HUNTING RENNARD THE FOX.
Reynard The Fox was a mythical character in medieval Europe, always able to talk his way out of trouble. Whether Lib Dem peer Chris Rennard can do the same seems doubtful. The Master of Hounds, Nick Clegg, has set the dogs on him.
The reasons why the this sexual harassment controversy has reached such intensity aren’t hard to find. Rennard has been an active member of the Liberal/Liberal Democrat party since the age of 12 when he was at the Liverpool Blue Coat School.
Most Lib Dem MPs owe their seats to his campaigning genius learnt from Trevor Jones on Liverpool Council in the 1970s. The first was David Alton in Liverpool Edge Hill in 1979, he carried on by winning Tory strongholds like Christchurch in 1993 and doubled the number of Lib Dem MPs in 1997.
Many of those MPs now sit in the Lords and are determined to stick by their man. Nick Clegg seems equally determined to force Rennard out. Clegg has little time for historic figures in the party who remember the days when Liberal MPs could all get into one taxi. Clegg wants his party to be the permanent power brokers in endless coalitions. For that to happen he needs the party to be free of its image of being unfriendly to women. That impression is caused by the dearth of female Lib Dem MPs and the party’s unwillingness to embrace all women short lists to rectify this.
Prominent North West figures have waded into the argument with various degrees of success. Chris Davies, the region’s Lib Dem MEP, rapidly withdrew remarks seeking to minimise what Lord Rennard had done. On the other hand Lord Tony Greaves from Lancashire called for a reconciliation procedure rather than the Clegg inspired disciplinary committee which is bound to find that Rennard brought the party into disrepute for not apologising for something he claims he didn’t do. A recipe for endless court action.
Many have mocked the rules of the Lib Dems which have made it difficult for Clegg to act. But I think their democratic structure is to their credit.
The Tory and Labour parties have no such safeguards. Remember how the trap door opened for Peter Mandelson and even more outrageously for Peter Cruddas, the Treasurer of the Tory Party, who was forced to resign on charges that soon proved to be spurious.
MPs ON THE MOVE.
As the General Election comes into view we need to keep our eye on our northern MPs, particularly the older ones, as they decide whether they are going to retire.
The excellent Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston Andrew Miller has decided to quit. That will be a loss to the business community as he takes a strong interest in promoting jobs particularly in the high end scientific area. He promoted a major event on that subject in the Commons this week that I will be reporting on in a future blog.
Whether the Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans will contest the next election depends on the outcome of the court case he faces, but he continues with his duties, attending the event for North West business that I referred to above. He currently sits as an Independent MP but he tells me the Tories have not moved to choose a new candidate. That leaves open the possibility of his return to the fold for next year.
In the neighbouring constituency of Blackburn there is to be an all woman shortlist to choose Jack Straw’s successor as Labour candidate. This is good news for Kate Hollern, the leader of the council who wants to be only the third MP to represent the seat since 1945.
Finally Labour are moving quickly to fill the vacancy in Wythenshawe and Sale East created by the death of Paul Goggins. Polling will be on Feb 13th with UKIP hoping to challenge for second place behind Labour. Mike Kane, former advisor to Cabinet Minister James Purnell is mentioned as a possible standard bearer for Labour.