DROPPING THE PILOT
Chris Rennard’s almost mystical status and general popularity in the party made
his decision to announce his resignation as Liberal Democrat chief executive in
the middle of the local and European election campaign a shock.
His departure is effective in September, and his announcement came at such an
inopportune time because of the twin factors of his deteriorating health and
controversy over his expenses claims for a ‘main residence’ in Eastbourne when
he also has a home in London.
The expenses issue raised genuine concern, but his friends say the health issue
was not a polite fictional cover for his resignation. Rennard is known to be
seriously unwell with diabetes and his workaholic lifestyle was not helping. He
would almost certainly have quit after an autumn 2007 general election, had it
been called then as was expected.
Nick Clegg made a highly supportive statement: “It is impossible to exaggerate
Chris’s immense contribution to the Liberal Democrats over the years.” Clegg had
wanted him to stay on, though the combination of health and expenses problems
made this impossible.
There are those with nothing against Rennard personally but who think ‘Rennardism’
– the ‘we can win anywhere’ approach – has had its day and who will welcome his
departure, though not its circumstances.
But anyone doing the chief executive’s job for six years, and the campaigns
director’s for many years before, would accumulate a fair number of personal
This led to the expenses issue being fanned by variously motivated ill-wishers,
many of whom appeared not to have troubled to make any enquires about Rennard’s
health before publicly implying he had lied about it.
Chief whips in both houses were due to report in late June on the expenses
status of their flocks.
A Federal Executive statement (22 May) left two rather large gaps. It said:
“Federal Executive was reassured that any Liberal Democrat MP found to be guilty
of serious wrongdoing would have the whip withdrawn leading to deselection.”
No mention there of errant peers, who cannot of course be deselected, nor of how
anyone proposes to arrive at a watertight definition of ‘serious wrongdoing’.
Also in Radical Bulletin 334:
- SITUATION VACANT
- TRIDENT TESTED
- MIRROR, MIRROR
- FRIENDLY FIRE
- WHY HIM?
- GOING TO EXTREMES
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