Nick Clegg is safer now than he was this morning. Lord Oakeshott’s outing as the source of these ICM seat polls and his resignation from the party has put the plotters on the back foot. MPs who were ambiguous in their support for the leader are now much more forthright. Vince Cable himself is preparing a further statement of loyalty to Clegg following his denunciation of Oakeshott yesterday.
The Clegg operation is more interested in getting this story over with than settling scores. It is vigorously defending Cable, arguing that he can’t be held responsible for Oakeshott’s actions.
But the problem for Clegg is that the Lib Dems’ internal structures mean that it will take a fair while for the last embers of this plot to be put out. There are still constituency association meetings to come to discuss his leadership and his critics could yet gather the signatures of enough accredited conference delegates to call a special conference. The consequence of this is that Clegg will have to concentrate on communicating to his own party — not the country — for a while longer.
This story won’t be truly over until the rebels have exhausted the party procedures. But Clegg can sleep comfortably in his bed tonight.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.