Monday, February 25, 2013

Dining with the Tories

The allegations against Chris Renard, like all such allegations, provoke the inflammatory old saying "No smoke without fire".   As a longstanding pipe-smoker I know that it takes attention to light a fire and more attention to blow smoke rings.  It would be interesting to know whether the women concerned approached Channel 4 or Channel 4 approached them.  If the latter, who prompted Channel 4 and why now ?  Were the women interviewed before or after the Eastleigh by-election was called ?  Whatever the answers, we cannot doubt that the Tory press is exploiting the issue to the full.  Just look at today's misleading headlines.    Can anyone believe that these allegations have emerged during the Eastleigh by-election by accident ?    The Tories themselves can maintain a disingenuous silence.   Their backers in the press will do their work for them.   Another old saying applies, when dining with the Tories "Take a long spoon"


Unknown said...

The allegations were made before Chris Huhne resigned and the timing of the report was down to Channel 4 News.

C4 would of first had to research the claims to avoid doing a newsnight, that I suppose finished at the time of the broadcast. If they held back they would be accused of covering-up the story until the by-election was out the way so I guess they had no choice but to run the story.

Unknown said...

See Lib Dem voice article over timing

The claims were made to C4 before Chris Hunhe resigned.

C4 then has to investigate, in order make sure the didn't do a newsnight, and that took several weeks.

David said...

Thanks to twitter, there are some answers. One of the women interviewed by Channel 4 has tweeted: "I worked with Cathy Newman on Rennard piece from early Jan. Legals took time & interviews filmed before Huhne's resignation." and
"I took the story to @cathynewman early Jan (before Huhne resignation). It takes time to put together a story like that."

elgloden said...

Dear David,

I thoroughly enjoy your excellent blog, which I usually consider a model of sensible, balanced, thoughtful opinion - not to mention its radicalism combined with a refreshing absence of partisanship. But I'm afraid I have to strongly disagree with you on this, and I do think this post was an uncharacteristic lapse in taste. is by Cathy Newman, and explains the reason for the timing of the story having broken. Channel 4 News is many things, but it is definitely not a partisan Tory outlet. I urge you to read this piece, particularly the following:

"[There has been] sniping and speculation on Twitter that it's all part of a Conservative dirty tricks manoeuvre in the run up to this week's by-election in Eastleigh. I would argue nothing could be further from the truth.

"In fact, I first became aware of allegations that Lord Rennard had abused his power by propositioning and inappropriately touching a number of women back in 2010. I'd been told Alison Smith, an academic at Oxford University, had some serious allegations about the peer. I emailed her to ask if I could come and see her about them.

"She was slightly shocked to be contacted, and after some consideration decided she didn't want to talk to me, or talk on camera. I made some further calls, but then much to my annoyance, the story ran into the ground.

"Then in January this year, completely out of the blue, Ms Smith emailed me to say that she was now ready to speak. She'd been angered that despite Lord Rennard quitting as chief executive in 2009, he had recently started to take a more active role. What particularly bothered her was that he was attending events for female candidates.

"She decided that for the benefit of other women who may not have heard about the allegations about the former chief executive's reputation, she had to go public.

"As she explained to me this morning: "At the end of 2012, Lord Rennard started making a conspicuous comeback, which was entirely contrary to assurances that complainants had been given by senior figures in the party. Worst of all, he started attending gender balance events." "

Cathy then goes on to write about how she could only run with the story after checking up on it - which took time - and after another woman was willing to come forwards and go on the record; which was the case after Bridget Harris came forward. I've known Bridget for years, and I can name few people in the party who are more capable, have more integrity, or are more dedicated to the Lib Dem cause. I don't think it's fair to imply that either she or Alison Smith were some sort of Tory pawns in their timing in bringing forward these extremely serious accusations, which they've both been pursuing for years. In the grand scheme of things, the Eastleigh by-election really isn't that important. The integrity of the Liberal Democrats - and whether the party treats its staff in a manner consistent with its liberal ideals - is to me immeasurably more important.

I've only taken the time to post such a long reply because being a frequent reader of your blog, I have the greatest of respect for your views - please do reconsider your judgment on this, in light of this account.

David said...

Thanks for the comments. I also got directed by people on Twitter and Facebook to Channel 4's response. I was wrong about Channel 4 and of course I accept their explanation. As a Tory friend commented "Events, dear boy, events". Nevertheless I still take a long spoon to sup with the Tories (and indeed Labour). I do NOT sup with UKIP.

elgloden said...

Typically fair-minded and courteous!