For a political group that sells itself as being the party of ethics, equality, fairness and integrity, it is awkward that the report calls for a paradigm shift in its attitudes towards women, criticising a haphazard and inadequate response to a series of serious complaints by women about sexual impropriety by Lord Rennard over a number of years. Regrets have been expressed of course, but I wonder how much they are due to embarrassment rather than remorse.
Two of the responses in particular took me by surprise: Nick Clegg, who “should have asked more questions” said the Lib Dems will do more and better in future, but claimed the failures related to the proper procedures not being in place – however, the report said that they had been in place, but had not been followed. More significantly, Jo Swinson, now an Equalities Minister in the government and who is implicated in the report, deflected the strong criticism of her and her colleagues by calling cheerfully and irritatingly for all businesses and sectors to see the report as a wake-up call for them. It is human nature to try to make the best of a difficult situation, but the women who were failed may not have been impressed.
Meanwhile, the karmic repercussions of these events continue to be felt: yesterday, when the Morrissey report was published, was a day of humiliation for the Lib Dems and more may be to come as Lord Rennard faces a disciplinary inquiry and investigation by Scotland Yard. Much damage has been done to their reputation, and it could have been so different if they had done what was right rather than trying to supress an awkward situation. They chose deference to the most powerful figure in their party rather than confrontation, disrespect to wronged women rather than honouring them, and the path that was easiest. This may be a different way of seeing how power corrupts, but the evidence is there nonetheless.