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Clegg: Rennard Claims Were 'In The Background'

Wednesday 27th February 2013

Nick Clegg has admitted on LBC 97.3 that his party made errors in the handling of complaints against Lord Rennard.

Speaking during his weekly radio show Call Clegg the Deputy Prime Minister said that there were "some very serious mistakes" and the women who made the allegations "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," he continued.

"That, clearly, did not happen here, to put it mildly."

Mr Clegg has claimed that he only heard about the specific allegations surrounding Lord Rennard last week - when they were broadcast in a documentary.

However former Liberal Democrat MP Sandra Gidley - who was the MP for Romsey before losing her seat in 2010 - claims she told the Deputy Prime Minister about allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour surrounding Lord Rennard in 2007.

"She raised it in general terms. She wasn't aware of any specific allegations and, as she has confirmed today, I didn't either," Nick Clegg commented.

"During the course of 2008 general concerns about his inappropriate behaviour came to the attention of my office."

"We confronted him. My office was told that the women at the time didn't want the matter taken further - they just wanted it to stop."

Lord Rennard strongly denied the allegations then - and continues to do so now.

Mr Clegg admitted when pushed by LBC 97.3's Nick Ferrari that he can't remember exactly when he was first told about the claims surrounding the peer - insisting all earlier discussions lacked the specific allegations needed to take things further.

"I can only tell you the truth as I can recollect it now and all I can recollect is that in 2008 - the year after I became leader - the general concerns that were expressed to me in my office were such that we acted upon them.

"Everybody wants to know now, with complete recall, what happened in every single conversation five or six years ago."

Mr Clegg denied that the claims were the reason Lord Rennard stood down from his role as Chief Executive, but admitted they were in the background.

"Like any new leader of any organisation or political party, I wanted to make sure that the organisation reflected my priorities, my values," the Deputy Prime Minister admitted.

"I felt it was time for a change at the top of the professional party. His health was poor and that was the immediate reason he left but of course these things were in the background."