++Breaking news: Matthew Oakeshott commissioned the Guardian poll

Lord Matthew Oakeshott addresses conferenceThe Independent has revealed that Matthew Oakeshott was the ‘Lib Dem supporter’ behind the ICM polling which we covered here.

In an article headed ‘Vince Cable allies accused of plotting to bring down Nick Clegg‘ it claims:

Lord Oakeshott has been a close friend of Mr Cable for many years and has made no secret of his desire to see the Business Secretary succeed Mr Clegg.

It goes on to quote various unnamed MPs and party sources, but crucially it adds:

Some Lib Dem MPs and candidates believe the party needs to remove Mr Clegg to improve its chances in next year’s general election. There is no suggestion that Mr Cable was aware of the poll in advance of its publication. [Our emphasis]

* Mary Reid is the Monday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.

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55 Comments

  • Splittism!

  • Simon McGrath 27th May '14 - 4:28pm

    So did he leak it ?

  • We should get on with abolishing the House of Lords, and soon 🙂

  • David Bertram 27th May '14 - 4:33pm

    What a surprise. Why does this man keep the Whip?

  • paula keaveney 27th May '14 - 4:33pm

    Hardly a shocker!

  • Lib Dems, nothing would give your opponents more pleasure than watching this split the party into warring factions.

    It’s going to happen, isn’t it?

  • Stephen Howse 27th May '14 - 4:40pm

    20 grand?

    If he really wanted to put his money to good use he could’ve paid for an organiser’s salary for a year in a held or target seat.

  • I have every admiration for Matthew, a social liberal in the House of Lords and don’t we need them when the world is full of Orange Bookers dictating how the party is run. I do not favour Vince Cable as a replacement though as he has been so disappointing as Business Minister.

  • Why shouldn’t he use his own money as he sees fit. I must’ve given thousands of pounds to the party over the years only to be ignored and not listened to. Clegg out.

  • Well, of course the one thing capable of making the party’s situation worse would be a major split in the ranks.

    So perhaps Simon Shaw should try to restrain his glee, and hope that Vince Cable didn’t know anything about the polls, rather than eagerly seizing on them as ammunition to use against him.

  • @Stephen
    So you think Clegg is a strong leader who could have benefitted from the money?

  • Stephen Howse 27th May '14 - 4:48pm

    Voter – I think we have a number of excellent PPCs who certainly could have done.

  • Tom Papworth 27th May '14 - 4:52pm

    Chris is right that “the one thing capable of making the party’s situation worse would be a major split in the ranks.”

    Rather than criticising Simon Shaw, however, he might want to concentrate his fire on a man who pays £20,000 to commission a poll designed to damage his own party.

  • Toby Fenwick 27th May '14 - 4:57pm

    Tom: Quite right. Although one is reminded that of the Yes Minister notion that the only thing worse than an underhand maneuver is an unsuccessful underhand maneuver!

  • @Tom Papworth: “Rather than criticising Simon Shaw, however, he might want to concentrate his fire on a man who pays £20,000 to commission a poll designed to damage his own party.”

    It’s a rather tragic sign that commissioning a poll can be seen as “designed to damage his own party”; the poll, from a reputable polling outfit, can do nothing but provide information. Is reality to be seen as a threat to the Lib Dems now? Nick Clegg is not, in fact, the party; it will continue without him as leader and, most likely, do better than it is doing with him as leader.

  • Chris is right that “the one thing capable of making the party’s situation worse would be a major split in the ranks.”

    Rather than criticising Simon Shaw, however, he might want to concentrate his fire on a man who pays £20,000 to commission a poll designed to damage his own party.

    Well that marks you out as splitting on Clegg’s side…

    If the Lib Dems do want to split on this, they will have to leave government. A party divided cannot govern, nor should it. It would be terrible for democracy if a party cannot speak with a (mostly) unified voice, its why the Coalition made an Agreement, so everybody, including the voters, knows where everybody else stands.

  • Oakeshott was always utterly useless as a politician…as our PPC many years ago in Cambridge he was beyond inadequate. The mystery is what party genius was it who decided it was ever a good idea to put this intellectual Pygmy into the House of Lords in the first place?

  • Rather than criticising Simon Shaw, however, he might want to concentrate his fire on a man who pays £20,000 to commission a poll designed to damage his own party.

    I’m watching this in awestruck fascination from outside the party. I’m certainly not a fan of Clegg, but I don’t have much time for Cable either, and I’ve never been impressed by what I’ve seen of Oakeshott.

