The Plastic Hippo

January 22, 2014

Happy if it comes up to my chest

Filed under: History,Law,Politics — theplastichippo @ 2:15 am
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With what seems like half of 1970s television light entertainment on trial for being perverts, it is good to see the ghost of Benny Hill chasing around in fast forward to a Yakety Sax soundtrack; you can almost hear the hoof beats pound. Clearly, any comment relating to old, male c-list celebrities well past their sell-by date who are innocent until proven guilty in ongoing court cases should not be offered in order to avoid charges of contempt. However, the dead, the convicted and those not yet arrested or charged are fair game.

The Liberal Democrats now find themselves embroiled in an internecine bun fight worthy of Two-Ton Ted from Teddington over the alleged historical behaviour of Baron Rennard of Wavertree in the county of Merseyside. It must be made clear that Rennard`s supposed misdemeanours are not in the same league as the odious Stuart Hall or the vile Savile, but he did once state that the fat, now dead, pervert Liberal from Rochdale was his “personal inspiration”. Nice one Chris; rot in Hell Cyril. Fortunately the Liberal Democrats and before them the Liberal Party have a long and noble history of propriety going back as far as Gladstone, Lloyd George and, in more recent times, Jeremy Thorpe. It seems like only five minutes ago since David Laws was caught fiddling and had to resign and remember how amusing Chris Huhne proved to be. To suffer the loss of one cabinet minister might be unfortunate just days after assuming power, but the loss of two suggests that Liberalism is not as squeaky clean as the Benny Hill Show. Thankfully Laws is back in cabinet with a responsibility for education and perhaps one day Huhne will return to oversee speed cameras and the spread of STDs.

Lord Rennard was only 53, he didn`t want to be suspended from the party and, as David Steel commented, only the Liberal Democrats could have a sex scandal that did not involve any actual sex. An internal inquiry, chaired by Alistair Webster QC, concluded that it was “unlikely that it could be established beyond reasonable doubt that Lord Rennard has intended to act in an indecent or sexually inappropriate way”. However, the inquiry also found that there was broadly credible evidence of “behaviour which violated the personal space and autonomy of the complainants.” Interestingly, the Liberal Democrat way of investigating naughtiness is based on criminal law rather than civil law so broadly credible evidence would see Lord Grope bang to rights but beyond reasonable doubt leaves him Norman Scott free. It seems the party leadership think that he has been caught pulling the pig-tails of girls in the playground and should say sorry. That might not be the best approach if a complainant brings a civil case.

But the cheeky chappie refuses to apologise even though the usual get-out clause of “if any inadvertent offence or upset was caused” is available in plain sight. As part of a generation of men brought up watching Benny Hill, Love Thy Neighbour and On the Buses, Rennard refuses to accept that his alleged behaviour might be considered inappropriate in the second decade of the 21st century. In the same way that older generations casually employ outrageous racist language and cannot understand a fuss being made over “just a word”, crude workplace letches simply do not consider themselves as offensive. When challenged, the stock defence is usually; “just a bit of a joke darlin`, where`s your sense of humour?” thereby reflecting the impertinence back at the target of the initial misdemeanour.

There is no evidence (so far) that suggests Rennard used physical force or committed an assault and given “beyond reasonable doubt” under criminal law, he would probably be acquitted if brought before a court facing a criminal charge. He is, however, guilty of an astonishing lack of self-awareness, a blatant absence of respect and breathtaking egocentric narcissism. By refusing to accept the possibility that his actions might just have made people a little bit uncomfortable and by refusing to offer an apology, this peer of realm is successful in providing a usefully salacious side-show even as the nation is being driven to hell in the fastest milk cart in the west. Poor Ernie.

Rennard is now casting himself as the victim, with dark talk of depression and self-harm and an intention to seek a court injunction to block yet another Liberal Democrat internal investigation into his behaviour. Given his self-confessed fragile mental state, his “friends” offering support and legal advice are not doing him any favours. Fellow Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, who happens to be a QC, can be seen frothing at the mouth every time a camera is activated and is already beginning to discredit the women complainants with nods and winks intended to portray them as publicity seekers, gold diggers and women of easy virtue. Just a bit of a joke darlin`, where`s your sense of humour?

Rennard, having been credited with saving the Liberal Democrats from extinction, is now suspended (not in a Benny Hill way) from the party to allow the leadership to consider if he has brought the party into disrepute. By taking legal action against the party he “saved”, he has contrived a beautiful circularity worthy of a Benny Hill end credit, fast forward chase sequence by condemning an already doomed party to electoral oblivion. If the Liberal Democrats are serious in suspending members who bring the party into disrepute then Clegg, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and David Laws must be in fear of a rock cake catching them underneath the heart followed by a barrage of stale porkie pies. The pledge on tuition fees, the fine words on saving the NHS, green energy, welfare reform, education, transport, law and order, the justice system, the banking scam are all just ghostly gold tops rattling in the crate brought to your door by the Liberal Democrats.

With his boyish good looks and cherubic leer, Lord Rennard might not be the thinking woman`s George Clooney; but I`ll have a shilling on the side that he couldn`t half kick his horse.

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