into the much more serious sexual abuse cases taking place at the moment.

After all, as soon as the Daily Mail start having a hissy fit about Clegg trying to gag them, you straight away know its bollocks.

However, regardless of the reasons, I like the ‘scandal’ if for no other reason that it shows Nick Smegg up for the lying toerag that he is. He may look innocent and appear to do fuck all for a living, but his insipidness is just a front for pure sleaze. 

I see his misappropriation of public funds involving his wife, Miriam’s Charity of Choice has gone away again… Cunts! The fucking lot of them. 

 

It’s called a free press for a reason, Mr Clegg: Fury as ‘Liberal’ leader calls journalists ‘self-appointed detectives’ for exposing scandal he and his party covered up

  • Ill-judged remarks have shocked Tory and Labour MPs
  • Former Lib Dem activist Alison Smith said Clegg was wrong to attack the press
  • Mail has learnt senior Lib Dems were attempting to silence whistleblowers

By JAMES CHAPMANGERRI PEEV and RYAN KISIEL

 

Nick Clegg launched an extraordinary attack on the media yesterday for exposing the Lord Rennard scandal.

The Deputy Prime Minister accused journalists investigating a cover-up of being ‘self-appointed detectives’.

His ill-judged remarks shocked Tory and Labour MPs, who said he should focus on getting to the truth.

Ill-judged: Nick Clegg has launched an attack on journalists for exposing the Lord Rennard scandal
Ill-judged: Nick Clegg (left) launched an attack on journalists for exposing the Lord Rennard scandal and Alison Smith (right), a former Lib Dem activist who went public with groping claims against Lord Rennard

Ill-judged: Nick Clegg (left) launched an attack on journalists for exposing the Lord Rennard scandal. Alison Smith (right), a former Lib Dem activist, went public with groping claims against Lord Rennard

And Alison Smith, a former Liberal Democrat activist who went public with groping claims against Lord Rennard last week, said Mr Clegg was wrong to attack a ‘free press regarded by most as important in a democracy’.

In another twist, the Mail has learnt that senior Lib Dems were attempting to silence whistleblowers only this week.

On Monday, Lord Stoneham, who was the party’s director of operations at the height of the claims against Lord Rennard, made an ‘aggressive’ telephone call to a former party activist who claimed she saw the peer molesting a young woman a decade ago.

He was apparently furious she had contacted this newspaper to complain that her allegations had been swept under the carpet.

On another black day for the Lib Dems: 

  • A former party frontbencher said she sounded the alarm about Lord Rennard directly with Mr Clegg;
  • David Cameron told him he must ‘get to the bottom’ of the allegations;
  • Lord Rennard broke his silence to insist he was innocent and claim he had never been confronted with any complaints;
  • A Lib Dem councillor claimed she had been molested and knew of nine other victims referred to as ‘Rennard’s red hot babes’;
  •  Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb was drawn into the affair by an alleged victim;
  • Party officials met  detectives who have been called in to assess whether criminal acts may have taken place.

The affair started when former Lib Dem activists went public with claims of sexual harassment against Lord Rennard, who retired as the party’s chief executive in 2009 – ostensibly on health grounds.

After initially denying he knew about the claims until shortly before three women made allegations on Channel 4 News, Mr Clegg admitted he had asked his then chief of staff Danny Alexander to probe ‘non-specific concerns’ about Lord Rennard in 2008.

It has since emerged that Mr Clegg’s office failed to act on specific and detailed allegations of misconduct by the peer made in 2010.

Sandra Gidley, the ex-frontbencher who raised her concerns with him, said: ‘I spoke to Nick Clegg about general concerns. I didn’t know of any specific incidents and neither did he.’

Peers: Lord Ben Stoneham introduced to the Lords (left) standing next to Lord Rennard (right)Peers: Lord Ben Stoneham introduced to the Lords (left) standing next to Lord Rennard (right)

A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister said: ‘Sandra Gidley did raise general concerns with Nick Clegg about Lord Rennard’s conduct. She did not know of or raise specific allegations.

As Nick Clegg has said, he was aware of general concerns which were acted upon by his then chief of staff Danny Alexander.’ 

