Within the ranks of the Liberal Democrat Party, a coup has supposedly taken place, albeit a failed one. Lord Oakeshott, a relatively minor figure, leaked the results of a self-funded opinion poll in order to oust Nick Clegg from his position as party leader. The poll results concluded that Clegg, amongst others, will lose his seat in the 2015 General Election and that the party would survive electorally should Oakeshott’s chum, Business Secretary Vince Cable, assume the leadership role. This rather quaint attempt at a Lib Dem putsch might have had little practical implication, yet it has succeeded in causing tremors of public and party opinion to erupt, bringing what was previously a stifled debate regarding Clegg’s position into the open.
In response to this crisis of confidence, the top end of the party hierarchy is attempting to maintain order and stability. Public figures have remained unquestionably loyal to Nick Clegg. Danny Alexander, Paddy Ashdown, Menzies Campbell and most significantly of all, Vince Cable, have all remained strongly supportive. Furthermore, a YouGov poll taken in response to the coup reveals that amongst Lib Dem supporters, 61% believed that Clegg should remain leader. Is it really necessary therefore, considering this majority of support, to remove the man who led the party to power in the first place?
The image of Nick Clegg is, to me, one synonymous with that of deceit, lies and double dealing. He had no qualms about jumping into bed with the Tories in 2010 and disregarded the basis of the ideals that his party ran on in order to submit to David Cameron’s desires. More YouGov polls have found that a 41% majority of the general public believe he should resign as leader compared to 32% that think he should remain, correlating to the 78% of the public who believe he is doing badly. Until he is removed as the face of the Liberal Democrats, they will struggle to survive as a significant political entity. Replacing him with Vince Cable could possibly reignite alignment and boost opinion poll ratings. Cable is a man who embodies the demeanour of everybody’s favourite uncle; wise yet kind, strong but fair, someone who has worked brilliantly in the Coalition and who has aided in guiding the stable plans for restoration of the British economy. He has a clean public image, and an approachable appearance. Should he take over now, there is little chance that losses in 2015 would be any less severe. But, a process of rebuilding and rebranding would be more achievable under Cable’s direction. If Nick Clegg was to act in the best interests of the party, he would resign now and allow this process to take its inevitable course whilst minimising the casualties.