Why did it take Mike Hancock so long to say sorry?

For almost five years, Mike Hancock has consistently denied allegations about his conduct towards a vulnerable constituent.

Five years in which the complainant has been vilified, accused of lying for financial gain.

Five years in which Mr Hancock has remained an MP, with the influence (and financial rewards) that position brings.

Now, from the hospital where he is currently being treated, comes a comprehensive apology:

Mr Hancock admits to actions that were "inappropriate and unprofessional", actions that left his victim feeling "degraded"

He apologises for "hurtful and untrue" comments about his victim's motives. It is, as his statement admits, a "full public apology".

At the time of writing, Mike Hancock remains a Member of Parliament, suspended from the Liberal Democrats, but still with all the rights and privileges of an MP.

It's now impossible to imagine how he can remain in this position. And while this is primarily an issue of Mr Hancock's personal conduct, it's also an issue for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

This is not the first time the party has been accused of ignoring such serious allegations. Questions were being raised about Cyril Smith in the late 1970s. Last year, Nick Clegg faced questions over his handling of allegations about Lord Rennard's behaviour. Now, finally, we have an admission that the claims about Mike Hancock, disputed for so long, were true.

A small party of protest can brush such things under the carpet, because it attracts so little attention. But a party of government, one that aspires to hold power in the future, needs to clean up its act.

If Mike Hancock had been a Conservative or Labour MP, Nick Clegg would be at the front of the queue calling on that party to take action. 

If the Liberal Democrats aspire to sit at the top table, then the same rules apply.