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Oakeshott attack on Nick Clegg highlights how safe the Lib Dem leader is

13 September 2013

8:56 AM

13 September 2013

8:56 AM

The Lib Dems have had a lot to get used to since coming into government: not least the growth of their conference from something that members could stroll in and out of with their knitting needles, and that only the most junior hacks were sent to. But only three years into holding conferences as a party of government, they’re starting to notice a pattern. Firstly, there will be a bit of rabble-rousing from the party’s president Tim Farron, who will drop some flirtatious hints about Labour, his heart beating on the left and how the Tories are a bit naughty. Then Vince Cable will say something a bit melancholy. Then Lord Oakeshott will say Nick Clegg needs to step aside in favour of Cable, who could march the party into a majority government in 2015. The only thing that’s missing from this year’s perfect reproduction of the pattern is Lembit Opik – for the time being at least.

But what’s interesting about Lord Oakeshott’s interview with the House magazine is that his comments, though the same, highlight how much has changed for Nick Clegg in just a year. The peer tells the magazine:

‘Since UKIP came along we do seem to be pretty stuck around 10% in the opinion polls, it’s a pretty narrow band between 8 and 10%. We’ve been like this for a long time, there’s no sign of improvement. Let’s be objective: we have to accept that Nick’s ratings are very poor and have been for a long time. You’ve got to be frank that his ratings are down at levels which if you go back were only seen by Mrs Thatcher shortly before she left and Michael Foot. It’s nothing personal, you’ve got to look at the facts.’

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Nothing personal, although Oakeshott also manages a deliciously bitchy dig at Clegg, saying ‘I think Nick himself will say economics has never been Nick’s special subject. It’s on the record that he read Arc and Anth [Archaeology and Anthropology] at [Cambridge] University.’

But the point is that thought Oakeshott is a known ally of Vince Cable, who has this morning called the comments ‘unhelpful’, his views are now clearly residual, rather than part of a prevailing Get Clegg mood in the party. Activists are annoyed with the leadership and have a few plans to give it a bloody nose on the economy and nuclear power at this conference. But this was the conference where Clegg was expected to face his serious leadership challenge, probably from Cable. He hasn’t – and James outlines the Lib Dem leader’s reasons to be cheerful in this week’s magazine, and we discuss this in more detail on this week’s View from 22 podcast. Clegg’s party conference starts in Glasgow tomorrow afternoon, and Clegg’s biggest challenge isn’t fighting a foe among his colleagues, but preparing his activists for pragmatic policymaking in the run-up to the 2015 election. Oh, and avoiding Lembit…

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  • Thomtids

    I was amused to see Clegg’s Degree subject. Does anyone consider that PPE better equips the present Loonies in charge of the Asylum?

  • Smithersjones2013

    Since UKIP came along we do seem to be pretty stuck around 10% in the
    opinion polls, it’s a pretty narrow band between 8 and 10%. We’ve been
    like this for a long time, there’s no sign of improvement. Let’s be
    objective: we have to accept that Nick’s ratings are very poor and have
    been for a long time. You’ve got to be frank that his ratings are down
    at levels which if you go back were only seen by Mrs Thatcher shortly
    before she left and Michael Foot. It’s nothing personal, you’ve got to
    look at the facts.’

    Cleggs safe because of one simple reason. Nobody wants his job just now. What competent and ambitious politician is going to want to pick up Calamity Clegg’s legacy prior to 2015? They might as well not bother aspiring to be leader in the first place.

    Better instead to wait and see what damage has been done during the election and then potentially knife Clegg in the aftermath knowing that if there’s a Labour majority then chances are the Libdems will have lost a slew of seats and at least one third of their vote and if Labour win but need a coalition partner then chances are they will not work with Clegg so he can be safely knifed. Only if the Tories are the largest party but need a coalition partner is it possible that Clegg might survive but then potentially he could still be knifed to ensure no such Coalition takes place.

    There is no good reason to want to oust Clegg now. Better to bide one’s time and see how the election turns out.

  • HookesLaw

    Having got used to government (if indeed they have) what do the LDs do next given they are polling 9%?
    Do they still want to have an influence, even a small one or do they want to go back to being an sump irreverence.

    If they want their small sector of a vote to have any meaning (if only a small one) then they should be striving might and main to actually make themselves useful to the tories. As long as they persist in doing the opposite then they will sink.

    I am a tory – I will be happy for them to sink, but equally I am British and want no chance of a returning labour govt. For those whose favourite word is ‘dichotomy’ this is an interesting dilemma. Not least for LibDems.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …you’re finally starting to recognize the Camerloons are finished, and need to change and attract others, rather than repel others as they’ve been.

