So, there's a long-running scandal in the U.K. A senior Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Rennard, has for many, many years been delivering by-elections (elections for individual MPs) for the Lib Dems. A little over a year ago several Lib Dem women accused him of sexual harassment.
The Lib Dems flailed ineffectively and tried to sweep the whole thing under the carpet. Eventually an investigation said that Lord Rennard had probably done something, and should apologize for it, after which everything would be forgiven.
Last week Lord Rennard issued a non-pology
* through a spokesman. Here's what Lady Williams, another Liberal Democrat peer, had to say about the situation
Lady Williams told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the issue had been "hugely blown up".
"He was a very decent and loyal member of the party as the chief executive, he did huge amounts for the party," she said.
"And I think his private life... he has already apologised for, and that's fine.
"If I may say so, there are some comparisons which suggest there are real, serious sexual harassments and so forth, and I don't think he's one of the most serious cases."
Here are some of the accusations, originally broadcast on Channel 4
Bridget Harris (from 2 minutes 40 seconds into the piece) tells us Lord Rennard touched her knee or leg two or three times before inviting her up to his room (and that she reported the matter to her line managers at the time). An anonymous woman tells us (from 4 minutes 15 seconds) Lord Rennard “shoved his hand down the back” of her dress during a group photograph, and Alison Smith (from 5 minutes 30 seconds) tells us of an incident in which she says Lord Rennard placed himself between her and another woman, and “started moving his hands down our backs to places they had absolutely no business being”. She says she told two MPs, the then chief whip Paul Burstow and Jo Swinson.
In addition, Susan Gaszczak has said:
"his (Lord Rennard’s) hand started to rub the outside of her leg. She claims that when she moved away he kept getting closer and was brushing parts of her that she ‘didn’t want to be brushed’.
When she excused herself to go to the toilet, she says he followed her and said: ‘Why don’t we get a couple more drinks sent up to my room, where we can continue this conversation?’"
Yes. Sounds like "his private life" to me. And not "one of the most serious cases", because after all, he didn't actually rape anybody, did he? Just a reminder that women can be just as enthusiastic about reinforcing the patriarchy as can men. In my experience, they often rationalize it as "Well, I had worse done to me, and I sucked it up and dealt," never addressing the question of "Should
this have happened to you?"
* Highlights via the Guardian:
The statement said Rennard recognised that he may have encroached upon "personal space" and would "therefore like to apologise sincerely for any such intrusion and assure them that this would have been inadvertent".
"He hereby expresses his regret for any harm or embarrassment caused to them or anything which made them feel uncomfortable," the statement read. "Lord Rennard wishes to make it absolutely clear that it was never his intention to cause distress or concern to them by anything that he ever said or did. He also hopes that they will accept that the events of the last 14 months have been a most unhappy experience for him, his family and friends and for the party."