Rennard accuser quits Lib Dems

A woman who accused former Liberal Democrat chief executive Lord Rennard of sexual harassment has quit the party, accusing the leadership of failing to deal properly with the issue.

One of Lord Rennard's accusers has quit the Liberal Democrats
One of Lord Rennard's accusers has quit the Liberal Democrats

Susan Gaszczak announced her decision in an open letter to Nick Clegg after an appeal against a disciplinary review - which found there was insufficient evidence to show the peer broke party rules - was dismissed.

In May, Lord Rennard finally issued the apology to four women who complained about him which had been recommended by Alistair Webster QC, whose inquiry concluded there was broadly credible evidence the peer had violated personal space.

But party leader Mr Clegg remains under pressure to eject the former elections supremo - who remains suspended pending his own appeal against the handling of the case - from the party altogether.

"I can no longer remain a member of a party that feels it is acceptable for the then chief executive to invite me to his hotel room to advance my political career," Ms Gaszczak said in her letter to the Deputy Prime Minister which she published on social media.

"Even though I have complained, and raised this for over seven years, the party still do not see the complaint as an issue.

"This week the appeals panel met and threw out our appeal to an unfair process.

"I have been called credible more than once. Yet still no-one feels it is appropriate to deal with the issue."

She went on: "Only four of us were brave enough to go public - how many more do you need on public record? You have a serious thorn in your side. He claims to have built the party, but actually I see him destroying it.

"I with you the very best for the future but your personal apology is not enough to keep my membership current."

The former general election candidate and county councillor said both her mother and father - himself a councillor for 24 years - and her son and daughter had also torn up their Lib Dem membership in protest.

She said that since her teens she had "given l ove effort, as well as sweat and tears" and "spent a fortune donating money when I could not afford to do it" in support of the party and continued to support it politically.

A party spokesman said: "We are saddened that Susan Gaszczak has made this decision which was clearly very difficult for her. She has been a devoted and passionate campaigner for the Liberal Democrat cause over many years and will be sorely missed by many in the party.

"The Liberal Democrats recognise the seriousness of these complaints and that there was a failure in our processes which meant action was not taken sooner.

"That is why we have implemented the expert advice of Helena Morrissey to completely overhaul our procedures to make it easier to report and act on such matters in the future.

"Lord Rennard is suspended from the Liberal Democrats and while the disciplinary process continues we are unable to comment further."

Lord Rennard was suspended in January for bringing the Lib Dems into disrepute when he refused to apologise but threatened a legal battle to overturn the punishment, arguing that he had not been allowed to see the full report and risked opening himself to damages claims.

After seeing a redacted copy of Mr Webster's report he apologised to Ms Gaszczak, Alison Goldsworthy, Bridget Harris and Alison Smith, conceded that he "may well have encroached upon 'personal space'" - albeit inadvertently.

But friends of Lord Rennard have indicated that, far from quitting, he will seek to have the Lib Dem whip restored after complying with the recommendations.