The Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords has, to widespread surprise, elected former Chief Executive Chris Rennard to represent it on the party’s Federal Executive. In a contested election, he beat Tim Razzall by a significant margin: 44-25 with 3 spoilt/blank. Party President Sal Brinton was one of those who voted against Chris Rennard. With 72 people taking part, turnout was up towards three-quarters of the Lords Parliamentary Party.*Two previous quotes are relevant to why the Lords group voted this way and also why its decision is also causing much controversy within the Liberal Democrats.
First, from Helena Morrissey, who investigated the party’s processes and culture after a series of serious allegations were made against Chris Rennard:
At this point, December 2014, every investigation has concluded with no further action to be taken against Lord Rennard. The process over the past nearly two years – conducted according to the prevailing rules – has run its course and although the outcome is a source of great frustration to some, I believe that the Party can only move on if that outcome is accepted. At this stage, given that the Party applied its own processes, there is no justification for it remaining ambivalent towards Lord Rennard – he should be just as welcome a participant or guest at Party events as any other.
Second, Tim Farron’s answer to me during the leadership contest (and made after the above quote from Helena Morrissey):
Q. What role would Chris Rennard have in the party under your leadership?
A. I have no intention of appointing him to any role in the party.
Meanwhile, The Independent reports a ruling in another long running if lower profile case:
The Liberal Democrats have become embroiled in a bitter race row after the chair of their ethnic minority group was ejected from the party.
Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, former chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD), was told his membership had been terminated with immediate effect last week, after an internal disciplinary panel upheld allegations of harassment and intimidation against him…
Mr Uduwerage-Perera, a former Lib Dem deputy leader of Newbury Town Council, resigned from the post in July last year after an investigation found he had behaved in an “intimidating and bullying” manner toward council staff.
He has now been dismissed from the party over further allegations of intimidating behaviour toward a fellow Lib Dem councillor, as well as for bringing the party into disrepute by contacting local media about grievances.
He denies the charges against him and maintains his dispute at the council related to whistleblowing activity.
* Updated to add in fuller voting details and correct earlier turnout estimate.