British police are investigating allegations that a former senior member of the Liberal Democratic party sexually harassed four women, authorities said Monday, in a case that has shaken up the junior partner in the country's governing coalition.
Scotland Yard said its special investigations team has been approached by party officials following claims that Chris Rennard, a former chief executive of the left-leaning Lib Dems, inappropriately touched and propositioned four women in incidents that dated back to 2003. Rennard, who stepped down in 2009, denies the claims.
The case has put party leader Nick Clegg, Britain's deputy prime minister, on the spot. Critics say that his poor communication and lack of swift action to contain the allegations have alienated many supporters.
Last week, a Channel 4 program broadcast the claims by the women, including two former activists in the party. Officers were looking into whether criminal activity had taken place, the force said.
Clegg said Sunday that he had been aware of concerns about Rennard's behavior before, but he had not heard of the specific allegations until the broadcast.
The party leader gained national popularity in the run-up to the 2010 election, but has lost support from the public and his party since becoming the deputy of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in an uneasy coalition.