Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has called on disgraced MP Mike Hancock to resign from the party.
In the High Court on Wednesday Mr Hancock issued a public apology to a vulnerable woman constituent for making inappropriate sexual advances after she sought his help as her local MP and councillor.
Speaking on his weekly LBC radio phone-in, Mr Clegg said the MP for Portsmouth South – who has already had the Lib Dem whip withdrawn in Parliament and his party membership suspended –should now leave the party.
“He should resign from the party. Of course he should. Absolutely,” Mr Clegg said.
“He has made an apology that makes it clear that the way he behaved was totally and utterly out of order – as he himself has said – and crossed a line with a vulnerable constituent. He has caused huge, huge distress. Frankly, that has no role in the Liberal Democrats – the party I lead. He has no future in the party. He should resign.”
Mr Clegg was forced to defend his failure to act sooner after the woman, known only as “Annie” – who suffers from mental health problems – complained that the Lib Dem leader “turned a blind eye” after she contacted his office asking the party to investigate.
She told the Guardian: “Clegg has been negligent; he has put me through hell. I complained to Clegg’s office in March 2011, but it has taken four years to deal with Hancock. There is supposed to be system in place in the party to deal with MPs, but they don’t seem to use it.”
Mr Clegg acknowledged that a letter had been sent to Lib Dem headquarters in 2011, but said it was not brought to his attention.
He said the party had taken no action at that time as Hampshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which had both looked into the matter, had decided there was no basis on which to proceed. “When I was given specific allegations early in 2013, I responded as promptly as anyone could reasonably that I should and Mike Hancock was suspended as an MP for the party.”