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Will Oakeshott’s demise kill off Lib Dem revolt?

28 May 2014

Nick Clegg said this morning that ‘appropriate steps’ will be taken to deal with Lord Oakeshott after the peer was outed as the ‘Lib Dem supporter’ who had commissioned uncomfortable polling about the Lib Dems’ chances in 2015. As with other difficult situations with Lib Dem peers, though, Clegg doesn’t have that much power to remove the whip from Oakeshott, even if he’d like to. Speaking after his speech on international development the Deputy Prime Minister said:

‘I think it is wholly unacceptable for people in a campaigning political party facing very very difficult elections last week as we were to find out now with hindsight that a senior member of the party far from actually going out and trying to win votes was spending money and time seeking to undermine the fortunes of the party and obviously parliament will resume next week and a lot of these things will be taken up then and discussed in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and following those discussions, you know, appropriate steps will no doubt be taken.’

What matters more than whether Oakeshott is disciplined by peers, though, is whether his actions have taken all the steam out of the revolt against Clegg. That revolt wasn’t as big as its agitators had hoped, according to LibDemVoice’s poll. Those who had crossed over to the anti-Nick camp in the past few days are livid with the peer, though, as they feel his botch job has made it much more difficult for them to get a hearing from the leadership. There are two groups within the anti-Nick camp: those who have long wanted his head, such as Naomi Smith (more on that from Charlotte Henry here), and those who are disappointed with the way the local and European elections worked out but furious with the way the leadership responded by suggesting that seats with a sitting Lib Dem MP had performed well (they point to Southwark and Brent as signs of this being bunkum). The second group worries that the leadership may now be a little more complacent at responding to them. They could, though, be brought back into the fold with a bit of TLC from Clegg and Co, so the last thing he should do today is believe that Oakeshott’s unmasking represents the unravelling of the whole row.


I also understand that local parties are continuing to go ahead with executive meetings to discuss whether they should hold membership meetings that will call for a leadership contest. It will be interesting to see whether Vince Cable’s second intervention on behalf of Nick Clegg destroys the appetite of those local party members for a contest.

UPDATE, 12.10: Lord Oakeshott is to resign from the Liberal Democrats and take a leave of absence from the House of Lords.

Here is his full statement:

I am today taking leave of absence from the House of Lords and resigning as a member of the Liberal Democrats. I am sure the Party is heading for disaster if it keeps Nick Clegg; and I must not get in the way of the many brave Liberal Democrats fighting for change.

I leave, with a heavy heart, the party I helped to found with such high hopes with Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams and David Owen at Limehouse in 1981. We then, like most Liberal Democrats now, wanted a radical progressive party, not a “split the difference” Centre Party, with, in Shirley’s memorable words, no roots, no principles and no values. But that is where Nick Clegg has led us.

I am sorry I have so upset and embarrassed my old friend Vince Cable and that we were not able to talk before he issued yesterday’s statement from China. This is the background:

Several months ago a close colleague, concerned about voting intentions in Twickenham, asked me if I would arrange and pay for a poll to show us Vince’s current position and how best to get him re-elected. I was happy to help, and Vince amended and approved the questionnaire, but at his request I excluded a question on voting intentions with a change of leader. Although Vince had excellent ratings, both as a Minister and a local MP, he was slightly behind the Conservatives in this poll, as the full details on the ICM website show. That poll worried me so much that I commissioned four more in different types of constituency all over the country and added back the change of leadership question. The results were in the Guardian yesterday and on the ICM website. Several weeks ago, I told Vince the results of those four polls too.

The combined message of these five professional and reputable ICM constituency polls, Nick Clegg’s dire approval ratings year after year in all national polls, and Thursday’s appalling council and European election results is crystal clear: we must change the leader to give Liberal Democrat M.P.s their best chance to win in 2015. On Thursday I also commissioned one more ICM poll, in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey; the results should also be on the ICM website tonight at and

A few stout-hearted MPs and peers and hundreds, maybe soon thousands, of candidates, councillors and Lib Dem members all over Britain are now fighting constituency by constituency for a leadership election. I have tried to give them the evidence they need to make the change. I pray that they win, and that the right man, or preferably, woman is now elected to save the Party.

When Charles Kennedy rang to make me a peer, from a panel elected by the party, fourteen years ago he said he wanted me to shake up the Lords. I’ve tried – my bills to ban non-dom peers are now law – but my efforts to expose and end cash for peerages in all parties, including our own, and help get the Lords elected have failed. I am very sorry to leave my many old, close comrades-in-arms on the Liberal Democrat benches all over Britain, and good friends and fellow campaigners across the House. But the unreformed Lords is now a bloated balloon and at 67 it’s time to concentrate on running my business and my charity.