    But it’s plain silly to say the poll was designed to damage the party. It was obviously designed to convince the MPs of the need for a change of leadership. That’s something quite different.

  • Tom Papworth 27th May '14 - 5:14pm

    I have enormous respect for ICM, Jack. However, as The Independent points out, it was commissioned in April and the owner then sat on it until it was most damaging. The question (which wasn’t necessarily of ICM’s choosing) was loaded, the margin of error wide and the balance of voters in Sheffield Hallum imbalanced (ICM would have offered to weight these but the customer may have chosen not to).

    To suggest that a poll “can do nothing but provide information” is willfully naive, as this poll clearly demonstrates.

  • “@Stephen Howse 27th May ’14 – 4:40pm

    20 grand?

    If he really wanted to put his money to good use he could’ve paid for an organiser’s salary for a year in a held or target seat.”

    Exactly. This is not to say Matthew doesn’t dontate money for such causes, but perhaps the £20k would have been spent better with Ian, Tessa or Julian’s local party…

  • We are loyal to a Party and not a failing Party Leader. Nick Clegg is failing and some people need to listen to the electorate who are no longer voting for the Party because of Nick Clegg. It’s time for Nick Clegg to stand down now and let another leader come forward to improve the Party’s fortunes. Clegg out http://www.libdems4change.org/
    If Matthew or libdems4change need a donation let me know how I can help. Delighted have just been offered a job on the welfare to work programme so things are looking up.

  • I think I can predict exactly how this debate will take place now.

    It will be:

    – Oakeshott designed the poll to create maximum damage – ignoring the fact that ICM are a professional company with a reputation to uphold & that the funder doesn’t get to set the questions

    – Oakeshott is a disgrace, should take the whip away from him – ignoring the information gleaned from the poll

    – Oakeshott is just trying to get Cable for Leader – ignoring the procedure by which a Leader has to be overthrown.

    If it was indeed Oakeshott, he is a wealthy man who can choose what he wants to do with his money & maybe it would be better to speak with him before slagging him off – he may have had a perfectly justified reason for paying for this poll.

  • Simon McGrath 27th May '14 - 5:38pm

    So Vince and Oakshott go on holiday in February.
    http://www.libdemvoice.org/two-liberal-democrats-on-holiday-together-they-must-be-plotting-to-overthrow-nick-clegg-38331.html

    And polling starts on 4 April.

    No connection at all between these events

  • ‘Oakeshott … is a wealthy man who can choose what he wants to do with his money’. Well, up to a point, surely? Are there no limits to what would be acceptable?

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 27th May '14 - 5:52pm

    MartinB – “maybe it would be better to speak with him before slagging him off – he may have had a perfectly justified reason for paying for this poll.”

    There has been speculation about whether Lord Oakeshott was behind the poll since last night, and he has stayed silent. I think I speak for the whole LDV editorial team in saying that we would happy to publish a post from him whenever he wishes.

  • David Evershed 27th May '14 - 6:06pm

    Lord Oakeshott has been campaigning against Lib Dems being in the coalition (and thus against Nick Clegg) ever since it was formed. He seems to hate Conservatives more than he loves Lib Dems.

    He is entitled to his view but whenever he appears on TV or radio he is introduced as being close to Vince Cable.

    Since Vince Cable is in the coalition Cabinet, it is high time Vince dissocciated himself from Oakeshott’s views.

  • Constituency polls are notoriously unreliable . For example there was one for the Hartlepool by-election which put Labour on 53% and us on 20%. The actual result was 40.7% vs 34.2%.

    There was a by-election on Thursday in Dormanstown within Redcar constituency.
    The 2007 result was three seats easily won by Labour.
    2011 saw us gain two of the three seats. The top Lib Dem and top Labour candidates were only separated by 5 votes.
    In Thursday’s by-election we won by 12 votes.
    This is the reality in Redcar and in Sheffield Hallam (where we won the local elections) not that produced by a voodoo poll.

  • David Evershed 27th May '14 - 6:14pm

    I wonder what Mathew Oakeshott’s view is of Vince Cable’s performance when selling off Royal Mail to private investors at a price well below its value. He will be asked next time he is on Newsnight.

  • May I just ask if more import might be given to the results of the polling of an independent, reputable outfit, or can they just be thrown away because Oakeshott commissioned it?

  • Also, isn’t it rather staggeringly rich of Clegg’s defenders to baulk at the tactics used by his opponents given his own history under Kennedy and Campbell.

