Daily Express 'David Cameron fails to back Nick Clegg in Lord Rennard sex row'
At least five women accusers have reportedly gone to police with “plenty more” said to be speaking to an internal party inquiry.
Party leader and Deputy PM Mr Clegg has struggled to stamp his authority on the issue which erupted ahead of yesterday’s Eastleigh by-election, seen as a crucial Tory-Lib Dem contest.
Mr Cameron was asked at a conference in Latvia if he had “confidence” in how Mr Clegg had dealt with the accusations, which former chief executive Lord Rennard strongly denies.
The Prime Minister replied: “Obviously these are serious issues and serious matters and they need to be taken seriously. The Liberal Democrats have set up two inquiries into this issue.
“I think you have to let those inquiries take place and make sure they get to the bottom of these very important allegations.”
Mr Cameron’s failure to spell out his backing for the Deputy Prime Minister underlines the danger to Mr Clegg’s party leadership if he cannot resolve the crisis.
Oxford University lecturer Alison Smith has contacted a confidential police hotline over Lord Rennard.
She claimed yesterday: “I’m not alone. I’d say I’m one of five women who want to give evidence to the police.”
She added that “plenty more” women were speaking to the Lib Dems’ own inquiry.
Meanwhile former Lib Dem activist Ms Smith warned Labour and the Conservatives to “brace themselves” for complaints, saying she had been contacted by “people in other political parties” making sex pest claims.
Daily Mail says 'Hypocrisy, lies and a failure of leadership'
But that will not hide the fact that this has been a truly lamentable week for the party’s leader.
From the moment Channel 4 revealed that complaints of sex harassment by young female activists against party chief executive Lord Rennard had been systematically covered up, Nick Clegg’s frantic dissembling about his involvement has been deeply unedifying.
First he told Channel 4 he knew nothing. Then, with exquisitely weasel words, he issued a statement saying he’d heard ‘unspecific and indirect’ rumours.
Subsequently, he admitted knowing of the allegations against Lord Rennard and even ordering an investigation into them – though, incredibly, he didn’t ask what that investigation had uncovered.
Then on Wednesday, after one of his former MPs revealed she told Mr Clegg all about Lord Rennard four years ago, he confessed that the allegations were a factor in the peer’s 2009 resignation and he knew all about them at the time.
So within a week, he went from knowing nothing to knowing virtually everything.
To put it bluntly, Mr Clegg lied and lied again to the British people.
Not that this was clever, calculated mendacity. Indeed the most depressing aspect of this whole affair is the sheer incompetence with which Mr Clegg has handled things – an incompetence matched only by his hypocrisy.
Remember he promised in those TV debates a new kind of politics – open, transparent, honest, morally upright, committed to women’s rights. Now we know the truth.
Regardless of how the LibDems have done in Eastleigh, this sorry saga has raised profound questions about Mr Clegg’s suitability to lead his party and – far more importantly – to be Deputy Prime Minister of this country.