2 Jul 2014

Leaving the Lib Dems – senior woman quits over Rennard

A senior Liberal Democrat official has this afternoon quit the party in protest at its handling of the Lord Rennard allegations.

Channel 4 News can disclose that Susan Gaszczak, who holds an influential position in the party as chair of the Lib Dems’ conference committee, has written to Nick Clegg to tell him she’s tearing up her membership card.

Ms Gaszczak was one of the four women who first alleged to Channel 4 News that Lord Rennard, the Lib Dems’ former chief executive, had abused his power by inappropriately touching them. She has been a member of the party since she was a teenager, and has stood as a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate.

Tonight, she told Channel 4 News she was quitting in protest after the party threw out her complaint about the way the Lib Dems investigated Lord Rennard’s behaviour. Mr Clegg had asked Alistair Webster QC to carry out an inquiry after Channel 4 News broadcast the allegations against Lord Rennard last year. But although Mr Webster found the women’s claims “broadly credible”, he ruled that they could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The women appealed to the party, arguing the Webster inquiry was flawed, but that appeal has been rejected.

In her letter to Mr Clegg, seen by Channel 4 News, Ms Gaszczak writes: “I joined as a teenager, I have knocked on doors, delivered millions of leaflets, stood for council and parliament… I have given time, love, effort, as well as sweat and tears…However, I can no longer remain a member of a party that feels it is acceptable for the then chief executive to invite me to his hotel room to advance my political career.”

She adds: “Even though I have complained, and raised this for over 7 years, the party still do not see the complaint as an issue. This week the appeals panel met and threw out our appeal to an unfair process. I have been called credible more than once. Yet still no-one feels it is appropriate to deal with the issue.”

She concludes: “You have a serious thorn in your side. He claims to have built the party, but actually I see him destroying it. I wish you the very best for the future but your personal apology is not enough to keep my membership current.”

And in a final broadside, she says her mum, dad — a Lib Dem councillor for over 24 years — her son and her daughter are also ripping up their membership cards.

More than a year after the allegations were first broadcast, Lord Rennard apologised to the women, saying he “may have encroached upon ‘personal space'”. An internal inquiry into whether he brought the Lib Dems into disrepute, and can therefore be kicked out of the party, is still ongoing.

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