Yesterday Mr Clegg, speaking outside his south-west London home, called for detectives who are now reviewing the claims to be allowed to do their job.

He said: ‘I understand there are many people who appear to want to act as self-appointed detectives trying to piece together events that happened many years ago.

‘But the only way that we are going to get to the bottom of the truth, the only way we are going to ensure that the women whose allegations were broadcast on television last week are properly listened to, the only way were are going to establish exactly what happened and who knew what and when, is by allowing the two investigations that I established immediately after the Channel 4 broadcast to do their job and, indeed, to allow the police, whom we have now approached, to do their job as well. 

He just doesn't get it, does he? Daily Mail comment

‘And in the meantime I cannot – and my party cannot – provide a running commentary on every shred of speculation about events which happened many years ago.’ 

His intervention drew a stinging response from Miss Smith, who wrote on Twitter: ‘Clegg slams “self-appointed detectives”, otherwise known as the free press. Regarded by most as important in a democracy.’ 

She added: ‘They covered up a massive scandal, and now they don’t want people asking questions.’

She also dismissed the idea that the allegations had been timed to damage the party leadership ahead of a crucial by-election in Eastleigh, which will take place tomorrow. 

Toward the end of last year, she and some of the other alleged victims of Lord Rennard’s unwanted advances agreed to go public with their story, and told the party at the end of last month that they had done so.

Therese Coffey, a Tory MP and member of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said: ‘It is only through the power of the free press and TV that these allegations have come to light. Instead of trying to divert attention by blaming journalists, Nick Clegg should be focusing on getting to the unvarnished truth.’ 

Conor Burns, another Tory MP, said: ‘Only someone with the genius of Nick Clegg could have a sex scandal that doesn’t involve sex and turn it into a leadership crisis.

Mr Clegg would have to answer fewer questions from the press if he put out a statement that he could stick to about what he knew and when.’ 

Labour MP John Mann, who wrote to police asking them to investigate, claimed Mr Clegg treated the Rennard accusations as an issue of ‘political management’.

‘The real issue is why didn’t Clegg and the Liberals do the appropriate thing in dealing with this as serious allegation, rather than as political management,’ he said.

Mr Clegg’s aides insisted he had not been attacking broadcasters in his remarks but rather Conservative-supporting newspapers he believes are revelling in the scandal.

Peer denies Clegg’s claim that he was confronted over conduct

At least 10 women are thought to have made allegations that they were molested or pestered by Lord RennardAt least 10 women are thought to have made allegations that they were molested or pestered by Lord Rennard

Lord Rennard yesterday dramatically denied Nick Clegg’s claim that he had been confronted about sexual harassment allegations.

As yet more senior party figures were dragged into the scandal, the peer at the centre of the claims categorically denied anyone had spoken to him about his conduct.

But Mr Clegg’s office insists Cabinet minister Danny Alexander confronted Lord Rennard about rumours of unwanted advances to women Lib Dem activists in 2008.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Clegg said that Mr Alexander had ‘put these concerns to Chris Rennard and warned him that any such behaviour was wholly unacceptable’.

But a spokesman for Lord Rennard insisted: ‘In 27 years of working for the Liberal Democrats he received no complaint or allegation about his behaviour. Nor is he aware of any personal complaints being made in the three and a half years since he stood down as chief executive until last week.’

In an indication that the key players in the affair are beginning to turn against each other, sources close to Mr Clegg insisted Lord Rennard’s meeting with Mr Alexander ‘categorically did happen’.

One said: ‘He raised the concerns that had been passed to him, that were non-specific, about Chris’s behaviour. Chris denied them.’

The Deputy Prime Minister’s aides also suggested for the first time that the peer did not stand down solely for health reasons in 2009, as was publicly stated, but after pressure from Mr Clegg’s office.

‘We did act,’ said one. ‘Chris Rennard was spoken to, then in 2009 he was ill and he stood down. The timeline speaks for itself.’ 

In his statement Lord Rennard’s spokesman said he ‘refuted the allegations’ that he had behaved inappropriately with as many as ten female activists.

