Chris was born in Liverpool in 1960. He began to organise election campaigns for the Liberals as a teenager in the 1970s. During that time, the Liberal Party ran the City Council and won the Edge Hill parliamentary by-election of 1979.
In the 1983 general election, he was the agent and campaign director for David Alton who is no Lord Alton. This was for the newly created Liverpool Mossley Hill constituency which was won from third place. This was the biggest swing (14%) against the Conservatives than anywhere in England.
He served as Chair of the Liverpool Young Liberals. At university in Liverpool, he was Chair of the Liberal and Social Democrat Students. He also became Deputy Chair of the Liverpool Liberal Party. During the 1980s he was a key member of the Liberal SDP Alliance’s parliamentary by-election team. Chris was also a leading activist within the Association of Liberal Councillors, for whom he wrote many of the party’s campaign training manuals. Rennard was awarded the MBE for political service in 1989.
House of Lords
In 1999 Chris Rennard was appointed a life peer, this was on the recommendation of Paddy Ashdown. He is a member of the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords. He works with the teams on issues including election regulation, political and constitutional reform, and public health. Chris Rennard has been a member of the Constitution, Information, and the Political Polling and Digital Media Select Committees.
Liberal Democrats Director of Campaigns & Elections
Chris Rennard was appointed the role of Director of Campaigns & Elections for the Liberal Democrats in 1989. This followed the party’s failure to win any seats in the European Elections of June that year.
The Lib Dems had come fourth nationally with just 6% of the vote. He worked closely with the leader Paddy Ashdown in order to rebuild the party. He oversaw the party’s parliamentary by-election successes and major advances in local government.
In the 1997 general election, Chris Rennard was responsible for the party’s target seat strategy. The Lib Dems made 28 gains in that campaign, increasing their tally to 46 MPs. The last elections in which he worked with Paddy before he stood down as Leader were in 1999.
In the European elections, the party elected 10 MEPs, which were 5 women and 5 men. Additionally in that year, there were 17 members of the Scottish Parliament and 6 members of the Welsh Assembly. In the May local elections in, the party polled 24% of the vote. That day alone they won over 2,600 council seats and 20 local councils.
Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
Chris Rennard was appointed Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats in 2003 when Charles Kennedy was the Leader. During his time in these roles he oversaw 13 parliamentary by-election successes for the Lib Dems between Eastbourne (1990) and Dunfermline & West Fife in (2006). Other notable parliamentary by-election successes also included Kincardine & Deeside (1991), Newbury (1993), Christchurch (1993), Littleborough & Saddleworth (1995) and Leicester South (2004). The party increased its number of MPs at Westminster in the 2001 and 2005 General Elections to 52 (19% of the vote) and then to 62 (22% of the vote). This was the highest number of MPs since Lloyd George had led the Liberal Party.
When he stood down as Chief Executive in 2009, the Liberal Democrats had 63 MPs, 11 MEPs, 16 Members of the Scottish Parliament, and 6 members of the Welsh assembly. The Liberal Democrats controlled 29 principal authority local councils, and it had won over 4,000 council seats.
Rennard & McTegart was established as a consultancy in 2010. They provide management, campaign communications and fund-raising advice. Rennard acted as the Director of Communications for the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) from 2011 to 2020. He has worked with Trade Associations in healthcare, environmental and other sectors. He has advised charities and not-for-profit bodies on fundraising and management. Chris has also chaired a Commission on “The Big Society” for the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO). He has additionally published a number of articles, undertaken professional speechmaking engagements, and published his campaign memoirs, Winning Here which were published by BiteBack Publishing in 2018.
In September 2009, Lord Rennard was comprehensively cleared by the parliamentary authorities over an allegation that he may have misused the peers’ allowance system . The Metropolitan Police decided to take no action over allegations made against him in February 2013. The independent investigator, Alistair Webster QC also found no evidence to justify a disciplinary hearing. Helena Morrissey (now a Conservative Peer) was asked to undertake an independent review of the party’s processes and in 2014 she concluded that, “there is no justification for it [the Lib Dems] remaining ambivalent towards Lord Rennard – he should be just as welcome a participant or guest at Party events as any other.”