- Chris Rennard, Baron Rennard
Christopher John "Chris" Rennard, Baron Rennard (born 8 July 1960) is a British Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. He was appointed in December 2010 to chair a commission on the Big Society on behalf of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO).
Education and personal life
Rennard has been an active member of the Liberal and then Liberal Democratic parties since he was 12. For nearly 30 years he was employed by the Liberal Democrats as a professional campaigner and agent, he was their Chief Executive between 2003 and 2009. During his employment with the Liberal Democrats he was credited with masterminding 12 parliamentary by-election wins for the party. Ten victories were gains:
- Eastbourne by-election, 1990
- Kincardine and Deeside by-election, 1991
- Newbury by-election, 1993
- Christchurch by-election, 1993
- Eastleigh by-election, 1994
- Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election, 1995
- Romsey by-election, 2000
- Brent East by-election, 2003
- Leicester South by-election, 2004
- Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, 2006.
Former party leader Charles Kennedy has described Rennard as "a quite extraordinary figure in British politics”. As well as the by-election victories major gains were made at the 1997, 2001 and 2005 general elections. Iain Dale said in an interview in Total Politics, (June 2011) that Rennard "is probably the most formidable and feared political campaigner of the last 20 years. It was he who invented the concept of “pavement politics”
Chris Rennard started his political activism in Liverpool in the late 1970s where he chaired the University Liberals and Social Democrats. There he learnt streetcraft from Trevor Jones, the Liberal Party's legendary agent. He was Deputy Chair of the Liverpool Liberal Party and organised many of the party's successful election campaigns. His first successful parliamentary by-election campaign was Liverpool Edge Hill by-election, 1979, he went on to be agent for the Liverpool Mossley Hill (UK Parliament constituency) constituency of David Alton (now Lord Alton of Liverpool) and helped to achieve a winning 14% swing against the Conservatives in 1983.
In 1984, he became one of the party's national Area Agents based in Leicester when the party won its first seats there for over 20 years. He was a key member of many of the Liberal/Alliance by-election campaign teams including West Derbyshire by-election, 1986 and Greenwich by-election, 1987. He was a member of the standing committee of ALC (Association of Liberal Councillors) and wrote many of the party's publications on election campaigning and party organisation.
In 1989, he was appointed as Director of Campaigns and Elections for the Liberal Democrats. In the general election of 1997 he oversaw the party's target seat campaign which resulted in the Liberal Democrats more than doubling its number of MPs from 18 to 46. With Tim Razzall (Baron Razzall) as Campaign Chair, and Charles Kennedy as Leader, he also directed the Liberal Democrats' general election campaigns in 2001 and 2005 which further increased the number of Lib Dem MPs to 52 and 62.
In 1993, he was credited for the launch of "tactical voting" - which helped the party win a series of by-elections. The most notable success came at Christchurch in Dorset, where a by-election saw the Liberal Democrats unseat the Conservative Party (whose popularity had slumped since the Black Wednesday economic decable in September 1992) by the largest swing against any UK government since 1918.
Concerning the 2001 general election, one frontbench Lib Dem is reported as saying:
- "Last time people didn't follow Chris [Rennard's] instructions and the difference between those who did and who didn't – like in the Isle of Wight [which the party lost] – was very clear. The message got through."
Rennard is credited with pioneering the successful Lib Dem election strategy of claiming narrow majorities when in second or even third place and ruthlessly squeezing third party votes in Tory – Lib Dem and Labour – Lib Dem marginals.
Rennard served as the Liberal Democrats Chief Executive from 2003 to 2009 during which time he was in overall charge of the party's election campaigns and organisation. His campaigns team continued to build the party's successes through by-elections such as Brent East by-election, 2003 Leicester South by-election, 2004 and Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, 2006 taking the Liberal Democrats to 63 MPs. He chaired the Liberal Democrat general election campaign between summer 2006 and summer 2009 when he stood down as Chief Executive of the Party.
Rennard announced that he would be standing down as chief executive of the Liberal Democrats in May 2009. He indicated that he had discussed standing down some time ago with party Leader, Nick Clegg MP, and that this was for family and health reasons saying that he had "struggled to maintain good diabetic control with the rigours of a very demanding lifestyle". Nick Clegg, Party Leader and others expressed thanks for Rennard's service with a tribute at a party conference rally in September.
Since relinquishing the full time position Chris Rennard has become a frequent commentator on elections in the media and he still contributes to party strategy. He has been appointed to Chair a Commission on Big Society set up by the ACEVO to articulate a civil society vision of what charities want to achieve through the Big Society agenda. Lord Rennard is also a trustee of the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and a member of the Advisory Board of the Magna Carta Institute Brunel University and of the Advisory Council of 'Yes to Fairer Votes'.
Lord Rennard has been appointed a Vice President of the Local Government Association (LGA)
House of Lords
Rennard was created a life peer on 21 July 1999 as Baron Rennard, of Wavertree in the County of Merseyside, and was introduced in the House of Lords on 27 July 1999, where he sits on the Liberal Democrat benches. He is Treasurer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Diabetes.
Lord Rennard is a frequent contributor in the House of Lords. He concentrates on Constitutional Affairs, Localism issues and health matters related to his interests in diabetes and the cessation of smoking.
Rennard was among a group of Parliamentarians whose expense claims came under scrutiny in May 2009. The allegations were investigated by the Clerk of the Parliaments Michael Pownall following a complaint by the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics. . Pownall's ruling did not uphold any of the complaint. Lord Rennard's case was the first of a number of similarly controversial complaints against several peers to be resolved.
- ^ Top Ten Lib Dem 'breakthrough moments'
- ^ http://politics.guardian.co.uk/election/story/0,,1454848,00.html
- ^ http://www.libdems.org.uk/home/chris-rennard%E2%80%99s-personal-letter-to-members-265015275;show
- ^ http://jonathanwallace.blogspot.com/2009/09/chris-rennard-speech-to-lib-dem-rally.html
- ^ House of Lords Minutes of Proceedings, 27 July 1999
- ^ http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/LordRennardcomplaint.pdf
- Lord Rennard profile at the site of Liberal Democrats
- Profile From The Guardian, July 2004.
- Interview with Lord Rennard  From Third Sector February 2011
- Article on the AV Referendum  From The Guardian March 2011
- In depth interview with Lord Rennard for Civil Society 
- In conversation with Iain Dale for Total Politics  June 2011
- Lord Rennard's article about the Big Society June 2011
- The They Work For You website
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