The spokesman added: ‘He has been notified of an internal investigatory panel within the party. 

‘The matter must now be regarded as sub judice pending its proceedings and no further statement will be issued in the interim.

He expects others to respect the sub judice principle, and he notes that under the party rules concerned it is for any case made against him to be proved by evidence to the requisite standard.

He denies impropriety.’ 

Former Liberal Democrat  leader Lord Ashdown suggested yesterday he and colleagues had ‘all picked up the rumours’ about Lord Rennard ‘some time before’ women went public with allegations of sexual harassment last week.

But he insisted he did not hear any speculation about the peer’s conduct while he was leader.

And although one of the victims claimed allegations against Lord Rennard dated back as far as 2001, Charles Kennedy, who was party leader at the time, insisted he had never heard anything about them.

‘It’s hardly Jimmy Savile’… How Clegg loyalist dismissed the sex assault claims against peer

  • Jasper Gerard, biographer and friend of Lib Dem leader, insists claims against Lord Rennard are ‘historical’
  • Emails show Nick Clegg’s chief of staff Jonny Oates was alerted to five specific allegations of ‘groping’ in April 2010
  • Fellow peer Lord Greaves claims ‘half of the male members of the House of Lords’ are guilty of similar allegations
  • Lib Dem president Tim Farron admits the party has ‘screwed up’
  • Party calls in whistleblowing experts and launches hotline for other women to come forward

By TAMARA COHENTIM SHIPMANFRANCESCA INFANTE and IAN DRUR

 

A Liberal Democrat candidate and close friend of Nick Clegg faced calls for his de-selection last night after saying the scandal engulfing Lord Rennard was ‘sexist’ and ‘blown out of all proportion’.

Jasper Gerard, who wrote a biography of Mr Clegg, said the party’s former elections chief was accused of a ‘clumsy pass’ several years ago and critics ‘need to keep some degree of perspective’.

One of Lord Rennard’s alleged victims, Oxford University academic Alison Smith, called for Mr Gerard to be dropped as candidate for the Tory-held marginal seat of Maidstone and the Weald.

Under fire: Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, pictured leaving his Putney home this morning, insisted he had 'nothing to hide' about the Rennard scandal
Nick Clegg and Jasper Gerard

Nick Clegg’s attempt to get a grip on the party’s handling of the allegations against Lord Rennard were undermined when his friend and candidate Jasper Gerard (left) dismissed the claims as ‘historical’ and not as serious as those against BBC star Jimmy Savile

She tweeted: ‘Hoping that Jasper Gerard will be de-selected for those comments’, followed by ‘Is Jasper Gerard the Todd Akin of the Lib Dems?’ referring to a US congressman who caused outrage by saying that women who had suffered ‘legitimate rape’ could not get pregnant.

Other Twitter users accused the former  journalist of ‘insulting women’ and ‘casual misogyny’.

 

 

Mr Gerard said in an interview about the  allegations: ‘I think we should not be treating it as some kind of major, major crisis. It is just something unfortunate that is being blown out of all proportion.

‘We are still now going on about whether somebody did put his hand or did not put his hand on somebody’s knee.

‘This is not the Jimmy Savile case revisited.’

 

Peer: Lord Rennard (pictured), who categorically denies the claims that he molested women, is facing the prospect of a police inquiryPeer: Lord Rennard (pictured), who categorically denies the claims that he molested women, is facing the prospect of a police inquiry

He said he was ‘not remotely defending’ the claims about Lord Rennard’s behaviour, but added fuel to the fire by saying that as the peer had resigned four years ago, the allegations were ‘pretty historical’.

He said: ‘Are we going to start dredging up things that Lloyd George did? There is an element of sexism in a lot of this coverage.

‘Having met a lot of the female Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidates, I think they are pretty well capable of looking after themselves to some extent,’ he told Radio 4’s World at One.

He added that the scandal ‘is being dressed up rather as some kind of Edwardian melodrama where young damsels are sort of running out of a room fluttering, terrified, that this beast Lord Rennard is after them.’