  • David Evershed 27th May '14 - 6:21pm

    BBC reports as follows:

    Vince Cable has said a opinion poll commissioned by a Lib Dem peer into Nick Clegg’s electoral appeal was “totally inexcusable”.

    Mr Cable said the ICM poll was paid for by Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott – a former ally of his – without his or Mr Clegg’s approval.

  • @Jimble: “May I just ask if more import might be given to the results of the polling of an independent, reputable outfit, or can they just be thrown away because Oakeshott commissioned it?”

    Yes, quite. There are legitimate reasons to question the validity of polling like this (relatively small samples, the poor record of polls on hypothetical questions, etc.) but the person who commissioned it makes no difference to the results.

  • As someone who is not a party member or have ever been a member of any party.
    I have been critical of the coalition and I have been critical of the Liberal democrats on numerous occasions.
    I do however find it astonishing that as Lord Oakshott commissioned the poll, organised and funded the Libdem4change site, he should have at the very least had the Cojones to sign the petition.

  • David Evershed 27th May '14 - 6:41pm

    Looks like the poll was conducted in April and Oakeshott deliberately planned it to be leaked to the Guardian straight after the election results to damage the leader of the party.

  • I cannot believe this man has spent this amount of money on a project that will only divide – not unite the party. As I have already said – we lost the ward I was helping in by 13 votes to Labour – I know we could have won with this extra money – does anybody have this idiots e mail address / tel no – so I can ask him to kick start our campaign for next year? We havnt a bean left in the kitty. Items for the manifesto? – Get rid of the unelected H of Lords – especially those unelected , unaccountable silly people who thing they can alter our politics by splashing their money about

  • Well, this certainly is not a shocker… whilst I appreciate that he probably did this believing it to be for the best, as Lib Dems, we need to better than this – Mandarin politics helps no one and only serves to make look even more ‘just like the rest of them.’ (Before anyone says it, even if (EVEN IF) Clegg came to power in a coup attempt like this one, that does not justify this or make it anymore legitimate.)

  • @Tom Papworth. Apologies, I missed your response earlier.

    Weighted results are given – anyone who wishes to check can view the tables (http://www.icmresearch.com/data/media/pdf/2014_libdems_4polls.pdf) – and the weighting doesn’t help Clegg. If anything it makes it worse for him since the most underrepresented group in the poll is students.

    Yes, the poll was sat on. Would you rather it was published BEFORE the elections? Do you think that would have been less damaging for the party?

  • Where is the evidence Matthew funded our site, prove it or don’t make such allegations without proof.

  • @david
    “Where is the evidence Matthew funded our site, prove it or don’t make such allegations without proof.”

    I take it that comment is directed at me.

    I think it has been quite apparent from postings over the last week that I support the removal Clegg AND a change in direction from the party as a whole.

    Ok maybe it was not entirely appropriate for me to say that oakshott funded the libdems4change site, however considering the timing, the day before the poll he commissioned through ICM was published I would say it is fairly probable.

    At the end of the day, I support the campaign, I support the Liberal Democrat members finally being given a voice and to be express their discontent with the leadership. I believe left leaning voters have been silenced for to long by overbearing attitudes of those who are on the right of the party.
    However, just because I support that, does not mean I will blindly follow all guns blazing and abandon what I think is principled. And in my opinion, Lord Oakshott should have had the courage to put his signature to the petition just as many Councillors, activists and potential 2015 candidates have done so.

  • Ian Hurdley 28th May '14 - 8:29am

    See, there was no need for them to conceal their corporate identity yesterday. The could just have signed their petition appeal, “The Usual Suspects”, and we would all have known where we stood.

  • Why is it ok for Lord Ashcroft to use his wealth to commission polls that highlight the struggles of the Tories, but not Lord Oakeshott for the Lib Dems?

    Don’t you want to know where you’re going wrong, and what the constituencies at risk are at the next general election? Is ignorance preferable?

  • Helen Tedcastle 27th May ’14 – 5:31pm
    Of course Matthew Oakeshott will be criticised but the the real damage has been done to us by the electorate. Let’s not forget the context of all this.

    Helen Tedcastle is absolutely right. Some people are not seeing the wood for the trees.

  • Neale Upstone 28th May '14 - 10:10am

    I signed the petition. Nick Clegg is responsible for the success or failure of the LibDems within this coalition. There are great successes, but also unforgiveable failures.

    I don’t resent the petition site being set up. It just focused what we could/should have done around other failures to hold the Tories to the coalition agreement.

