Nick Clegg changes his previous statement on the reasons for Lord Rennard’s resignation as party chief executive in 2008, saying rumours about the peer were “in the background”.
Speaking on LBC’s Nick Ferrari show, the deputy prime minister qualified a previous explanation for Lord Rennard’s resignation. Last week Mr Clegg said the resignation was “on the grounds of ill health”, but Mr Clegg admitted that rumours about the behaviour of Lord Rennard were an issue “in the background” when the former Liberal Democrat chief executive resigned in 2008.
In answer to a question from Channel 4 News Presenter Cathy Newman (see video, above) Mr Clegg said: “He left on health grounds but of course the issues of his inappropriate behaviour were in the background, of course they were.”
There were some very serious mistakes and the women were not listened to and were let down. Nick Clegg
Lord Rennard has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, and has said that he had received “no allegation about his behaviour” in 27 years of working for the Lib Dems.
Channel 4 News revealed the allegations against Lord Rennard, which threaten to overshadow Thursday’s by-election in Eastleigh, in an exclusive report televised last week.
Read Politcal Editor Gary Gibbon's blog: Nick Clegg - 'serious mistakes were made'
Mr Clegg said on the show: “There were some very serious mistakes and the women were not listened to and were let down.
“I so much believe that it is crucial that you treat people with respect and dignity in everything you do – and that is what I expect of people in the organisation I lead.
“That, clearly, did not happen here, to put it mildly.”
Mr Clegg has been under increasing pressure over what he and his party new of allegations against Lord Rennard.
In the latest twist, a former Lib Dem MP, Sandra Gidley, told the Daily Telegraph that she had told Mr Clegg about allegations surrounding Lord Rennard in 2007.
Ms Gidley said in a statement: “I spoke to Nick Clegg about general concerns. I didn’t know of any specific incidents and neither did he.”
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said: “Sandra Gidley once raised general concerns with Nick Clegg about Lord Rennard’s conduct. She did not know of or raise specific allegations.
“As Nick Clegg has said, he was aware of general concerns which were acted upon by this then chief of staff, Danny Alexander.”
Senior Lib Dem MPs have also now met with officers from the Metropolitan Police oveer the allegations. The police are investigating whether or not any criminal activity has taken place.
The Liberal Democrats have also launched two internal inquiries into the allegations, one looking at the allegations themselves, and one looking at party procedures.