James wrote at the weekend, Nick Clegg’s Orange Book allies fear Tim Farron, the Lib Dem President and standard bearer of the social democrat wing of the party. Yesterday, Farron said that the coalition would “end in divorce” in the months running up to the next general election. That provocative comment followed the barnstorming speech that Farron gave on Saturday, in which he labelled Nick Clegg as the “Leader of the Opposition”. Quentin Letts has echoed the views of many party foot soldiers by saying that this was a leadership pitch for the future by the Party President.
Unsurprisingly, the leadership has moved to quash Farron. The Times reports (£):
Mr Farron was ordered to appear before colleagues at this morning’s meeting of MPs, having failed to show up yesterday to justify his suggestion which stopped just short of advocating a break-up. His comments were disowned publicly by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, yesterday morning. “I and my colleagues are most definitely not talking about coalition divorce,” Dr Cable told the BBC. “We are committed to the coalition Government. We have a massive task to do to turn the economy around. It has to be done in an environment of fairness, which is where this issue of reward for failure comes in, but nobody is talking about divorce“.
The general consensus among observers is that Clegg is absolutely secure and is likely to remain so; but, plainly, Farron’s manoeuvres have not gone unnoticed.
UPDATE: Farron has just appeared on the Daily Politics (video above), where he was grilled by Andrew Neil about his leadership ambitions and the coalition. It was fun viewing, with the cheeky chappie from Westmoreland reduced to rambling incoherence at times. Eventually, though, Fallon said that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats “will go there separate ways” after the next election. He also added that he had “no…ambition” to lead the party. In a later interview he said that Nick Clegg will “almost certainly lead the party into the next election”, which is not quite the same as saying that Clegg will.