In the past few minutes, Vince Cable has issued this statement on the leaked ICM polling:
‘Lord Oakeshott’s actions are totally inexcusable and unacceptable. I have made it very clear repeatedly that he does not speak or act for me.
‘Commissioning and publishing polls without the consent of the Member of Parliament, as in the case of Sheffield Hallam, is utterly reprehensible.
‘There are undoubtedly raw feelings in the wake of poor local and European election results. We need to respond in a measured way. Public speculation about the leadership is an unwelcome distraction and as I made absolutely clear yesterday there is no leadership issue as far as I’m concerned.’
Oakeshott has not responded to requests for comment all day. He also did not respond to Charlotte Henry when she approached him with her piece about his link with one of the alleged main agitators behind the plot to oust Clegg, which she outlines here.
There is a meeting next week of all Lib Dem MPs, which the whips agreed to before the European election results, knowing that there might be some soul-searching needed in the party. Clegg has also been contacting as many parliamentary colleagues as possible over the past few days. There is still a great deal for the party leadership to do in terms of patching up relationships, mainly because those who have signed the letter calling for Clegg to resign are by no means the usual suspects. Councillors who lost their seats were also rather disgruntled by a letter sent out from HQ and signed by Annette Brooke which managed to imply, by referring to the Lib Dem mantra of ‘where we work, we win’, that those who had lost somehow hadn’t worked.
But this robust slap-down of Oakeshott by Cable, along with the poll published by Lib Dem voice which shows 54 per cent of Lib Dem members want Clegg to stay, and just 39 per cent want him to stand down, will make it very difficult for a coup to gather pace. Clegg’s enemies might be rich and vocal, but they’re perhaps not the best strategists.
More Spectator for less. Stay informed leading up to the EU referendum and in the aftermath. Subscribe and receive 15 issues delivered for just £15, with full web and app access. Join us.