Latest on Jared O’Mara: the LibDems are using “rumblings” of a “highly likely” by-election in Sheffield Hallam to raise £20,000 for their candidate there:
“In January, the party launched a by-election fund, spurred by rumblings about a Sheffield Hallam by-election. That by-election is still highly likely – and we need your help. We’re just £20,000 short of our goal. I’ve been to Sheffield to help our fantastic candidate, Laura Gordon. Let me tell you, she will make a fantastic MP – and be a worthy successor to Nick Clegg. Let me also tell you, if this by-election happens, we’re in with a real chance. The reception on the doors was absolutely brilliant and the team there, with support from HQ is ready to go.”
Members of O’Mara’s local Labour Party had been calling for him to stand down in time to hold a by-election on the same day as the May elections. To be fair to Jared he has actually managed to turn up for a handful of votes in the last few weeks. Still hasn’t managed his maiden speech though…
Whatever happened to the LibDem press office? Not long ago it was known for its punchy quotes, decent stories, occasionally funny tweets and ability to shoehorn the party into journalists’ copy even though they have little of any news value to offer. Lobby hacks are noting that these days they seem to have disappeared:
What has happened to the Liberal Democrat press team? No engagement any more. Just boiler plate press releases reacting to news that has already happened. Very poor indeed nowadays I am afraid. @LibDemPress
In recent months the LibDem press office has lost its three top spinners Phil Reilly, Jasper Gerard and Paul Haydon. The new LibDem head of media is Rosy Cobb, formerly a policy adviser with no experience in the press office. The word on Great George Street is that their other two senior spinners Christine Longworth and Dave Shaw are considering leaving for better jobs elsewhere. There is so much churn that the new faces are unknown even to HQ colleagues, let alone the Lobby. Essentially the LibDem press office has no one who can speak to journalists. Is there anyone left at LibDem HQ who can sort this mess out?
Vince Cable is leading the LibDems into oblivion and party staff know it – just read these concernedbriefings against him over the last few days. There has been an exodus from HQ, with head of press Jasper Gerard, spinner Paul Haydon and head of digital Michael Wilkinson all off. The salaries on offer are very low and some jobs are having to be re-advertised as no suitable replacements have applied. Knives are out for Cable, whose dreary leadership is being blamed across all sections of the party. So what has Vince told Politico is his New Year’s resolution?
Sarah Olney has been found guilty of breaching the Members’ Code of Conduct after the Standards Commissioner ruled she spent nearly £2,000 of taxpayers’ money on letters which solicited donations to the LibDems. Olney billed voters £1,941.63 to send over 3,000 of her constituents letters which told them to visit a website which was “explicitly published and promoted by the party and on which financial support for the party was solicited”. She has apologised and agreed to reimburse the taxpayer. Worth remembering what the LibDems told us when Guido first reported the story: “This is an utterly spurious allegation without any basis. We are confident this complaint will be rejected at the first opportunity.” Turns out the Standards Commissioner did not agree…
This is what the LibDems said when Andrea Leadsom called on the media to be more patriotic:
“This is a sinister threat to the free media. How dare Andrea Leadsom tell the press what they should think, this isn’t a George Orwell book. She needs to apologise for these comments and realise what she said was frankly stupid.”
Yet today top LibDem Tom Brake says the right-wing press
“… Don’t have the patriotism or honesty to point out the failings of a Conservative govt. and its approach to Brexit.”
So when Brexiteers call for patriotic coverage they’re “a sinister threat to the free media” but when Tom Brake does it it’s fine?
