If there’s one thing pretty much everyone in the party can agree on about the Chris Rennard story, it is that it shows how vitally important it is to have effective rules, properly administered.
Central to that is the Party President, chair of the Federal Executive and – if they wish – a significant player in how the party is administered. Even on matters devolved to other areas of the party, the federal party is key – because it sets out common standards everyone has to follow (often via the federal constitution) and also because in many areas it is a higher level of appeal.
Whether the federal party does these tasks well or badly matters – to the party and to the people caught up in the centre of issues, whether it’s the relatively low key or the life-dominating or career-threatening.
In the past, some Party Presidents – especially Charles Kennedy – have taken a very hands-off approach to the internal administration aspects of the role. Others – such as Ros Scott – have instead given it huge attention. A few – such as Tim Farron – have done both.
But when it comes to choosing our next President this autumn, one lesson from the Rennard story should remain at the forefront of every voter’s mind: voting in the current circumstances for a new President that you’re not sure can do the internal administration part of the job really well is asking for deep trouble for us all – the party in general and whichever individuals are caught up in the next difficult case.