When I was promoted to being editor of a programme at the BBC, back in the late 1990s, my line manager came and talked to me in a deeply mysterious manner for a number of troubling minutes. He was wary and elliptical and I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. There were things you could do as a deputy editor, he told me, that you couldn’t do as an editor. But he didn’t tell me what those things were, those things which I now couldn’t do. I just sat and nodded wisely. Only later did I realise that this was his ‘Don’t shag the staff’ speech. That was the thing you couldn’t do — the staff. I hadn’t been aware that as a deputy editor I could do the staff. I wish I had known. Quite horrible to think that this opportunity was now denied to me.
I was reminded of this by the continuing Lord Rennard saga, which has been running now for a little over ten years and rather wonderfully shows no signs of abating. If you had ever thought for even a nanosecond that you might be tempted to vote Lib Dem, this whole hilarious business should put an end to that. I genuinely believe that some of the actors in this drama are psychologically damaged individuals, wrapped up in their pointless furies, unable to see the forest for the trees, determined to exact revenge — and destroy an individual — for the slightest of slights, consumed as they are by an absurd ideology. And in response, the party behaves without a shred of moral fibre or principle. Never ever vote for these people. They’ll take it as a come-on.
When I say psychologically damaged I do not mean Lord Rennard himself, although he has presented evidence of great depression and illness as a consequence of his ludicrous and malevolent hounding. Nor do I mean that the others have been damaged as a consequence of Lord Rennard; having his lordship’s meaty paw on your leg would not, I submit, occasion such trauma if you were a normal human being to begin with.
Rennard has been investigated by the police, at an enormous cost to the taxpayer, who found after seven months of digging around nothing whatsoever to charge the bloke with. He has also been investigated — at enormous cost to the Lib Dems, ha ha — by a QC who also found insufficient evidence that Rennard had been possessed of ‘indecent’ intent in his undoubtedly cumbersome behaviour towards a few women. And yet none of this is sufficient to shut up his accusers, because as victims, as they see themselves, they cannot possibly be wrong. That is the ideology. It is enough that they have complained: they must be believed, they must be right. That is the ideology. And the party, desperate to prove that it is as one with this warped ideology, suspends Rennard because he will not apologise for something which he believes he hasn’t done and which two investigations suggest he has little to apologise for.
This is what one of the women, Bridget Harris, alleges happened. Remember — alleges. It was ten years ago, after all. In a hotel, after some ghastly and I daresay pointless Lib Dem meeting, the two of them — Harris and Rennard — were left talking at a table. According to Harris, fatso Rennard put his hand on her knee, so she moved away. Later he asked if the two of them should finish their coffees in his room. And that, readers, is it. As a come-on, I have to say, ‘Shall we finish our coffees in my room?’ seems to me on the sedate side, compared to: ‘Howja like your eggs in the morning, leftie chick — fertilised?’
But that’s it. That’s the gravest allegation against the bloke. Ms Harris says that Rennard sort of implied that he could be helpful to her career and that she was kind of paralysed with trauma as a consequence of her terribly young age.
Yes, reader. She was only, er, 28 years old at the time.
I think, placed in that situation, she had three options. One would be to say: ‘No, ta, I’ll be going to my own room because I prerecorded Channel 4 News and I want to watch it.’ Another would be: ‘In your dreams, you fat idiot.’ And a third would be to have sexual intercourse with his lordship, if that’s what he intended, and see if anything advantageous came of it. I’m a bit old-fashioned, so I wouldn’t go for option three. Option three would be more attractive if Lord Rennard more closely resembled Orlando Bloom, I would suggest. And indeed, I wonder if any of this would have transpired had that been the case?
What you wouldn’t do, if you were normal, is pursue this issue for ten years and tear your party apart in the process, refusing to accept every verdict handed down by those from who you have demanded investigations, determined to have this supposed transgression repaid. That is a kind of madness, no? Ms Harris says she has not ruled out taking legal action against Lord Rennard. For what exactly, love? For trying to pull you in a bar? I mean, sure — it’s certainly not something I’d do, as an editor or deputy editor. I’d stay well away. But is that really where we are with this whole business, the men and women thing?
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