      Problem is, you’re wanting them to attract their like, socialist muppets, and that gets them nowhere.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    See how multicultural Clegg is? Even the grapes are black.

    • Alexandrovich

      The sour ones are in his right fist.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        He’s doing a fair impression of Ricky Gervais’ ‘Derek’

  • Alexsandr

    who cares. Hopefully they will have only 5 MP’s after 2015 and become irrelevant.

  • black11hawk

    There are some people in politics and you just wonder if they wouldn’t be happier in a different party e.g. Matthew Oakeshott in Labour, Ken Clarke in Labour, David Laws and Frank Field with the Tories….

    • Smithersjones2013

      Surely Ken Clarke would have been best suited to the MRLP?

      • Thomtids

        Don’t forget that Hush Puppy Kenny stood on a common platform with Blair contrary to his Party’s policy.

  • AnotherDaveB

    I thought Lord Oakshott’s speech/interview was a not very subtle call for a leadership contest after the 2014 EU and local elections.

    “I think that’s when everyone will focus on things and I hope we will have a good hard look at our prospects for the election. There will still be time, but next May/June will be the last chance.”

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, that’s when the action will begin. Small or big, you’ll see some heads rolling then.

  • asalord

    Lib-Dem’s hypocrisy and treacherousness will result in their demise in Scotland – just like the tories.

    • mikewaller

      I read this as meaning that whilst the LibDem leadership had suddenly to grow up and responded well, a number of their followers remain fully paid up members of Cloud Cuckoo Land. Even the notorious business of the student fees does not bear close examination. Only an economic illiterate or someone with a very short life expectancy would be attracted to having a free education now with an absolute moral obligation similarly to fund through taxes multiples of that free education for subsequent generations. All debts are a burden, but far better to incur a debt when you have some degree of cost control than to commit to fund others who will have no incentive to be as careful.

      On the topic, I think Oakeshott is a clown with to much to say for himself.

    • HookesLaw

      Gosh its going to be a one party state in Scotland soon, run by Herr Salmond.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …sorta like the LibLabCon cloning arrangement you favor?

  • MirthaTidville

    Rats fighting in a sack, comes to mind….Not sure I agree with Oakeshott`s assessment that they are polling as high as 10% but certainly they are jittery about Farage and how people are responding to his message..Lashing out at `Cleggover` is merely a bit of panic

  • telemachus

    Safe or not Clegg is a comical figure whose views become increasingly irrelevant as May 2015 approaches
    The LibDems will form a Grimond Rump
    UKIP will split the Tory vote
    There remains little doubt that we will have a reasonable Government with caring policies and a charismatic economic team
    Remember this all you who freeze in Glasgow
    And Isabel, set your sights on the excitement of Brighton next week

    • telemackus

      Usual tiresome nonsense. Like a 5 year old trying to get attention, you are nothing but an irritant disrupting the discourse of your betters. You, with your fellow travelers sent here by your McBride/Campbell/Mandelson/Watson inspired Gestapo propaganda HQ, are a true indication of the intellectual bankruptcy of the left.

    • Alex

      “…a charismatic economic team.”
      Normally the adjective inserted here would be one such as experienced, trusted, competent…
      Funny that even telemachus can only bring himself to put the irrelevant ‘charismatic’.

    • AnotherDaveB

      UKIP are also taking votes from Labour.

      Local election results
      2011: Con 35%, Lab 37%, LD 15%
      2012: Con 31%, Lab 38%, LD 16%
      2013: Con 25%, Lab 29%, LD 14%, UKIP 23%

    • HookesLaw

      ‘UKIP will split the Tory vote’ – there you go again. Good fellow. can you say that a bit louder and even more often please.

      ‘There remains little doubt that we will have a reasonable Government with caring policies and a charismatic economic team’ – brilliant variation on a theme. Keep up the good work but LOUDER please.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …why? We conservatives hear quite well, laddie. And we also see you socialist Camerloons borrowing and spending like drunken sailors, jamming homosexual marriage into place, slavering to bomb Syria and help the islamofascists again like in Libya, and jabbering global warmingist lunacy and windmills, just like your Millipedal soulmates.

    • Smithersjones2013

      set your sights on the excitement of Brighton next week

      Why will she have the dubious honour of experiencing more premature political ejaculation along the lines of your post?

      If you want to do it well though here’s a tip for you. You should write something like this:

      “Shortly there will be an election, in which Labour will increase its
      majority, and in so doing utterly shatter the glass paradigm of cyclical
      politics which has contained us for the century since 1906.”

      Sion Simon (possibly the worst politician in living memory) September 2007……

      http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/conference/2007/09/labour-majority-increase

      Thinking about it, you’re not Sion Simon are you?

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