Clegg Erred by Failing to Probe Sex Allegations, Morrissey Says

U.K. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg made a mistake by not ordering an official investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct made by women in his party against a senior lawmaker, an inquiry found.

Newton Investment Management Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Helena Morrissey was named to head an inquiry into the Liberal Democrats’ culture and attitudes toward women after allegations against the party’s former CEO, Chris Rennard, before the party became part of the U.K. coalition government in 2010. Rennard, a member of the upper House of Lords, denies claims that he sexually harassed female party workers.

One of the party’s most senior women, Jo Swinson, was approached by four other women with allegations about Rennard. She made no formal record of their complaints, though she passed information about the allegations without revealing their identities to Danny Alexander, now the chief secretary to the Treasury, who in turn briefed Clegg, Morrissey told reporters in London today.

Clegg, who’s now the deputy prime minister, Alexander and Swinson “should have asked more questions for the sake of Lord Rennard and everyone else,” Morrissey said. The Liberal Democrat leader, “along with all the others thought the women did not want a formal investigation,” she said. “I don’t believe there was an attempt to deliberately cover things up.”

Clegg said Feb. 24 saying he had heard of “non-specific concerns” about Rennard’s conduct five years ago. Because the complaints were made indirectly and anonymously, he said, the party was limited in how far it could proceed once Rennard had resigned in 2009, citing ill health.

“A series of mistakes were made which left a number of women feeling seriously let down and for that there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever,” Clegg said in an e-mailed statement today. “I take responsibility for that.” Recommendations made by Morrissey to improve the party’s procedures will be implemented “in full and without any delay,” the deputy premier said.