 

WHISTLEBLOWING HOTLINE FOR ALLEGED RENNARD ‘VICTIMS’

The Liberal Democrats have called in experts in dealing with whistleblowers to handle the flood of complaints against Lord Rennard.

Public Concern at Work will ‘provide witnesses with independent and confidential advice’, the party’s chief executive Tim Gordon announced.

He added: ‘They are able to provide guidance and help to victims with regards to who they should go to in the context of the reviews and investigations under way.

‘They will assist individuals in contacting investigators, only where the individual wishes to do so.’

Victims will be able to call a dedicated number – 0207 404 6609 – to raise concerns about the way they have been treated.

It was also announced that Alistair Webster QC will lead the formal internal investigation into the specific allegations made about the conduct of Lord Rennard.

The independent chair of an investigating into the way the party handled the historic claims will be announced later.

The seat of Maidstone and the Weald is held by Tory MP Helen Grant with a majority of 5,889 votes.

She succeeded Ann Widdecombe, and won the seat in 2010 with 23,491 votes. The Lib Dems gained 17,602 votes.

A senior Lib Dem source said: ‘Jasper does not speak for the party. We do not share his view. These are serious allegations and we are going to deal with them properly.’

But Lib Dem peer Tony Greaves also made an astonishing attempt to defend Lord Rennard by describing the complaints as ‘mild sexual advances’ and saying ‘half of the House of Lords’ had probably behaved in a similar way.

Lord Greaves wrote on an internal party message board: ‘We don’t know the details of anything that may have happened. But it is hardly an offence for one adult person to make fairly mild sexual advances to another. What matters is whether they are . . . rebuffed.

‘In passing, I would note and guess that if the allegations as made are a matter for resignation, perhaps around a half of the male members of the Lords over the age of 50 would probably not be seen again.’

On another thread where party members discussed whether the scandal was a ‘Beeb/Labour plot’ to derail the Eastleigh by-election, Lord Greaves started a discussion about the definition of ‘sexual harassment’.

He asked: ‘Does one proposition constitute sexual harassment?

‘And once there has been a refusal by the other person, how many more propositions constitute sexual harassment?’

Another candidate, Keith Nevols, who is running for Sittingbourne in Kent, has complained to Channel 4 News, saying its report on Lord Rennard was timed to ‘snowball and disable’ the party’s chances of winning the Hampshire seat on Thursday.

He said the alleged victims were being ‘used for party political and election purposes’.

A female Westminster aide, writing anonymously last year, revealed ambitious young politicians endure ‘a lot of nonsense to make it in politics and sadly that often includes leering employers or party grandees’.

‘Sometimes it’s a toss-up between the secretary of state who can’t drag his eyes away from my boobs or the backbencher who thinks he’s being subtle with the back-pat-slide-and-squeeze move,’ she wrote in Total Politics magazine.

She added there was ‘no safety net’ for staff who made allegations about employers unless they paid to join a union, and many would not come forward anyway because they did not want to harm their career prospects.

‘HE LOCKED DOORS AND SAID LET’S GO UPSTAIRS’

 

Lord Chris Rennard in the house of Lords

Damning new allegations that Lord Rennard, pictured right, pestered two women activists for sex after buying them dinner emerged yesterday.

The party’s then chief executive invited the women back to his London flat for a late-night drink but then ‘locked the doors’ and suggested they ‘go upstairs’, according to new evidence.

Alison Smith, then a party member but now an Oxford University politics lecturer, and a fellow Lib Dem – referred to as A – endured the ordeal in 2007, it is claimed.

Miss Smith’s account appears to be corroborated by an ITN News interview with a senior Lib Dem official in 2009 as part of an investigation into claims about Lord Rennard.

The incident allegedly happened after Miss Smith stepped down as parliamentary candidate in the Labour-held seat of Oldham East.

The official told the broadcaster: ‘Chris Rennard offered to take A and Al out for dinner to commiserate with Al for having to give up her seat. This was somewhere in London close to Rennard’s house.

‘Rennard invited them back to his house for a drink. After dinner . . . he locked the doors – they didn’t realise that he had locked the doors, but he had. 

‘[He] came and sat between them and neither of them remember precisely the wording, but the intention was “Come on, girls, let’s go upstairs”, which came as a great shock to both of them. 