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  • Bill Sticker

    After his disastrous defence of his beloved EU social engineering project the peoples army have delivered Nick his coup de grace at the elections which followed.

    If he hasnt either the wit or the wisdom to work out the full implications of the peoples army message where his party was utterly humiliated to the point it was nearly left with no MEPs & it the most pro EU party then I hope he stays on because his party like the whole rotten EU social engineering project it supports deserve all thats coming to them in 2015

  • Jonty45

    The blessed Oakeshott, twice failed to become an MP, an outspoken critic of the House of Lords but not hesitating to join their ranks. He epitomises the treachery and duplicity and hypocrisy that is par for contemporary political life.

  • starfish

    Seems to me he has been mischief making for years

    Good riddance

    Pethaps he could take some other professional politicians with him

  • Charles Martel

    I have to admit to deriving a great deal of enjoyment from watching this Lib-Dem circular firing squad. More, please

  • paulus

    I always thought that Oakshott was a weirdo. I know we slate the leader of the Conservative party, but we havn’t taken the whip. He is totally unelected and he is trying to bring down the leader of his party and the deputy prime minister of a Government.
    They need to do an investigation by trepanning him, He is a weirdo, he should be sent of to Africa : some where remote, with a net so he can catch flies to eat.

    • GUBU

      Is that you, Nick?

    • Andy

      He was elected only once as a Labour councillor on Oxford City Council, which tells you all you need to know. He was never elected to the Commons and lost each time he tried. He is a deeply unpleasant and arrogant man and public life could do without cretins like him.

    • El_Sid

      I think you’ll find that it’s the voters of Sheffield Hallam who want to bring down Nick Clegg.

      If he wants to keep his job next year then perhaps he should think about what he can do to change their minds?

  • El_Sid

    I must admit I’m taken aback by the violence with which people are shooting the messenger here. Oakeshott’s crime this week has been to speak truth to power, and those in ministerial Jags don’t like it but what did they expect? If you lost 58% of wards you held before the English local elections, and got less than 7% in the Euros, you’re going to be losing a lot of seats at Westminster as well.

    Trouble is that the LDs are finally starting to realise that people didn’t like their policies, they just used LD as a protest vote. And the LDs are having a hissy fit when they find out that they’re not loved. Once you’re in government you don’t get the benefit of the protest voters – and if you’re not a credible party of government you don’t get the usual bounce in favour of the governing party in the run-up to an election, either.

    • HookesLaw

      Well you are right. But Oakshot produced a private poll then sought to publish it anonymously to favour his own views.
      The LDs have also sought to undermine the government they are part of. A stupid way to defend themselves in government and undermines their faith in coalition and any point in voting for them.
      How can the LDs blame Clegg for losing a EU vote when they are the biggest believers in it?

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes, only properly chosen people should be able to poll and publish. Others should be reported to the appropriate state security for handling and treatment. How dare they speak publicly without permission from the state?

        • HookesLaw

          Any one can secure a poll, provided it is properly carried out. Even if its not carried out properly, though then its worthless. Its pretty worthless if it is to be actually published if you do not know who has commissioned it.
          But the polling industry has a reputation to keep, that’s why this private poll was leaked and not officially published by its sponsor.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            It doesn’t matter what you fascists think is worthless or not worthless, lad.

            And it doesn’t matter what you fascists think the “polling industry” has or should have as a reputation .

            And it doesn’t matter what you fascists think about leaks, official publication or anything else for that matter.

            Not that any of that will stop you fascist LibLabCon Levesonistas, mind you. You’ll seek to destroy free speech and thought and press, same as ever. You’re socialist nutters, as are all fascists .

            Why do you socialist nutters seek to destroy freedom and liberty? Why is that, lad? Is your fascism hereditary or something?

    • Makroon

      Just as liberalism was edging back into fashion, the boy-idiot Steele brought the Socdem incubus into his party.
      They’ve been trying to drag the LibDems into a death-embrace with Labour ever since.
      With the outing of the LibDem’s answer to Tom Watson, Clegg has one last chance to claim the centre ground with an agenda of pragmatism on the EU (rather than true-believer status), a pro business, low-tax, outward looking, socially liberal, and anti-foreign war, agenda.
      Will he take it ?
      Don’t get your hopes up “orange bookers”.

      • HookesLaw

        Truth is Clegg has shown himself to be a bad leader. He floated up by being all things to all people in the debates and in the expenses scandal. (as we currently see thats easy for a party thats a dustbin for protest) But he is really just plain vacuous. The LDs would be better with a different leader but can they find one who would actually support the govt they are in fact part off?
        I see Oakshot was made a peer by Kennedy, so I for one presume he is more SDP/labour than liberal. Does this auger a change of emphasis for the LDs?

        • Alexsandr

          he was freinds with the gang of 4 when the SDP started up.

