Nick Clegg says sorry to journalist dismissed from Lib Dems over Mike Hancock affair investigation

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg
Margaret Thatcher is greeted by newsmen as she leaves her Chelsea home

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NICK Clegg has apologised to an ex-Hampshire councillor for the way he was treated by the Lib Dems nearly 20 years ago.

John Thompson wrote to the deputy prime minister explaining he was dismissed from the party in 1995 over allegations made about his behaviour.

He won his case on appeal – after the claims proved to be untrue – but quit afterwards after the party felt his work as a journalist was ‘incompatible’ with his membership.

As part of his journalistic work, Mr Thompson had been investigating the behaviour of Cllr Mike Hancock, who was leader of Hampshire County Council at the time.

In 1994, The News revealed Cllr Hancock had an affair with newly-elected Fareham borough councillor Elizabeth McCann.

Mr Thompson, now retired from politics, decided Mr Clegg needed to know about the way he was ‘hounded’ out of the party while Cllr Hancock was leader of Hampshire County Council.

He also demanded that more action needed to be taken against Cllr Hancock, in light of allegations made that he sexually assaulted a female constituent – which he denies.

In response, Tim Gordon, the party’s chief executive, apologised on Mr Clegg’s behalf, saying: ‘Nick and I are very sorry to hear of your own experiences in Hampshire.

‘It is clear that in the past, the party has had inadequate processes in place to support those such as you, who felt they had grounds to complain or raise concerns.’

Mr Gordon said disciplinary measures had been taken against Cllr Hancock – he has been suspended from the Lib Dems and no longer holds the parliamentary whip – meaning he is now an independent MP for Portsmouth South.

Cllr Hancock has also stepped down from the cabinet at Portsmouth City Council.

Mr Thompson told The News: ‘Nick Clegg is the first in a string of leaders to take on board that this kind of behaviour doesn’t fit well with the party, and I’m very grateful for the apology.’

It’s believed Cllr Hancock is still in hospital being treated for ill health.