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No Lib Dem election job for Rennard
Ex-Liberal Democrat strategist Lord Rennard will play no role in the party's general election campaign, Nick Clegg has said, amid continuing anger over the way allegations of sexual harassment by the peer were dealt with.
Long-standing Lib Dem activist Susan Gaszczak announced last night she was quitting the party after an appeal against a disciplinary review - which found there was insufficient evidence to show Lord Rennard broke party rules - was dismissed.
Speaking on his weekly LBC radio phone-in, Mr Clegg expressed "regret" at her decision to leave but said that he could not start "unpicking" the party's disciplinary procedures.
"I am very sorry to see Susan Gaszczak leave. I've known her for years. She's a good person, she's worked incredibly hard for the Liberal Democrats over many years," he said.
He stressed that the original inquiry by Alistair Webster QC into complaints from four women activists alleging improper conduct by Lord Rennard had found that her claims were credible.
And he made clear that the peer - who, as Lib Dem chief executive was credited with masterminding a string of by-election victories - would have no role in the party's campaigning in the future.
"He is not going to play any role in - for instance - the Liberal Democrat general election campaign," he said.
"The report made it very, very clear that Alistair Webster thought that what she said was credible and I'm absolutely not going to have Chris Rennard advising me in any shape or form on the general election next year."
Announcing her resignation in an open letter to Mr Clegg, Ms Gaszczak said: "I can no longer remain a member of a party that feels it is acceptable for the then-chief executive to invite me to his hotel room to advance my political career."
She added: "I wish you the very best for the future but your personal apology is not enough to keep my membership current."
The former general election candidate and county councillor said both her mother and father - himself a councillor for 24 years - and her son and daughter had also torn up their Lib Dem membership in protest.
Lord Rennard was suspended in January for bringing the Lib Dems into disrepute when he refused to accept a call to apologise to the women, arguing that he had not been allowed to see Mr Webster's full report and risked opening himself to damages claims.
After seeing a redacted copy of Mr Webster's report he apologised to Ms Gaszczak, Alison Goldsworthy, Bridget Harris and Alison Smith, conceding that he "may well have encroached upon 'personal space'" - albeit inadvertently.
But friends of Lord Rennard have indicated that, far from quitting the party, he will seek to have the Lib Dem whip restored after complying with the recommendations.