Thursday, 16 January 2014

Fallen Idols...

It's a time for fallen idols whether they be actors, DJs or indeed political activists. It appears that lust isn't just about the lust for power but might also be of the more literal kind.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard finds himself once again in the eye of the media storm as he fights off calls to apologise for molesting female Party members. Now, I've been in the same room as Chris Rennard on perhaps three occasions, back in the 1990s, when, as Chris Rennard, he was the Party's election guru, the doyenne of the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors (ALDC).

He taught activists like me how to win elections in the 1990s and indeed much of the Party's success up to and including 1997 was down to his insight. Many MPs owe their seats to the work carried out by local parties following Rennard's ideas and in his heyday he was arguably the most powerful man in the party apart from the Leader.

I saw him at Party Conferences - for those who've never been to a political Party Conference (and I suspect they are all the same), it's akin to a four-day pop concert where the groupies get a chance to be close to the stars. Rennard was one of the stars of his day and perhaps that allowed him to get close to the star struck or simply the easily impressed.

None of that of course excuses improper sexual advances, molestation or sexual assault. It seems now that some women (we don't know how many) were victims of what is considered improper behaviour by Chris Rennard.

The problem of course is proving it - ultimately it's one person's word against another but the number of complaints against Rennard suggests a pattern of serial inappropriate behaviour. The problem though is that one person's definition of inappropriate behaviour isn't necessarily another. For Rennard and indeed for other men, a grope is nothing more than "a bit of fun" while for the victim of such behaviour it's anything but. The mind-set of some men is such that they can't recognise how bad their behaviour is because it's not bad to them. All this does is show just how far we have come and how far we have to go.

Nick Clegg wants Chris Rennard to apologise but Rennard won't or possibly can't. In his view, he has done nothing wrong and why should he admit to something he hasn't done ? The Party can't prove he did anything so why should he incriminate himself by acknowledging through an apology that something untoward went on ?

Should Rennard be thrown out of the Party ? To me, that seems an over-reaction but he should be stripped of all posts and responsibilities and should never be allowed to speak for the party. Rennard is entitled to his political beliefs of course but the party should make it clear that notwithstanding his years of service, his behaviour in the past and present is not to the standard required and he should retire to the side-lines.

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