Published on 27 Feb 2013

Nick Clegg: ‘Serious mistakes were made’

Nick Clegg shifted his tone in the LBC phone-in this morning, as advertised here in a previous blog of mine.

He’s moved towards the Tim Farron line that the party messed up. He said “serious mistakes” were made, “I’ve got the message,” and “clearly something went seriously wrong.”

He might have been wise to adopt that tone from the start rather than focusing on denials, his own honour and a snap at “self-appointed detectives” which was a gift to his enemies in the press.

He also showed a bit more ankle on the Rennard resignation as Chief Executive in 2009.

He said that the “immediate reason” for Lord Rennard’s resignation was health grounds but that the allegations of inappropriate behaviour “were in the background.”

That naturally prompted the question what allegations? I thought you hadn’t heard any? To which the mantra remains: we hadn’t heard anything specific that potential complainants wanted to take forward.

As I mentioned before, also very much on Nick Clegg’s mind at the time of Lord Rennard’s departure was that he did not buy the idea that Lord Rennard was the right man to grow the Lib Dem vote and he didn’t like his working methods either.

And later in the interview there was another possible insight into that point.

Nick Clegg said Danny Alexander’s message to Lord Rennard back in 2008 when he confronted him about the allegations was “if you’re doing this sort of thing you must stop” (not, note, “if you are doing this we will have you and throw the book at you” … but “you must stop.”).

Nick Clegg also said that the women who were complaining about Lord Rennard’s behaviour at the time “didn’t want to take it forward just wanted the behaviour to stop.”

They would have tolerated Lord Rennard staying in office? If that’s right, that could suggest that the  behaviour wasn’t seen as darkly then as it is now, that potential complainants and senior party figures felt they were discussing a series of misdemeanours, not potential crimes or sackable offences.

If it’s not right, Nick Clegg risks triggering some more interviews from aggrieved women party members.

Lord Rennard strenuously denies the allegations and you can read his latest statement from yesterday by clicking here.

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4 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    Listening to the LibDem half of the Two Headed Boy you can’t help thinking he knows his biggest “serious mistake” was in not putting the boot in earlier on the hapless “Lord” Rennard.

    The notable thing about people like Clegg, Cameron, Blair/Brown and all the other ultrarighties is how completely without conscience they are. For that kind of mentality politics is nothing more than a series of PR maneuvers – the rightness of events is immaterial to them. They are not Amoral, they are IMmoral.

    And they wonder why they are held in such contempt by those who suffer the consequences.

  2. Philip says:

    Whenever politicians use the passive mode or impersonal pronouns, you can bet there’s stuff they don’t want to say because it will embarrass them.

  3. Phil Cook says:

    I question the coverage of this saga. To anyone with commmon sense, Nick Clegg instructed Danny Alexander to confront Rennard and subsequently Mr. Clegg dismissed him for his unacceptable behaviour. Why is Channel 4 implying that Nick Clegg’s response to this problem has been inappropriate? Had Rennard remained in post you would have grounds for criticism. It seems to me that your presenters are attempting to give prominence to this aspect of the story which is entirely inappropriate and actually creating a news story rather than following the correct procedure of unbiased reporting which a responsible broadcaster would do. Coincidence with the Eastleigh by-election is being exploited by your journalists to sensationalise this matter. What you should be doing is giving Mr. Clegg some credit for his impeccable behaviour in dealing appropriately with a difficult issue.

  4. Mike Biden says:

    I agree with Phil. The story has been pursued purely on a political agenda driven by the Eastleigh by election. That said the Lib Dem press office have hardly covered themselves in glory. The real story here is the amount of political harassment in Westminster with its notoriously hostile environment for women and the febrile atmosphere generated by political power that acts as an aphrodisiac on everyone from John Major and Edwina Curry down. How can we ensure that women can make their full contribution to our political life?

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