The peers tend to be legal experts (their leader is the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord (Jim) Wallace) and their standing orders talk about proceeding based on natural justice. Disciplinary action requires a group decision at a party meeting and has to be based on grounds “of (a) extreme or repeated disloyalty to colleagues in the party, or (b) conduct that is liable to bring the party or the Liberal Democrats seriously into disrepute.”
I don’t think (a) applies, so we are left with (b) which Alistair Webster has already said doesn’t apply (which point is strengthened by the the extra “seriously” in the text). So, conceivably someone might say that the non-apology permits a disciplinary attempt under (b). But there are a shedload of “natural justice” issues linked to that, so that my personal opinion is that there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance of the Lords team withdrawing the whip from Lord Rennard. And it is ridiculous for anyone to expect them to do so.
There are more realistic prospects in a couple of the good ideas from Liberal Democrat Women this evening, such as the pursual of the appeal route and letting all sides air their views in a formal Disciplinary Procedure. These are the sort of things which will move us forward from this logjam, not expecting the Peers to stand on their head to get Clegg out of a newstorm.
PS. It is possible that, on Monday, our ermine-clad friends will come up with some arcane procedural gambit, such as asking for a working sub-committee to produce a report, which puts the matter into the long grass for a while.
PPS. All this pre-supposes that it is a fait accompli that the whip is being restored to Lord Rennard on Monday following his voluntary self-suspension. Lord Greaves has written:
“At the meeting of the party in the Lords last Wednesday the Chief Whip announced that Lord Rennard would rejoin the Lords group this coming Monday , to some acclamation.”
It’s possible that there is some procedural daylight before the restoral of the whip that will allow someone to propose delaying the restoral of the whip pending blah blah blah without the need for the Full Monty disciplinary process to kick in. But I don’t see it myself. But, hey, look on the bright side: this has all caused great interest in the standing orders of the House of Lords Liberal Democrat group, which can only be a good thing…..and I mean that most sincerely folks! 😉