The Three Golden Rules that have guided the Liberal Democrats over the Rennard claims
By Paul Goodman
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- Rule One: Faced with the certainty of scandal today or the possibility of scandal tomorrow, choose the latter. Delay. Procrastinate. Dither. Buck-pass. Put one's head in the sand, and hope that the problem goes away. Above all, try to insulate the party as much as possible. The Liberal Democrats seem to have followed this rule to the letter. To be fair, not following it would have required establishing a formal investigation into Rennard (which would have required his resignation as the party's Chief Executive). This would have plunged the party into disrepute and scandal. This, in turn, would have raised questions within the party about Nick Clegg's "judgement" and "maturity".
- Rule Two: You are good people and your opponents are bad people - so a scandal, by definition, can't happen to you. The exemplars of this rule were New Labour, whose war against "Tory sleaze" seems to have convinced its leadership and MPs that they really were better people than their opponents. This may explain why Tony Blair is widely believed to have told his party that it must be "whiter than white": what he actually said was that "we must be whiter than white". At any rate, it turned out not to be whiter than white, as the following names may help to demonstrate: Peter Mandelson, David Blunkett, Jo Moore, Elliot Morley, Jim Devine, Margaret Moran, Denis MacShane...
- Rule Three: If you are a minor party or a left-wing one (or both), Rule Two especially applies. Just as the Liberal Democrats believed that they could both make promises they couldn't possibly keep and prepare for a possible Coalition, so they also seem to have believed that since they were a minor party, the media would never take an interest in the Rennard affair. This explains why they have no procedure in place to deal with it, and are now at sixes and sevens. They may also have under-estimated the culture change about sex and harrassment. As we also know, there is no sexism on the left: see the Comrade Delta SWP crisis or, to strike a less serious note, the Draper-MacIntrye correspondence.
P.S: Please note that only Rule Three does not apply to the Conservative Party.