‘I think it [Lord Rennard’s behaviour] is something that some people know. There is a knowledge at a senior level. There is a knowledge among people this happened to, and there is a knowledge amongst the party staff.’ 

The official said Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was aware of the alleged incident and other allegations by September 2008.

Miss Smith said last week: ‘He just very suddenly got up and plonked himself between us and started moving his hands down our backs and places where they had absolutely no business being. It was both of us at the same time.

‘I straight away stood up and said: “No, that’s not acceptable. I’m going home”.’

Lord Rennard has strenuously denied any inappropriate behaviour and has insisted he did not lock the door at his home while Miss Smith and her colleague were there in 2007.

 

Did equalities minister sweep scandal under the carpet?

Pressure: Equalities Minister Jo Swinson is facing demands to explain her role in the Rennard affairPressure: Equalities Minister Jo Swinson is facing demands to explain her role in the Rennard affair

Equalities Minister Jo Swinson faced demands that she explain her role in the Rennard affair last night amid claims that she deterred women from coming forward with allegations they were groped by the peer.

Miss Swinson, a rising star in the Liberal Democrat party, was accused of assisting with a cover-up that rivals the Catholic Church’s approach to abuse allegations.

She has admitted speaking to several of those who claim they were victims of molestation. But some victims claim she told them to keep their heads down because Lord Rennard – once Lib Dem chief executive – was too powerful to confront.

The claims against Miss Swinson are serious because her ministerial role involves promoting the rights of women in the workplace.

Alison Smith, a former Lib Dem activist, has revealed she told Miss Swinson she had been touched inappropriately by Lord Rennard but says the MP did not act.

Yesterday, another Lib Dem activist broke cover to name Miss Swinson, 33, as a key figure in the party’s handling of the allegations against Lord Rennard.

Ellie Cumbo, who was hired in 2006 to run the Lib Dems’ Campaign for Gender Balance, accused the party of having ‘a palpable dislike of efforts to tackle sexism’. 

Miss Cumbo says that in the summer of 2007 she had a phone call with Miss Swinson, who was her manager at the time, confirming that she had spoken to Alison Smith and that her concerns had been passed on to the Chief Whip Paul Burstow.

Miss Cumbo spoke to Miss Smith who repeated the allegations against Lord Rennard to her, but says at this stage she was not concerned because ‘Jo already knew’. 

But Miss Cumbo said that in the immediate aftermath of Miss Smith’s allegations, there was a perception of a need to ‘hush up’ and ‘protect the party’.

She added: ‘I don’t think the issue was not believing Alison, but there was an immediate feeling of needing to hunker down, hush up until we knew more, and protect the party.

‘We all knew that if it got out before the party had had the chance to do anything, that would be catastrophic, and I think that that is partly how these things get silenced in the long term.’ 

One Lib Dem insider who says she spoke to Miss Swinson in 2004 about Lord Rennard said: ‘Jo Swinson said to me that Rennard had an issue about women but you have to put up with it if you want to get on in the party.’ 

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, a former GP, said Miss Swinson should answer the charges. 

Questions to answer: Jo Swinson, left, pictured with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, right, is been named as a key figure in her party's handling of the allegations against Lord RennardQuestions to answer: Jo Swinson, left, pictured with Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, right, is been named as a key figure in her party’s handling of the allegations against Lord Rennard

‘In my 24 years in the NHS, I have never heard of this kind of thing being tolerated like it seems to have been tolerated here,’ she said.

‘If Jo Swinson or anyone else heard general chat it may be difficult to act but if someone went to Jo Swinson and said, “This happened to me”, and that was swept under the carpet I would think that is really shocking. As someone who should be protecting women’s equality in the workplace, that would be a really damaging. 

Silence: Jo Swinson refused to speak to the Mail, but issued a statement saying her focus had been to 'prevent other women experiencing this kind of behaviour'Silence: Jo Swinson refused to speak to the Mail, but issued a statement saying her focus had been to ‘prevent other women experiencing this kind of behaviour’

‘I think the Lib Dems have some pretty serious questions to answer. The way they have responded has been reminiscent of the Catholic Church reaction to abuse allegations: first you denied having any knowledge of it, then you say you don’t know anything specific, then you say there were individuals with specific complaints.’

