Five years ago when I was a fairly new member of the Lib Dems I was trying to plan my time at my first ever Federal Conference in Bournemouth. I was a little nervous never having attended one of these before and as I was popping fringe events and hall debates into my schedule I realised that I hadn't been invited to anything on the Saturday night which was largely filled with various dinners for local parties and groups. I mentioned this on Twitter and almost immediately Alison Goldsworthy got in touch and insisted that I join her Welsh Lib Dem dinner on the Saturday evening. I pointed out that I am not (nor have never been) Welsh but she was having none of it. I went along and had a really good time being introduced to a number of different movers and shakers in the Welsh party all of whom made me feel very welcome. And despite the fact that I had never met Ali before that evening she treated me as if I was an old friend. I have never forgotten that kindness.
It was clear to me that she was phenomenally well connected within the party, even though she was (and still is) relatively young. She had already stood as a European candidate and was about to stand for a Westminster seat. She was clever, articulate and very funny. Exactly the sort of person you would expect a party like the Lib Dems would want representing them.
But Alison Goldsworthy is no longer a Lib Dem. She left the party in the last few days following the fallout from the Rennard scandal. Ali is one of the women who made allegations about inappropriate behaviour against the peer, allegations that have effectively come to nothing as he was reinstated.
Actually in Ali's case, if what she alleges is true, I would say "inappropriate behaviour" is a severe understatement:
She alleges that in 2004, when she was a 21-year-old candidate in the European elections, she posed for a group photo after a black tie event. She was stood next to Lord Rennard, then Lib Dem chief executive, and was wearing a long, backless dress.
She says that he put his hand down her gown and inside her knickers, past “extremely intimate” areas.
“There was no way it was an accident or that I had invited such an approach,” she claimed. “I couldn’t believe what had happened.”
It is an absolute disgrace that in this situation, Ali is the one who has been left with no choice but to leave the party she loves. In fact all four of the women who made allegations against Rennard which Alistair Webster QC found "broadly credible" have all now left the party.
This is utterly unacceptable. Whatever the Lib Dems think they have done in response to these allegations is nowhere near enough. If the party has any sense it will not consider the "matter is closed" as Rennard so menacingly suggested everyone now needs to do in a recent comment on Lib Dem Voice.
If they don't do something else they frankly deserve the opprobrium being heaped on them and Ali's parting comment that they no longer deserve to be taken seriously.