  • Tim

    Obscure peer from Britain’s 5th largest party resigns.

    World holds breath

    • Makroon

      That’s Statler gone, Waldorf needs to join him.

  • Blindsideflanker

    How can Oakshott be accused of leaking polling that he commissioned?

    • HookesLaw

      He published it anonymously. There are probably polling industry rules against that.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …and we know how you fascist LibLabCon Levesonistas hate free speech and free press, and seek to squelch it.

        • HookesLaw

          You are the fascist. I see you have invented another bogey man.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …says the fascist Levesonista, now seeking to destroy other freedoms and liberties.

            Typical LibLabCon socialist nutter you are, lad. Typical.

      • El_Sid

        No there aren’t – at least not according to Mike Smithson who should know.

        Given that Oakeshott’s polling has Cable losing his seat, it’s hard to argue that this is specifically to do with Cable, it’s more of a general wake-up call that the LibDems will get slaughtered next May.

        • HookesLaw

          Its plain in the British Polling Council rules that the clients name should be published with the results. Rule 2.1 para 1.
          This poll was private and because the commissioner wanted to be secret the results were leaked and not formally published, which was the point I made to flanker.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            It’s none of you fascists’ business what polling is or does, lad.

            Go back to your mate Leveson and plot another socialist nutter plot. This one is already taken care of, and is none of you nutters’ business.

        • HookesLaw

          I see from Sky… in my far away hotel bedroom … that Cable says he knew knothing of the polls. Unless Cable’s appreciation of the truth is similar to Huhnes, then Oakshott is being fast and loose with the actuality.
          Will the Oakshot free LDs now go for a ‘coupon’ election?

          • the viceroy’s gin

            So are you Levesonistas planning on sending them to prison, for their exercise of free speech, lad?

  • MikeF

    This is nothing to what will occur in the Labour Party if it fails in the next General Election. Nothing is more important than that it should. The LibDems are unpleasant. Labour is evil.

    • Wessex Man

      You obviously have never been canvassing against the wonderful Lib/dums!

    • Alexsandr

      i think the cracks will appear in labour and tory in the next few days. People dont like losing and will look for someone to blame. Could be fun.

  • dado_trunking

    This is only the beginning of the end.
    The LibDems implode, hence the government implodes. Who could have ignored both parties combined losing 20% of all contested councillor seats AND losing double digits in Europe? Only UKIP ditherers would as we smell their fear of actually becoming elected where it mattered.

    • Wessex Man

      Get away with you, we can’t wait to get into Westminster and begin the task of removing our country from the EUSSR!

      • dado_trunking

        Oh no you won’t.
        That would require you doing some work!

        • Wessex Man

          and what makes you think that we won’t?

          • dado_trunking

            We smell their fear of actually becoming elected where it mattered and actually doing some work. Underperformers are like that …

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …maybe you and the sockpuppets are smelling your own soiled breeches, lad.

        • HookesLaw

          Its not work… Its making decisions and being faced by the consequences. And its being faced by events and having to react. Making half baked wooly assertions is easy. Even French socialists can do that.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …even you socialist nutter Camerloons can do that, eh lad?

  • 2trueblue

    From the voters viewpoint Oakshott may have done him a favour. A lot of people will now get out and support Clegg simply because Oakshott is such an odious unpleasant character. Cable is also tainted, so a plague on all their houses.

  • wobble

    Vince knew about the polls before he went to China ……More pressure on him when he comes back ? , now too tainted for a clean run ?

    • Wessex Man

      who really cares, they are a dead duck party now just waiting for Christmas.

      • Alexsandr

        i have turkey, not duck. but I get your point.

        • Inverted Meniscus

          Cheers that gave me a good laugh.

  • Andy

    He is typical of the scum you get in the LibDems. He is a vile odious man and he should renounce his peerage. Good riddance to crap like him.

  • wycombewanderer

    With his fingerprints all over this Cable has to go from government he cannot be allowed to continue to work in the best interests of Vince Cable over the country.

  • White Lightning

    “following those discussions, you know, appropriate steps will no doubt be taken.”

    And they say oratory’s dead.

  • 2trueblue

    What a despicable little man. Goes well with the other despicable little man. The arrogance of the LibDums is breathtaking.

  • colliemum

    Well well well!
    Will he now set up ‘A Liberal Party’ for the next election, thus getting on top of the ballot and getting votes from the original LibDems?

    • Wessex Man

      That’s a very good question, will he almagamate with the equally disloyal Nattrass to form the Arrogant Loonies Party?

    • Makroon

      He is no liberal, he and Vince are Labour renegades.

  • Inverted Meniscus

    To borrow the sentiments of Oscar Wilde this is: The preposterous, disgusting. dishonest and unelectable in pursuit of the preposterous, disgusting, disloyal and unelected.

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