Mark Littlewood, a former head of media for the Lib Dems, also questioned Miss Swinson’s actions.

‘It’s clear that Jo Swinson, the women’s and equalities representative of the Lib Dems at the time, and Paul Burstow, then the chief whip, had approaches to them,’ he said. ‘What did those two do, the chief whip and the women’s and equalities minister?

‘I would have thought that was her job. She would have been an obvious go-to person, I would have thought.’

Miss Swinson’s commitment to promoting women has been privately questioned by Lib Dems. 

Activists have been scathing since the then 22-year-old stood up at a Lib Dem conference in 2001 wearing a tight pink T-shirt bearing the slogan: ‘I am not a token woman.’

Miss Swinson refused to speak to the Mail yesterday. Her only public comment has been to issue a written statement on Saturday in which she said: ‘My focus throughout has been to protect the women who confided in me and, our shared objective, to prevent other women experiencing this kind of behaviour.

‘All the time I was careful to respect their wish for privacy.

‘I took action and ensured that others took action. I told the women who had confided in me what I had done to try to put a stop to any inappropriate behaviour, and encouraged them to let me know if they became aware of any further incidents.’ 

A Lib Dem spokesman refused to say more about Miss Swinson’s role in the affair, insisting that would be determined by the party’s review. 

But he added: ‘Jo would deny that she was part of any cover-up and she would deny that she played any role in telling people not to come forward.’

Victim revels identity

 

 

Lib Dem Lord, a chum of Rennard, tries to gag woman who spoke to the Mail

  • Lord Stoneham made ‘aggressive’ phone call to woman on Monday night
  • He was furious she had contacted the Daily Mail to talk about the claims
  • She says her allegations were swept under the carpet

By RYAN KISIEL and JAMES CHAPMAN

 

A senior Liberal Democrat was last night sensationally accused of trying to gag a whistleblower who spoke out over the spiralling sexual harassment scandal engulfing the party.

On Monday night, Lord Stoneham made an ‘aggressive’ telephone call to a former party activist who had complained she had witnessed the former Liberal Democrat chief executive Lord Rennard molesting a party member more than a decade ago.

He was apparently furious that she had contacted the Daily Mail to complain that her allegations had been swept under the carpet when she tried to raise the alarm at the time.

Peers: Lord Ben Stoneham introduced to the Lords (left) standing next to Lord Rennard (right)Peers: Lord Ben Stoneham introduced to the Lords (left) standing next to Lord Rennard (right)

The woman, whose identity we are not revealing, said she had been left deeply upset by the conversation – which suggests that even this week, as the scandal was unfolding, senior party figures were attempting to silence the whistleblowers.

Last night Lib Dem president Tim Farron said Lord Stoneham’s intervention had been ‘wholly unacceptable’, while sources close to Nick Clegg said he had been reprimanded by the party’s chief whip.

The peer, who was the Lib Dems’ director of operations at the height of the claims against Lord Rennard, will now be subject to the party’s two inquiries into the affair.

Senior sources suggested the woman would even be encouraged to contact Scotland Yard detectives who are assessing the allegations against Lord Rennard.

The Daily Mail has learned that complaints were made to Ben Stoneham, as the party’s then director of operations, about Lord Rennard’s alleged inappropriate behaviour in 2003.

But Lord Stoneham, who was recommended for a peerage by Mr Clegg in 2011, is accused of failing to investigate the accusations thoroughly.

After witnessing a young female political researcher upset by Lord Rennard’s alleged touching at a hotel during an ‘away weekend’, a senior activist said she went through official channels and reported the incident.

She complained to Lord Stoneham, who was in charge of all human resource issues.

The Lib Dems are too dodgy - we're voting for Silvio Berlusconi

The Lib Dem member, who is still active in local government, said she approached him in his office and asked if they could discuss Lord Rennard’s behaviour.

