Guido understands that the traditional LibDem summer barbecue chez Rennard has been cancelled this year, but Cowley Street still has funds to pay for a staff party on a boat down the Thames hosted by Lord Rennard even while he is still under investigation from the party’s “independent auditor” for his implausible expense claims to the House of Lords.
The reason for this may or may not be that the person responsible for announcing the audit is the Chair of the Federal Executive and Lord Rennard’s Parliamentary colleague Baroness Scott, who Guido knows to be the fourth person to to accept the e-invite, so keen is she to party the night away with a man under an investigation that she has ordered. Lord Rennard is accused of taking at least £41,768 of public money dishonestly. An accusation he has so far proven unable to refute, failing to justify the designation of Eastbourne (07/08) or Wokingham (02/03) as his ‘main residence’ whilst working full time in Westminster and living in a large family home two miles away in Stockwell since 1998. Nor has he sought any supporting clarification from the fees office about his claim to have ‘followed the rules’. He is therefore under suspicion of a serious fraud, a suspicion which has caused him to bow out of Libdem frontline politics for “medical reasons”.
He resigned in late May for ‘family and health’ reasons and with an unspecified notice period of presumably 3-6 months. He remains on the staff of the Liberal Democrats and subject to their rules. Normally someone accused of a serious fraud by an organisation would be suspended pending an internal investigation or offered the opportunity to resign forthwith or go on garden leave if they could not refute the charge. It remains clear from this boat party that Lord Rennard remains a very active CEO, utterly unrepentant, with the full support of his employer and staff. This is odd given his is by far the most serious accusation of abuse of the expenses system against any Lib Dem Parliamentarian. The image this then presents of the Liberal Democrats lauding and celebrating an expenses cheat on his own party boat as it sails past the institution he has himself robbed, whilst being handed champagne by the women responsible for leading the party’s response to the scandals, shows a level of public relations naivety beyond belief, even for the Liberal Democrats.
The whole thing stinks to high heaven, and Scott, who is bumbling and confused at the best of times, appears to be completely out of her depth.