He has now pulled out of an event in London to journey to the south coast
constituency on Wednesday evening.

Quizzed outside his home in South West London, Mr Clegg declared he would not “provide
a running commentary” and appeared to take a swipe at journalists
investigating the allegations, which were initially raised by Channel Four
News, describing them as “self-appointed detectives”.

He said: “I understand there are many people who appear to want to act as
self-appointed detectives trying to piece together events that happened many
years ago.”

He added that the “only way that we are going to get to the bottom of the
truth” was “by allowing the two investigations that I established
immediately after the Channel 4 broadcast to do their job and, indeed, to
allow the police, whom we have now approached, to do their job as well”.

The peer – who left the party for health reasons in 2009 and denies any
wrongdoing – is understood to have received “scores of email texts and

One friend said that many of the people who were unhappy with what they
considered to be attempts by Mr Farron to advance his case to be leader.

The source said: “These same people are not at all happy with Tim Farron
saying things like we screwed up. They are saying ‘what is the point of an
inquiry when the President has said we screwed up, what is left for the
inquiry to determine’.

“Similarly, when he says we let these women down and he talks about the
possibility, even probability, of Chris committing these, what is the point
of an inquiry into Chris Rennard if he has already found him guilty.

“You must remember that he (Farron) wants to be leader. It seems that the
motive of Tim Farron and his friends Lembit Opik and Greg Mulholland MP is
simply to use this to undermine Nick Clegg to get Farron in there.

But his car crash interviews on Sky and Five Live many people believe he is
not fit to be leader. He (Farron) is stirring it up, he has a vested

Mr Clegg insisted in a statement on Sunday that Mr Alexander put “indirect and
non-specific” concerns to Lord Rennard “and warned him that any such
behaviour was wholly unacceptable in late

But on Tuesday night, Lord Rennard appeared to cast on the claims. A friend of
the peer said that his conversation with Mr Alexander only related to
“general concern”.

The source said: “What was the general concern? It was that the News of the
World and possibly the Mirror Group was ringing around parliamentary
candidates to ask if they had any problems with Chris Rennard. Nothing
specific at all, no names, no allegations, nothing.

“Danny Alexander and Chris Rennard were rather mystified by this, what

exactly the gossip was, everyone knew that rumours were going around,

the NoTW was investigating, that was it.”

Mr Opik, who lost his seat in the 2010 general election, strongly denied that
he was trying to use the scandal to undermine Mr Clegg’s position as leader.

He said that “by no stretch of the imagination” would Mr Farron ever be
persuaded to stand against Mr Clegg for the leadership.

However he did make clear that he had lost confidence in Mr Clegg, and doubted
he would still be leader after next year’s European elections.

Mr Opik said Mr Clegg should consider standing down as leader of the party and
continue as deputy Prime Minister, copying the last Liberal leader Lloyd

He said: “Clegg needs to resign from the leadership, he should not be leader.
He should make clear a timetable for succession.

“He does not have to resign this week or on this issue but this issue is
symptomatic. The attrition of all his errors will bring him down. It is
heartbreaking for me to see one man’s poor performance as a leader
undermining his party.

“He could carry on as deputy prime minister and relinquish the leadership to
somebody who is better placed and more suited to do that job.”

Mr Mulholland declined to comment.

The news came as LibDem commentator Benjamin Ramm said that the party will
blame Mr Clegg if it loses Eastleigh and that Mr Farron should take over.

Mr Ramm, the former editor of The Liberal magazine, claimed there was a
culture of “sex for favours” in the upper echelons of the party. He added
that that women’s minister Jo Swinson, who initially investigated the
concerns about Lord Rennard in 2008, should quit.

Sexual harrassment row whipped up by critics who want to topple Nick Clegg … – Telegraph.co.uk
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