Lord Rennard
Lord Rennard

The Liberal Democrats and their predecessors, the Liberal Party, have often been portrayed as the cuddliest of the big parties.

Attacks in the past tended to focus on the wholly inaccurate image of them as a party of sandal-wearing, pipe-smoking, beardy vegetarians. Eccentric and harmless.

It was never true and, in reality, the modern Lib Dems have a deserved reputation with their enemies of being the most aggressive campaigners who are not afraid to pull the odd dirty trick or two. And "sex pest peer" Lord Rennard is often pointed to as the man responsible for much of that.

Every political party has its scandals and the Liberal Democrats are no different. It is just that, occasionally, the party appears to have more than its share, dating back to the beginning of the last century and prime minister David Lloyd George. Needless to say, some are far more serious than others.

He may be remembered for selling honours like sweets, but Lloyd George has also gone down in history for his womanising for which he was known as "the Goat".

He indulged in a long affair with his secretary, is believed to have had countless other "liaisons", seduced party donors and society women and, according to some, even had an affair with his own son's wife.

In the 1960s, the party leader Jeremy Thorpe had a gay affair with stable boy Norman Scott. It was kept quiet but rumours were rife - and persistent. More than a decade later there was an attempt on Scott's life.

In 1978 Thorpe was charged with conspiracy to have him killed. A sensational trial followed with revelations about Thorpe's sexuality at the centre of it. He was found not guilty of conspiracy.

Paddy Ashdown
Lord Ashdown .

The next leader but one, Paddy Ashdown, hit the headlines after it was revealed he was having an affair with his secretary. He confessed and was pictured with his "forgiving" wife .

His popularity rating actually increased after the revelation but the headline Paddy Pantsdown has dogged him ever since.

His successor, Charles Kennedy, was famously forced to stand down over his alcoholism, and has since separated from his wife, but the period also saw a spate of increasingly surprising revelations about party MPs.

Current coalition minister Simon Hughes, who had always denied being gay and even ran an election campaign against "out" Peter Tatchell on the slogan "the straight choice" , finally admitted his sexuality after it was revealed he had been using a gay chat line.

Then there was MP Mark Oaten whose antics with rent boys shocked even hardened hacks and politicians and could not be repeated in family newspapers or websites.

Cyril Smith child sex abuse "covered up" by Establishment, claims Channel 4 documentary
Cyril Smith Reuters

More recently, David Laws was sacked from his ministerial post in 2010 after admitting fiddling his accommodation expenses but claiming it was because he did not want to publicly admit to his gay relationship.

And then, of an entirely different level, there were the appalling revelations about the deceased, 29st former MP Cyril Smith who died in 2010. Throughout his political career in the 1970s and 80s there were rumours about his behaviour.

But it was only after his death that the full extent of his predatory paedophilia were revealed.