Me for the New Statesman on Rennard, Rock the Boat, and what next

by Stephen Tall on November 18, 2015

I’ve written a piece for the New Statesmen on the latest instalment in the ongoing Lord Rennard saga which has been giving the Lib Dems very public grief for almost three years now.

They asked me to write it on Monday — at a time when it looked like the party was going to end up split down the middle on the issue with neither Rennard nor his opponents seemingly prepared to back down — and I wrote most of it that evening.

At that point I had no idea how to conclude the piece: if neither blinked, the party would have ended up with a very messy, expensive and damaging special conference debating a constitutional amendment to strip the Lords’ group of its seat on the party’s ruling Federal Executive. Wave good-bye to the #LibDemFightback.

Thankfully, better sense intervened. But the issue’s far from resolved, so don’t be surprised if the party ends up breaking out in hives again (for example, if Lord Rennard succesfully stand for a post elected by party members).

Anyway, you can read my piece in full over at the Staggers’ website here. Here’s how I did manage to conclude it, once the party had stepped back from the brink:

A crisis averted, then, with Farron’s leadership strengthened (albeit at the cost of further damaging his already strained relations with many of the party’s peers), as well as a sharp reminder that the Lib Dem grassroots don’t care to be trampled on.

Yet few expect this to be the end of the affair. The Rennardites feel a man who’s never been found guilty of any wrongdoing has been shabbily treated by the party that’s been his life. The Rock the Boaters feel that Rennard is symbolic of an entitled bullying culture in politics that for too long has gone unchecked. Both sides are resolute – which means resolution is a distant hope.