Lord Oakeshott quits Lib Dems saying they are heading for disaster
Peer criticises Nick Clegg for leading party with no principles and says Vince Cable knew of controversial private polls.
Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat peer, has resigned from the party and warned it is “heading for disaster” under Nick Clegg, after releasing private polls that indicate the party would do better with his ally Vince Cable as leader.
Oakeshott said Clegg had made the party one of “no roots, no principles and no values”. He also revealed Cable knew several weeks ago about the controversial voting predictions that suggested Clegg would lose his seat along with three other MPs before the party’s disastrous showing in the European and council elections.
“A few stout-hearted MPs and peers and hundreds, maybe soon thousands, of candidates, councillors and Lib Dem members all over Britain are now fighting constituency by constituency for a leadership election,” Oakeshott said in a statement.
“I have tried to give them the evidence they need to make the change. I pray that they win, and that the right man, or preferably woman, is now elected to save the party.”
Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, has alleged that his close friend leaked the ICM polling to the Guardian, describing it as “utterly reprehensible” and “totally unacceptable”, and adding that there is no leadership issue.
In Oakeshott’s account of events, Cable approved a survey about voting intentions in his constituency of Twickenham but asked for a question on what would happen with a change of leader to be removed. Oakeshott said Cable did not commission the ICM polling on four constituencies that suggested the party would do better under a different leader, but was told about the results some weeks ago.
The senior peer said he was sorry to have “so embarrassed and upset” his old friend Cable, but he had been working with the best intentions for the party at heart.
Oakeshott, who helped to found one of the predecessors of the Liberal Democrats in 1981, said he would now “take a leave of absence from the House of Lords” as well as resigning from the party.
“I am sure the party is heading for disaster if it keeps Nick Clegg and I must not get in the way of the many brave Liberal Democrats fighting for change,” he said. “I leave, with a heavy heart, the party I helped to found with such high hopes with Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams and David Owen at Limehouse in 1981.