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article imageOp-Ed: Lord Rennard — Here comes another witchhunt

By Alexander Baron     Mar 1, 2013 in Politics
London - There is a new scandal brewing in British politics. A leading Liberal-Democrat is the subject of unspecified allegations of sexual impropriety. But is it all smoke and mirrors?
If the name Chris Rennard, Lord Rennard, was not well known to the British public a month or two ago, it certainly is now. You see, Lord Rennard was one of the movers and shakers for the Liberal-Democrats until 2009 when he was found tampering with the ladies, and allowed to resign on grounds of ill health. Now though, his brave victims have with extraordinary courage decided to speak out about the abuse they suffered at his hands, and one has even made a formal complaint to the police.
That is the tabloid script, back on planet Earth what is the lie of the land?
For most of us, it started late last month when Channel 4 ran a news report that did its best to paint Lord Rennard as a lecher if not a potential rapist, but check out this report using a little critical faculty, and what do you find? His principal accuser Alison Smith claims she had a late night coffee with him, and he touched her leg. And? And that's it. He did invite her up to his room, but she declined. Game over. How is this tantamount to sexual harassment? It happened on one occasion, she made it clear that she wasn't interested in him, and he took the hint.
Nick Clegg has been dragged into this non-controversy because he appeared to have made contradictory statements about it. No, he hadn't heard any rumours about Lord Rennard, then yes, he had heard unsubstantiated stuff at second or third hand.
As Mr Clegg and everyone else involved in politics knows full well, there are rumours circulating about everyone all the time; that was true before any of us had ever heard of cyberspace. Let's cross the Atlantic for a minute, anyone remember when Bill Clinton was President? There was the Lewinsky affair, and before that when he was Governor of Arkansas he is purported to have had a string of affairs. Certainly Bill loved the ladies, and they loved him. Then there was Paula Jones who accused him of sexual harassment. By the time the Lewinsky affair broke, some people were claiming Clinton was a serial rapist. The bottom line was that they were queuing up to throw themselves at him, and he just couldn't say no.
There are other rumours relating to other Presidents of the United States. Don't forget that George Bush was supposed to have ordered 9/11 (the same way Clinton before him was rumoured to have ordered the Oklahoma bombing). We hear similar nonsense here about the involvement of politicians in terrorism, drug taking and trafficking, sexual perversion...
As one of the most powerful men in a party that is now helping run this country, it would be rather surprising if there were not rumours about Lord Rennard circulating at Westminster and elsewhere. Heck, there's even a rumour about Nick Clegg, that he is a convicted arsonist. Er, actually, that one is true.
Back to Lord Rennard, now Alison, who once shared a late night coffee with him, has spoken to the police. And told them what, exactly? That they'd been drinking coffee, and probably a few other things, and that he touched her leg. So?
Even if this incident happened the way she said it did, what business is it of the police? He misread the signals, and nothing else happened. How many strangers will meet tonight or any night in a bar or somewhere else. Does he have to ask permission before he touches her? She certainly doesn't to touch him. And if he tries it on, she can always slap his face. Alas no. Okay, so she is not interested in older men, even if they are rich and powerful; it remains to be seen if she would have been quite so indignant if the younger, handsome and charismatic Nick Clegg had made a move on her.
Yes, what Alison alleges may have been inappropriate, but it was a) not criminal, and b) far from unusual. Eleven years ago, Edwina Currie revealed that she had been in a similar situation with future Prime Minister John Major, and their affair had gone on for a grand total of four years.
Let us not forget either the late Robin Cook, who rose to the office of Foreign Secretary; he resigned from the Government in March 2003 in a principled stand over the illegal Iraq war. He also traded in his wife for a younger model, Gaynor Regan, who had been his secretary. Who made the first move in that relationship?
Returning to the current nonsense, not content with making a high profile complaint to the police, Alison Smith has urged other women to come forward. To date, four have done so, but don't expect it to stop there.
This is a well documented phenomenon. Let us digress a little, the following is extracted from the 1982 book by James Randi, The Truth About Uri Geller, page 143. It will be remembered that Geller is that bloke who claimed to be able to bend spoons by the power of his mind. While holding them, of course.
In this book, the American magician Milbourne Christopher relates how during a radio interview in Chicago he announced that broken watches in the listeners' homes would start on his command. No less than 22 people phoned in to the programme to claim exactly that. This phenomenon was repeated elsewhere, including with the bending of spoons. If you want a further hint, think saucer flap.
No, it is not all hysterical females, or one hysterical female, this sort of nonsense works with men as well, or with both sexes, and is not limited to allegations of sexual impropriety.
Lord Rennard has now taken a back seat, since 2009 in fact; the poor bloke is obviously not in the best of health, and this sort of persecution may well send him to an early grave.
The bottom line is that if men and women work together, especially if they work long hours or fraternise after hours, this sort of thing will happen. The best way to prevent it from happening is never to mix business with pleasure, but never is such a final word as well as a long time.
What seems to have gone unnoticed here though is the fact that the Liberal-Democrats are one half of the Government, and there are clearly people who believe that it has too big a share of the pie. This does not mean these allegations against Lord Rennard are part of a conspiracy, but clearly this non-story is being exploited by people who have their own agendas.
People who work in politics need thick skins, a dictum that applies to women as much as to men, but this isn't about politics so much as sexual politics; last night it was reported that these claims of inappropriate behaviour had spread to other parties.
It should be borne in mind though that this sort of thing cuts both ways, and again we may mention the case of Robin Cook and Gaynor Regan. If not just the Government but the whole Westminster circus wants to put an end to it, there will have to be a blanket ban on anyone initiating or attempting to initiate any sort of sexual relationship with anyone else with whom they work, certainly within the Palace of Westminster and in the party hierarchies. It remains to be seen how many women as well as men with be comfortable with that.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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