There is near mutiny in LibDem HQ after party staff discovered Sarah Olney is being paid £68,000 for a four day week. When Olney quit as Vince Cable’s chief of staff after just six weeks, she was given a cushy non job as head of “special projects”. LibDem sources in the office are bewildered as to how Olney fills her days, she doesn’t appear to do any work and the only email staff remember her sending is the HQ “Hero of the Year” award, which in previous years was done by the PA. Most of the aides in LibDem head office are on £20,000-£30,000, there is outcry among the troops that Olney is on triple their wages for what is ostensibly a nothing job, and for which she only does a four day week. Members’ subs being well spent…
UPDATE: The LibDems have launched an investigation to find who leaked details of Sarah Olney’s salary to Guido. Our mole in the office says it is being carried out by the party’s head of fundraising Emma Cherniavsky. Good luck…
LibDem staffers are kicking off over Lord Rennard’s close friend Nick Harvey being appointed as their new CEO. Harvey has been in charge on an interim basis and has today been given the job permanently, though his appointment is causing consternation among the troops due to his closeness to the pervy peer. Sources say Harvey was a character witness for Rennard during the internal inquiry into his behaviour. It has been pointed out that Vince Cable only ruled out Rennard having a spokesperson role, and word is that Harvey wants to find a way for him to be involved behind the scenes in the campaigns team. Just ten days ago Jo Swinson was demanding Rennard be kicked out of the party. No action has been taken since…
The LibDems’ youth wing has condemned Vince Cable’s defence of Lord Rennard yesterday. Cable told the BBC he didn’t regret having the pervy peer help out on his campaign and rather unwisely told LibDem women to “move on”. Unsurprisingly that has gone down like a cup of sick with the Young Liberals:
“We at Young Liberals are disappointed to hear Vince Cable defending Lord Rennard’s involvement during his election campaign this year. Alistair Webster QC, who conducted an earlier investigation into the Rennard allegations on behalf of the party, made a statement saying “let me be clear from the outset that the evidence suggests that Lord Rennard’s behaviour has caused distress to a number of women, so much so that they came forward several years after the event in question”.
As part of Young Liberals Policy, Lord Rennard is banned from attending all Young Liberals events, and our members can refuse to work with him without fear of disciplinary action.”
LibDem insiders say the truth is doddery Cable is totally out of touch with the modern world on sexual harassment and doesn’t understand why LibDem women have a problem with Rennard. They say Vince has to be strong-armed into making any critical noises about Rennard and had to be talked down from giving him an official job. LibDems have been depressed by Cable’s tin ear on this issue…
Vince Cable has told BBC 5 Live’s Emma Barnett that he does not regret having Lord Rennard help out on his campaign in Twickenham in June. Confronted with Guido’s story that Rennard was in Vince’s campaign office on polling day, went leafleting outside Twickenham station and posed for photos with Cable and his constituents, Cable admitted:
“He did come as a volunteer. I had hundreds of volunteers. He’s a party member; he came along and did some canvassing and supported us, as he did with other MPs and candidates. I don’t regret he came as a volunteer. The position is, he’s an ordinary party member, he comes and helps and knocks on doors like hundreds of other people, and he came and supported my campaign.”
Cable also backed Rennard’s continuing LibDem membership, saying the party should “move on”:
“He clearly is the focus of a great deal of critical comment. I want the party to move on… I don’t want every conversation to go back to what happened 10 years ago with him. His position is not a comfortable one, but he is still a party member and I think that’s where it should rest.”
Not sure LibDem women will be particularly impressed at being told to “move on”…
Last week Guido told how Jeremy Corbyn, Wes Streeting, Stephen Kinnock, Naz Shah and Afzal Khan hosted MEND in parliament. MEND is an extremist-linked group whose senior figures have praised Al-Qaeda, attended speeches by al-Qaeda hate preachers, and justified the murder of British troops. The latest politician to fall for their scam is Vince Cable, who has appeared in a video for the group name-checking them and praising their work. Presumably Vince doesn’t know what they’re really like – he can click on the links above and see for himself. Corbyn and Sayeeda Warsi also appeared in the video. Why do politicians keep palling up to this sinister bunch of wrong ‘uns?
An 82 strong group of LibDem mainly women activists have signed an open letter to Vince Cable accusing the party of covering up sexual assaults and harassment. The letter, signed by dozens of female activists over the last two days, says the party did not “adequately look into” an allegation of assault against a male LibDem, warns this is not an “isolated case” and says “the party is failing” at dealing with harassment:
We didn’t want to resort to this. This should have been dealt with effectively by Liberal Democrats HQ, but instead we have been left with no choice but to pen this letter. When a group of young women put forward allegations of sexual assault against a fellow member of the party in July 2017 we expected a thorough investigation. Instead the allegations against the accused were not adequately looked into and a suspension only occurred two days ago.
