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Thu Oct 23 07:13:56 SAST 2014

British deputy PM Clegg knew about party CEO behaviour

Sapa-AFP | 25 February, 2013 06:59
Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg leaves Downing Street in London.
Image by: LUKE MACGREGOR / Reuters

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg admitted he was aware in 2008 of "indirect and non-specific concerns" about the behaviour of his party's then-chief executive.

Clegg, leader of junior coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, made a televised statement in an attempt to fend off newspaper reports that he knew about multiple claims of sexually inappropriate behaviour against former CEO Chris Rennard.

Rennard, who now sits in parliament's upper House of Lords, "categorically denied that he had behaved inappropriately and he continues to do so", Clegg said on Sunday.

The embattled leader revealed that the peer had been "warned" at the time, but denied he knew about the scale of the accusations until last week.

"I am angry and outraged at the suggestion that I would not have acted if these allegations had been put to me," Clegg, who became party leader in 2007, said.

"Indeed, when indirect and non-specific concerns about Chris Rennard's conduct reached my office in 2008, we acted to deal with them," he added.

Channel 4 News last week aired claims against Rennard made by four women going back 10 years.

Two of the women accused the peer of inappropriately touching and propositioning them.

The Mail on Sunday reported that one of the women had discussed the claims with a friend on Facebook in January 2009.

"I just don't know how nick can know and not do anything.. :-( makes me very sad," she wrote, according to the paper.

The party is to investigate the claims and will look at the reasons for Rennard's resignation as CEO in 2009, which were given at the time as health-related.

In his statement, Clegg said: "As my office only received concerns indirectly and anonymously, as those involved understandably wanted to maintain their privacy, there was a limit to how we could take this matter forward following Chris Rennard's resignation."

The revelations come at a bad time for the ailing party as it fights to hold onto a crucial parliamentary seat in a by-election due to be held later this week.

The vote in Eastleigh, south England, pits them against the Conservative party, their senior coalition partners.

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