A Liberal Democrat peer who was forced to apologise last year after being accused by a number of women of making unwanted sexual advances has stepped down from the party's governing body only a week after being elected by a significant margin.
BuzzFeed News reported last Monday that Lord Rennard had been elected to represent Lib Dem peers on the federal executive, a move which dismayed other members of the governing body and ordinary party members.
In a statement on Tuesday, Rennard, who had previously served as the party's chief executive and campaigns director, announced he was withdrawing from the executive, blaming the "cyberbullying" he had received since the vote.
"Liberal Democrats do not believe in trial by media or social media," he said. "Nor do we believe that any individual should be treated as being in a halfway house between innocent and guilty after allegations have been made, have been investigated, and none of the complaints upheld.
"The absence of clear information in the party about the outcome of all the processes to which I was subject has also contributed to the way in which I have suffered a great deal of 'cyberbullying' of the kind that we criticise other parties’ political activists for.
"In the interests of party unity, and on the basis that the party will over time implement in full all of the proposals in Helena Morrissey’s final report, I have agreed to withdraw from the Federal Executive. It is with sadness that I do so, because I enjoy the support of my parliamentary colleagues, and very many party members at all levels."
His departure will be welcomed by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who, in a statement released earlier on Tuesday, had added his voice to the calls for Rennard to go.
Farron said: "I have decided it is time to make clear publicly that I do not believe it is in the interests of the party for Chris to take up his position on the [federal executive]. Chris was entitled to stand for election and the Lords were entitled to elect him. That does not mean his decision to put himself forward was in the best interests of the party."
Rennard's election had caused "anger and division" in the party, Farron added.
After Rennard's apology last year, the party dropped disciplinary actions against him when an independent barrister said that it was difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the claims were true.
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Siraj Datoo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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