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No role for in election plans for Rennard, says Clegg

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Rennard, lib dems, harrassment, disrepute‘It is clear that he did not behave in the way that a chief executive should behave’.

Sources have rejected suggestions by Lord Rennard that he could resume his roles in the Liberal Democrat party after being cleared of sexual harassment.

Lord Rennard, the Liberal Democrats Chief Executive from 2003 to 2009, during which time he was in overall charge of the party’s election campaigns and organisation, was suspended from the party after four female party members accused him of sexual harassment.

An independent party review, which was undertaken in response to the allegations, has cleared Lord Rennard of sexual harassment and no further disciplinary action will be taken in this regard.

The review did, however, find “credible” evidence that the peer had “violated” the personal space of four women over a number of years.

Alastair Webster QC, who conducted the review, said Rennard “ought to reflect upon the effect that his behaviour has had and the distress which it caused”, and that “an apology would be appropriate, as would a commitment to change his behaviour in future”.

But Webster  concluded: “It is unlikely that it could be established beyond reasonable doubt that Lord Rennard had intended to act in an indecent or sexually inappropriate way.”

Rennard welcomed Webster’s findings and said he looked forward to resuming his “roles within the Liberal Democrats”, enraging many in the party.

Party president Tim Farron said: “While this process has not found to a criminal standard of proof that Lord Rennard acted with indecent intent, it is clear that he did not behave in the way that a chief executive should behave.

“Lord Rennard must reflect on his actions and apologise to the women involved.”

Despite numerous prompts to apologise, Rennard, who has always denied the allegations, has refused to do so, fearing such an acknowledgement would leave him vulnerable to legal action by one or more of the women.

The leader of the Liberal Democrat party, Nick Clegg, has said that Rennard will now be subjected to a further investigation into whether or not his failure to apologise has brought the party in disrepute.

If Rennard were found guilty of the disrepute charge he would almost certainly be expelled from the party.

Some party sources have suggested that if Rennard could issue an acceptable qualified apology, without threat of legal action from any of the women, this could make the separate inquiry unnecessary.

David Steel, former leader of the party, has urged Clegg to try mediation rather than a further inquiry, as the ongoing saga is putting the party up for public ridicule and removing focus from recent successes, such as Clegg’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Clegg’s team, however, remain determined to initiate a further inquiry.

In a recent statement, Clegg said: “People in positions of authority should never subject anyone to behaviour which is offensive or inappropriate. It is as simple as that.

“I want everyone to be treated with respect in the Liberal Democrats.

“That is why it is right that Chris Rennard has been asked in the report to apologise, to reflect on his behaviour and why he won’t be playing any role in my general election plans for the campaign in 2015.”

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