23 Jan 2014

Rennard peace talks – but concerns remain over ‘due process’

There are signs of a possible reconciliation in the Lib Dem civil war over Lord Rennard. There could even be a statement later today announcing there is a “process” underway to mediate between the women who complained about Lord Rennard’s behaviour and Lord Rennard himself and work towards a statement that satisfies both sides.

I understand that Acas is not involved and other individuals have been lined up to shuttle between the two sides. Participants still (perhaps a little shockingly) use the language of the Northern Ireland peace process to describe this very different matter.

There is supposed to have been a “mutual ceasefire” on media commentary agreed to create the right atmosphere for negotiations to make progress. I am guided that the mediator is not a member of the Canadian armed forces or a former Finnish prime minister.

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That doesn’t stop some Lib Dem parliamentarians bending your ear as you walk about Westminster. One said to me he still couldn’t get over the way MPs praised Nick Clegg for his adroit handling of the crisis at the weekly meeting of the parliamentary party two days ago.

Several say that the party abandoned due process when the leadership extracted an additional statement from the QC Alastair Webster outside the main body of his investigation into Lord Rennard and then repeatedly invoked that statement as if it were in the body of the report. “We have finished due process and then started a trial in the court of public opinion,” one said.

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