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Where Are the Female Lib Dem MPs on the Lord Rennard Allegations?

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If anyone sees a female Lib Dem MP can they let us know? Given that there are only seven women out of the 56 Lib Dems in the Commons, it is rather conspicuous that only one of them has spoken publicly about the allegations against Lord Rennard.

The reasons may be varied - one MP's voicemail inbox was full, presumably stuffed with messages from other journalists jostling for her attention - but when contacted none of them wanted to, or was able to, talk.

To date, only the party's former equalities spokesperson, Jo Swinson, has commented on the controversy (which Lord Rennard denies).

And the Lib Dem business minister was forced to do so after become embroiled in the messy 'who knew what, when' buck passing playing out in the press.

The sex-scandal that has "rocked the party to the core" can't be doing wonders for the party's stated desire to recruit more female parliamentary candidates.

But the other six, Lynne Featherstone, Annette Brooke, Sarah Teather, Jenny Willott, Tessa Munt and Lorely Burt have not yet spoken out about the allegations against Rennard.

Sarah Teather's office said the former education minister, who hasn't been shy since being sacked from the government, was "not doing interviews" on the issue.

Solihull MP Lorely Burt was also not available to speak on the matter.

Jenny Willott (Cardiff Central) is currently on maternity leave.

Tessa Munt (Wells) is off to Eastleigh to campaign so, her office told the Huffington Post UK, was not available to comment on Rennard.

The office of Mid Dorset and North Poole Annette Brooke had, by 5pm, not returned a call placed at midday.

And, as mentioned, there was no room in Lynne Featherstone's voicemail inbox to leave a message. (But, if there had been, the Lib Dem international development minister - and former equalities minister - would no doubt have called back instantly...)

By contrast female Lib Dem peers, activists and former MPs have spoken to the press about the Rennard affair.

Baronesss Hussein-Ece told HuffPost UK the party "institutionally" had a problem with not having enough women in senior positions. She said:

"The [male dominated] culture allows for these things to happen. There are aren't sufficient checks and balances in place; there isn't a sufficient number of high-ranking women in place to curb some of this behaviour."

And former Romsey MP Sandra Gidley told the BBC the party didn't handle the allegations well and "got this wrong". She added: "What the problem was nobody was clear about who they could go to get something done."

One of the women who allege harassment at the hands of Lord Rennard also told the BBC's World at One that the actions had put women off becoming MPs. "I know of people who've left the party because of this," she said.

The Lib Dems desperately need more female MPs. So much so that the party, which has until now avoided all-women shortlists, plans to debate a proposal to allow job sharing in the Commons and thereby encourage more female parliamentary candidates. It is a little odd, then, that the handful of female MPs that it currently does have has failed to address the issue of alleged sexual harassment head on.

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