What on earth is going on with the Liberals?

THE unholy mess which continues to unravel from the ranks of the Liberal Democrats appears to have no end.

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In addition to the suspension of former party chief executive Lord Rennard for his alleged sexual impropriety, Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock has now been similarly suspended following claims of the same ilk.

What on earth is

going on?

Perhaps being "liberal" confers an unwelcome characteristic of male hedonism amongst its ranks, unfamiliar to members of other parties.

The party's original investigation into the matter was led by Alastair Webster QC, who was asked to examine allegations, made by four women, that Lord Rennard had made unwanted advances towards them.

Mr Webster concluded that the claims made by

the four women were unable to be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

Then, somewhat bizarrely, he gave an opinion that the women's claims were "broadly credible", and that Lord Rennard should now say sorry.

I must have missed something here.

Since when was saying sorry a part of a legal process ?

In any case, a forced apology is no apology at all.

It is also somewhat bizarre that a political party's rules should use such a burden of proof

as "beyond reasonable doubt".

This burden - usually reserved for criminal cases - is eminently unsuitable for civil issues such as these.

The usual burden in cases such as these is

"on the balance of probabilities."

Had the Liberal Democrats used that particular burden of proof, Lord Rennard could pehaps have been found guilty, been thrown out of the party, and that would almost certainly have been that.

However, selecting the criminal standard of proof has not been their only woe. Lord Rennard is being stoutly defended by his crony colleagues in the House of Lords, who have long since forgotten that the level of your standing neither confers power, nor reinforces privilege, it imposes responsibility.

In addition, Lord Rennard has indicated that he, himself, may take legal action.

Enter Nick Clegg, who exhorts the true nature of his own 'liberalism' by confessing - to a largely uninterested nation - that he mishandled the original sexual harassment claims.

As the divides widen in his party, Nick Clegg's lack of leadership is increasingly evident. His inertia has quickly turned to intimidation, when inspiration was needed.

So where then does this very public problem leave the Liberal Democrats?

A party, already adrift, with disunity over their continued coalition with the Conservatives?

The third Party in

the UK?

Or fourth to UKIP ?

What is not in dispute is the level of damage being done to a party whose very relevance is now being questioned.

It's a mess, a big mess.

A party that has lost its way and its purpose, a party lacking leadership. Leadership of a political party is an opportunity to serve, not an excuse to advertise your self-importance.

What you permit, you promote! Not very Liberal.

IT IS not often that I am truly horrified by news. Earlier this week, I was driving in Glasgow when I heard the morning news on the radio.

It carried reports of the Syrian conflict and, more specifically, of

the alleged torture and murder of 11,000 detainees by the Syrian Government.

A war crimes expert was offering his opinion on the 55,000 photographs smuggled out of the country by a police photographer who fled the Assad regime.

As he described the images of mutilation and the types of torture which had been used, I turned it off.

As a firefighter of some 33 years, I have witnessed some terrible tragedies. I would never describe myself as squeamish, yet the mental picture that formed in my head was disturbing, perhaps even a little distressing. Like so many of us, I have become numbed, almost desensitised, to the news of yet another car bomb in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This, however, was genocide. I am saddened that our world appears only mildly uncomfortable with dictatorship and genocide in Syria.

Saddened, that over 240,000 other Syrians detained, at the mercy of a tyrant, will probably be

subjected to a similar fate, if they haven't already.

If inhumanity is the keynote of stupidity in power, then President Assad is indeed a very stupid man.

I have hope, but little faith, that the political process currently under way will stop the atrocities in Syria anytime soon.

After three years of ethnic cleansing, torture and murder in Syria, the world must, at the very least, pursue those guilty of war crimes.

Any deal, which would involve future immunity to prosecution for Assad, left, must be rejected.

That is the least that we can do to seek forgiveness from those we should have saved, and justice in the name of all those that they have left behind.

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