It is almost as if the Liberal Democrats are daring each other to commit more and more outrageous acts, simply for the amusement of seeing how far they can go before Nick Clegg actually decides to boot someone out of his party.
David Laws dodged prison after he was exposed for charging the taxpayer £40,000 in expenses in the form of second home costs while he had been renting rooms at properties owned by his secret gay lover.
Lib Dem response: Get him back into government as soon as possible!
Chris Huhne was so blatantly a wrong’un years before he finally resigned as a Lib Dem MP. Clegg might have feigned surprise when Huhne ‘fessed up to everything and pleaded guilty, but it can hardly have come as a shock, can it.
Lib Dem response: Defend him to the hilt until the point where he is actually a convicted criminal.
The allegations of sexual impropriety by Mike Hancock against a vulnerable constituent got darker and darker before he decided to ‘temporarily’ withdraw the whip from himself. Hancock remains a Lib Dem councillor despite being investigated for some truly disturbing stuff.
Lib Dem response: do nothing and wait for him to offer to give up the whip.
David Ward almost seemed to enjoy taunting the Lib Dem leadership as he repeatedly ignored their ultimatums and continued his favourite pastime of Jew-bashing. Naturally, he is a still a proud Lib Dem.
Lib Dem response: Withdraw the whip from him when there are no votes taking place, but as soon as parliament returns from recess – despite him breaking his promise and making further inflammatory comments – give it him back anyway!
When ‘Jihad’ Jenny Tonge said she could understand why some people become suicide bombers, all the Lib Dems did was shift her to the backbenches. When she made a characteristically nutty threat to Israel’s existence, Clegg simply asked her to apologise. She didn’t, and said she would quit the party, though is still working with the London Lib Dems.
Lib Dem response: Do nothing, say she has left the party, then let her campaign for you on the quiet!
And finally, last but certainly not least, Lord Rennard.
An investigation into his treatment of women found that he had caused ‘distress’ to several and ‘violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants’. It said the evidence against him was ‘credible’. Victims lined up to tell their stories of his inappropriate behaviour; one said his repeated unwanted advances were “furtive, obtrusive and upsetting”. The truth is that the allegations that have been made public are only the tip of the iceberg.
Lib Dem response: Say there is not enough evidence to boot him out and simply ask Rennard to apologise and not do it again. When he refuses to apologise? Say you won’t let him back into the Lib Dem grouping in the Lords and open up a civil war in your party.
Expenses fiddling, serial lying, unashamed bigotry and sexual harassment: none of these are enough for the Lib Dems to kick you out. Worth reading the words of Bridget Harris, a former aide to Clegg who has just resigned over the Rennard scandal, telling of her experience in the party:
Parliament is a place of blind ignorance, stuffed with racists and sexists and they are all idiots… You go into politics and you accept the notion of a collective agreement for the greater good. After 15 years working in the Lib Dems I realised there’s no greater good, just everyone doing a shit job.
She ain’t wrong.