Lib Dem chaos as Vince Cable denies anti-Clegg plot
Business secretary admits he knew of polls suggesting he should be leader, after close ally Lord Oakeshott resigned.
Vince Cable is facing questions over his loyalty after one of his closest allies resigned over a failed attempt to get Nick Clegg sacked, claiming the business secretary had been aware of secret polling that undermined the Liberal Democrat leader.
In a day of chaos for the Lib Dems, Cable strongly denied being involved in attempts by his friend, Lord Oakeshott, to get rid of Clegg, insisting he was strongly behind his leader. However, the business secretary was forced to admit he had known about some of his ally’s damaging polls that suggested voters would prefer Cable as party leader.
Oakeshott quit the party, warning that it was heading for disaster under Clegg’s leadership. He resigned the day after being named by Cable as the senior party figure who commissioned the surveys from pollsters ICM that showed Clegg in Sheffield Hallam, Tessa Munt in Wells, Ian Swales in Redcar and Cable in Twickenham were likely to lose their seats under the current leadership.
The surveys were leaked by an unnamed party to the Guardian after the Lib Dems lost hundreds of council seats and polled only 7% in theEuropean elections in fifth place behind the Greens, triggering suggestions from some Lib Dem MPs that Clegg should consider his position.
Oakeshott, who helped found the party, said Clegg had led the Lib Dems to “no roots, no principles, and no values”. After stepping down, he also revealed a fifth poll suggested Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury, was on course to come third to the SNP and Labour in his Inverness constituency.
Cable said on Tuesday it was “utterly reprehensible” to commission and publish polls without the consent of the MP, including in Clegg’s seat. But in his resignation statement, Oakeshott said he had told Cable the results of the four polls several weeks ago. He said Cable had also approved the survey of his own Twickenham constituency, though the business secretary had asked for the question about what would happen under a change of leadership to be taken out.
In an interview with the BBC after Oakeshott’s resignation, Cable denied knowing about the Sheffield or Inverness polls but admitted being “aware” of others and the general trends they showed, as well as having had a detailed discussion about the results relating to Munt, his parliamentary private secretary.
- The Guardian,