Lord Stoneham is said to have replied: ‘That’s not very clever. He [Lord Rennard] has been silly. I will speak to him and deal with it.’ 

Shortly after the Mail put the claims about the 2003 complaints to Lord Stoneham, he rang the female activist while she was putting her children to bed.

The woman said: ‘He rang up and said “I’m not very happy as I’ve just had a call from the Daily Mail”. He demanded to know why I was speaking to journalists just days before the Eastleigh by-election and branded me silly.

‘His tone was very harsh and it just took me back to the intimidating atmosphere when I was working in the party’s headquarters ten years ago. I reported it straight away to Tim Farron as people shouldn’t be put off from coming forward.

‘I know of two other people who reported the incident to Ben at the time and everyone was aware of it. But nothing was done and Lord Rennard was not formally interviewed or disciplined by the party.

‘A lot of us who complained were later marginalised and dismissed as ‘silly girls’ or ‘hormonal women’ by getting upset about the claims and making an issue of it.’ 

Last night a senior Liberal Democrat source said Mr Clegg regarded Lord Stoneham’s behaviour as ‘completely unacceptable’ and said he had been rebuked by chief whip Alistair Carmichael.

The source added: ‘He has been left under no illusion that that is what people think. This is all now going to have to form part of the independent investigations.’ 

Mr Farron said: ‘His actions were wholly unacceptable and this conversation will now form part of our independent investigations. The party has a duty of care to the alleged victims, and they are my priority – as is the need to ensure that due process is properly followed.’

When questioned by the Mail, Lord Stoneham did not deny that complaints were made to him about Lord Rennard’s behaviour in 2003.

He said: ‘There is an investigation and I’m not going to talk about internal party matters to the Daily Mail.’

Lord Stoneham ran the party’s headquarters under leaders Charles Kennedy, Menzies Campbell and Mr Clegg. He failed three times to get elected to the House of Commons.

Rennard and ‘his red hot babes’

Minister for women: Jo Swinson Minister for women: Jo Swinson

Women targeted in the alleged sexual harassment scandal were referred to as ‘Rennard’s red hot babes’, a former Liberal Democrat councillor claimed yesterday.

The woman, who asked to be identified only as ‘Susan’, said she and at least nine other women had been on the receiving end of unwanted advances from Lord Rennard in incidents dating back to 2001.

In an extraordinary interview, she also said she had confided in a number of senior figures – including Norman Lamb, a close ally of Nick Clegg – over the peer’s conduct.

It is the first time Mr Lamb, a health minister, has been linked to the affair.

It means a string of senior Lib Dems,  including Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and minister for women Jo Swinson, are now facing questions about what they knew of the allegations.

Speaking to the BBC’s World at One, she said: ‘Jo [Swinson] did the best she could with a bad situation, because at the time, we were all saying, we don’t want this to go public, we really don’t want this to go public, we don’t want to be in the public domain. 

‘In fact at one point, someone referred to us as “Rennard’s red hot babes”.’ ‘We didn’t want any of these headlines,’ she added. 

Susan also said it was clear that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg ‘didn’t know how to deal with it and then didn’t deal with it well’.

She said she had told Mr Lamb, Miss Swinson and former party president Baroness Scott about an ‘extremely distressing’ encounter with Lord Rennard at a hotel in 2008, where he was talking to women activists about how they could become MPs.

After dinner, she said, Lord Rennard sat next to her. She claimed: ‘At first I thought it was an accident – his leg brushed against me and then his hand brushed against my leg. 

‘So I moved away a little. And then he moved a little closer. And I moved away again, and the brushing of my leg kept continuing.

‘So I kept moving further away. And eventually I said, “Look I’m going to go off to bed”. And he said “I’ll walk up with you”.’

Despite her protests, Lord Rennard walked her upstairs, she claimed, and suggested that she join him in his room for another drink – a suggestion she ‘very politely and very firmly’ rejected.

She said: ‘Of course men do try it on, but this is a man with an almighty amount of power. At the time he held the purse strings for any winnable seat.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2285043/Lord-Rennard-Lib-Dem-lords-chum-tries-gag-woman-spoke-Mail.html#ixzz2M49T8sN1
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