Leak of Pascoe report into Mike Hancock – reactions

Tuesday’s blog reporting the events at the full City Council meeting, where the Pascoe report was debated is here.

Updates 24/1/14

The BBC South political editor Peter Henley gave an excellent summary of “where we are” with Hancock on the BBC News channel earlier.  The audio is here.  He said there is a “divide emerging” between Portsmouth Lib Dems, staying loyal to Hancock, and the national party.  Peter also reminded viewers of how this area is “haunted” by past Lib Dem national scandals like Mark Oaten and Chris Huhne.

The News have spoken to Lib Dem Cllr Les Stevens, who is on the PCC disciplinary panel investigating Hancock.  He admits “I am protecting him because I am his friend”, calls the allegations “unfounded”, and says “we made the right decision for the right reason”.  The legal ramifications of this for Portsmouth City Council may well be serious if the complainant seeks judicial review of PCC’s delays to the process.

A further blow to the Lib Dem leadership’s pleas of “we knew nothing” comes from Cllr John Ferrett, who has released a letter he wrote to Nick Clegg in April 2013 reminding him of the allegations and claiming that “the desire to avoid a by election, against a backdrop of scandal and intrigue” was the reason for the Lib Dems’ attempt at a cover-up.

Radio Solent have spoken to Lib Dem PPC Vikki Slade from Poole, who reinforced the sense that her party is in total denial about the scale of the crisis:

“It’s a distraction, it’s not really what we want…it’s not just politics these things happen [in]”.

And yet, if Hancock had been an employee of PCC, or an employee anywhere else and not a City Councillor and MP, he would have been suspended and properly investigated long ago.

“Last year when it came to light, he resigned [the whip] as a Lib Dem MP, so he hasn’t been holding the Lib Dem whip for the last nine months.”

This despite his continued service as a Lib Dem Councillor and Cabinet member.  Who do these people think they are kidding?

Did the Lib Dem leadership really not know what was going on, when journalists like Michael Crick were digging into the story in July last year?

Hancock

Updates 23/1/14

Mike Hancock’s son Dean has been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm by Police following an attack on a photographer outside Mr Hancock’s house in Portchester.  ITV captured footage of the attack. The video ends with the victim saying he is calling the Police and his attacker saying “Yeah? Go f*****g get them then.”  Dean Hancock will appear before Fareham Magistrates on February 12th.

ITV News have found an email from Mike Hancock’s office admitting he may be a “flirt and touchy-feely”.

BBC Radio Solent interviewed Nigel Pascoe QC this morning.  He reiterated his view that the redacted version of the report which has leaked is not fair to either party, and that it would be better if the whole document is published as soon as possible.  Audio of the interview is here.

Mr Pascoe has put out a statement on Pump Court Chambers’ website reiterating points he’s made over the last couple of days in press interviews.

The complainant in the case has given an interview in The News, in which she says she has contemplated suicide since the incidents in question happened.

The Lib Dem group will meet tomorrow evening to decide Mr Hancock’s fate as a Cabinet member, but only after he oversees a Planning, Regeneration and Economic Development meeting earlier in the day.  That meeting is at noon at the Guildhall, and is a public event.  Mr Hancock is currently still the Cabinet member with responsibility for the portfolio.  I hope to be at the meeting to see whether Mr Hancock turns up, and what happens if he does.

Both the Conservative and Labour group leaders are now calling for Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s resignation as Council Leader for his part in the shambles:

Updates 22/1/14

As a result of the furore surrounding the leak of Pascoe, the Lib Dems have finally suspended Mike Hancock:

Gerald Vernon-Jackson must now immediately suspend Hancock from his Cabinet post, and move to complete the PCC disciplinary process which the Lib Dem majority has been stalling for some time now.  Given his role in the cover-up, I cannot see how GVJ could be a credible candidate to replace Hancock as the Lib Dem candidate for Portsmouth South.

The Lib Dems have shown themselves to be a shambles of a party, having allowed Hancock to remain a Lib Dem councillor despite having suspended himself from the Westminster whip.  As with Rennard, the accusations of complacency and incompetence reach straight back to Nick Clegg.

Here are some reactions and responses to the day’s news:

Sky 2-way with their political correspondent, Jon Craig, as the news broked about Hancock suspension is here.

The complainant’s solicitor, Harriet Wistrich has accused the Lib Democrats of dealing with the matter “appallingly”.

At the meeting yesterday, a version of the Pascoe report was circulated around the gallery by someone I don’t know, but who has identifies himself as “S Evans” on his website which tracks supposed Police corruption.  He published the version of the document online that everyone else has been following up.

An excellent summary of the position from Jessica Parker on Radio Solent is here, including reaction from Conservative group leader Donna Jones, calling for Hancock to be suspended.

Cllr Jones gave a fuller interview earlier on Wave 105 FM, which is here, accusing Lib Dem council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson of “burying his head in the sand” in not suspending Hancock.

Earlier today, Guido Fawkes has published the link to the Pascoe report on his blog.

I emailed Michael Lawther, the City Solicitor, to ask him if the leaked version is accurate – it is in nobody’s interest that a fake propagates widely.  Either way, the only course PCC has left is to publish properly, and to conclude the disciplinary process against Mr Hancock.  Mr Lawther initially replied:

Thank you for your email and the link to the attached document. I note your view on the publication of the report by the Council. The procedure which the Council approved in July 2012 was that reports produced in relation to investigation of complaints are not published and this was reaffirmed in the debate yesterday. Unfortunately, I am unable to comment upon the document which has been published in the link.”

Nigel Pascoe has said he’s happy the report has leaked, but that the leaked version misses out some details due to redaction and that the full version should be published:

Mike Hancock has issued a statement, which may well have been written before he was aware of the Pascoe leak as it says nothing about it.

Stephen Tall, editor of the influential “Lib Dem Voice” website says:

Leader of the Conservative group on PCC, Cllr Donna Jones reports that Hancock is set to be suspended by Gerald Vernon-Jackson from the Lib Dems:

In a letter to the Evening Standard, former Lib Dem PPC Jo Shaw says:

The problems of allegations of abuses of power are not confined to the Lib Dems, and within the Lib Dems they are not confined to Lord Rennard. Allegations of improper behaviour were made against Mike Hancock MP. He resigned the Lib Dem whip in the Commons but still sits as a Lib Dem councillor in Portsmouth. The allegations are serious and are politically very difficult – all the more reason to deal with them face-on without any kind of fudge. That has not happened.

As for Nick Clegg, these issues again make clear his lack of a liberal compass. I am sure he cares about equality, but not enough to make difficult choices about his own appointments or the structures of power in the party and the country. If liberals aren’t about resisting abuses of power then what are they for?

Jo Shaw is the Lib Dem who resigned from the Lib Dems in front of the TV cameras at a party conference saying “It’s not me, it’s you, Nick”

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