Lord Oakeshott has gone under the radar, as speculation mounts about his involvement in a bid to oust party leader Nick Clegg. Many believe he is responsible for commissioning a poll that appeared in today’s Guardian, showing that Clegg and other Lib Dems could lose their Commons seats if he remains leader.
Looking through the House of Lords Register of Members’ interests, it’s clear that Oakeshott is very rich indeed, boasting numerous Directorships and shareholdings. He certainly has the financial clout to fund such a poll.
The register reveals something else, too: that Oakeshott has one member of staff, called Naomi Smith. She confirmed to me that she is ‘a researcher for him in my spare time’.
A senior Lib Dem source told me that it is becoming clear that Smith is ‘intimately involved’ in running the campaign to oust Nick Clegg, which was launched just before polls closed on Thursday. Another Lib Dem source also agrees that Smith is one of the ringleaders in the campaign. She did not respond to requests for comment on these allegations.
Naomi Smith is well known in Lib Dem circles. She was a parliamentary candidate in 2010, has long been a critic of Nick Clegg’s leadership, and is a supporter of Vince Cable as a replacement. Like father like daughter, in 2012, Smith’s father, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Smith of Clifton, also called for Nick Clegg to resign and for him to be replaced by Cable.
Lord Oakeshott did not respond when approached for comment. His silence, and the fact that he registers Smith as a member of staff, won’t do anything to weaken the accusations levelled at him that he’s a plotter.