We wish this were an isolated case, but these stories are common within the party. After the allegations about Lord Rennard, we were promised a change in the complaints procedure. It is evident this has not happened.
Three days ago, you sent an email to all members pledging to stamp out harassment and assault in the party. Right now the party is failing at this. It has been days since we first went public with this situation and all we have heard is attempts to justify the party’s behaviour.
We want a full review into the procedure for dealing with allegations of sexual harassment and assault and for the recommendations of the review to be properly implemented. We want more comprehensive support for those who come forward, so people can report with complete confidence that the party will treat their case with the full consideration it deserves.
We are disappointed, Vince. We love this party. We believe that our principles of tolerance, equality and freedom are worth fighting for, but currently the party is not living up to them. We want this party to be a safe environment for all members, and we urge you to take action.
Vince welcomed Rennard back into the fold, these LibDem activists know he doesn’t get it…
Sarah Olney says she has quit as Vince Cable’s chief of staff because she has been “lobbied intensively” by local members to run again in Richmond Park. That isn’t what local LibDems are saying this morning. Members of Olney’s local party say they are distinctly unimpressed by her simply announcing that she is going to be the candidate again next time round. They say she resigned as a PPC when she took the job with Cable and so should face full selection like anyone else. Complaints have been sent by Richmond LibDems to party HQ protesting the situation and demanding the local party is able to choose its candidate.
It’s not hard to see why they feel this way. Olney was the only MP in Greater London to lose her seat to a Tory. There is no way she should have lost that seat given the London backdrop. She lost because she had not used her six months to deliver anything for her constituents. There is also the question of her expenses, which are still the subject of a police probe. The Richmond Park result was the upset of election night, what makes Olney think her local party are going to want her back?
Former Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney has quit as Vince Cable’s Chief of Staff after only six weeks in the role, Guido understands. ‘LOLney’ only managed to survive five months in the Commons before being ousted by Zac Goldsmith. There is speculation tonight that she has quit over an issue related to her expenses…
The LibDems have finally been dragged into the Westminster sex scandal after a series of allegations were raised online over the weekend. One activist claims LibDem HQ hushed up a rape complaint made against a party activist: “the general LibDem HQ approach to dealing with sexual assault complaints is to say ‘report it to the police’ and then hush it up.”
A LibDem spokesperson confirmed to Guido a party member has been suspended:
“These allegations were referred to the police for investigation. A member of the party is suspended pending the outcome of that investigation. If an allegation is made against a party member, the disciplinary procedure is triggered immediately with an investigator talking to witnesses.
“If someone has an allegation of a criminal nature against a member of the party, we would urge them to go to the police. If they were unable to do so, we would refer it to the police on their behalf.
“Our party has a clear and robust complaints procedure set out on our website. We take any such complaints extremely seriously. If anyone has any complaints, we would urge them to come forward as set out on our website, and our pastoral care officer will make prompt contact.”
Meanwhile, a website called “LibDemsToo” has been set-up by party volunteers to catalogue “a sexism within the UK Liberal Democrats” and provide “useful links for taking action”. One account reads:
“A fellow male activist of a similar age (20s) was drunk at conference and when saying goodbye at the bar he tried sticking his tongue down my throat. It was horrible and I’m wary to be around him (especially after he has had a drink as he can’t seem to control himself).”
Vince Cable has joined in the condemnation of the Westminster sex pest revelations, saying in a statement last night that parliament needs to do better at dealing with allegations of harassment:
“The Prime Minister is right to be calling for these changes. Parliament clearly needs improved procedures to respond to allegations of harassment. The Liberal Democrats have introduced similar changes since a review in 2013, which has proved a positive step.”
How does Sir Vince deal with harassment allegations? Infamous wrong ‘un Lord Rennard ran Cable’s campaign in Twickenham in June, he was in Vince’s campaign office on polling day, went leafleting outside Twickenham station and posed for photos with Cable and his constituents. Here they are together on the campaign:
Tell us again Vince about how seriously you take harassment allegations…
Guido hears that next Friday (November 3) Sheffield Hallam LibDems are going to select their parliamentary candidate. There are five on the shortlist, Nick Clegg is not one of them. Don’t think he would particularly enjoy sitting in parliament over the next few years. Next week’s meeting could well decide the next Sheffield Hallam MP…