    I hate the fact that a wealthy person can throw money at politics, but hey… let’s stop a minute. This is at least (now) out in the open. We can see plainly what someone is trying to achieve. It’s far more transparent than Cameron’s £50k/yr club of lobbyists.

    Also.. if i had £20k to spend. Would I give it to LD HQ? No! LD HQ has become “top down management”. We need a bold innovative leader.

  • David Evershed 28th May '14 - 10:38am

    It is not the funding of the constituency polls which is damaging , it is that the results were fed to the Guardian and published as the lead story and splashed on the front page.

    It seems the most likely to do this are the polling company or the person who commissioed the study, Mathew Oakeshott.

  • All should read the latest newsletter emailed by Mark Pack and how it assesses the approach taken by the ICM poll. Added to the seeming attempt by Oakeshott to conceal his creation of the whole thing we are surely left with (as Vince Cable has now said ) a totally inexcusable action by this peer of the realm. In the current febrile state of British politics have we already forgotten the reasons why we Liberal Democrats have acted as we have and what the effects upon the UK and its citizens might be?

    Provided the Lib Dems hold their nerve and see this coalition through to its full term and provided the economic recovery becomes entrenched and ongoing, history will undoubtedly record that the contribution of this party and its leader to the rescue of the UK from the appalling situation facing all of us in 2010 was crucial and positive. I was one of the 2000 or so Lib Dem conference delegates who overwhelmingly endorsed the coalition agreement in Birmingham in May 2010 – there were probably about 20 hands raised against. We ordinary members were not carried away with the thought of our leaders enjoying the trappings of office, nor did we lack understanding of the immense risk to our party of the decision we were taking. Whatever sneers may come from our opponents at the following statement – we did it for the good of the country. Many of my friends have just lost their Council or European seats, excellent people all of them. However the painful truth is that a period – maybe lengthy – of electoral setback for our party is something we have to live with. Turning inwards upon ourselves and sacrificing a leader who deserves respect and support is the last thing we now need. Read yesterday’s Independent leader.

  • Denis “Whatever sneers may come from our opponents at the following statement – we did it for the good of the country.””

    Yes accepted but the point that is being made by Matthew Huntbach and others is that while supporting the decision to enter Coalition, it is the decisions which were taken afterwards which have ensured the loss of so many Councillors and MEPS. In short that the leadership looks far too comfortable with the Tories and has passed Tory policies even though they weren’t in the Coalition Agreement. For clarity, I don’t think that Clegg had any choice but to enter into Coalition but I was aghast at the Rose Garden and everything that transpired afterwards. I also think that is going to make it very difficult for the Lib Dems to disassociate themselves from the Tories in May 2015.

  • Peter Chegwyn 28th May '14 - 12:00pm

    Denis says @ 10.57am: “the painful truth is that a period – maybe lengthy – of electoral setback for our party is something we have to live with.”

    No it isn’t. The reason why so many people are arguing for a change of leadership and direction is because we do NOT want to live with a lengthy period of electoral setback. After the electoral setbacks already suffered in 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014 we want to start re-building and re-gaining seats while there is still time and a reasonable base on which to re-build.

    To just do as Nick Clegg has said, carry on as before, don’t change a thing, don’t change the messenger, don’t change the message, just ‘shout it louder’ is a sure-fire recipe for another electoral disaster in 2015 when over 1,000 councillors have to defend their seats along with all of our MPs.

    Nick Clegg is an honourable and decent man who has led our party into government, something we could only dream about for decades past. For that he should always have our respect. But there comes a time for all Leaders to make way for someone new with a fresh approach who can re- invigorate and re-unite their Party. For Nick Clegg that time has surely come. He is toxic with the voters. They simply don’t listen to or trust anything he says. If the Party decides to continue with him as Leader then we can expect another hefty drubbing at the polls in 2015 only this time it will be a large number of our MPs along with even more councillors who will lose their seats.

    I don’t want to see us hammered again. I’m sure none of us do. We all have different views on the best way forward but one thing is clear. To simply continue with the same message from the same messenger for another year really isn’t an option, it is simply going to result in the same electoral outcome in 2015 as in 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014. And an even harder task for whoever then has to pick-up the pieces of whatever is left.

  • If there’s one cackhanded bit of phrasing I could wish to see less of than “resilient,” it’s variations on “hold your nerve”/”lose your nerve.” The problems experienced by the Lib Dems have nothing to do with “nerve.” These are both just ways of trying to load positive emotional content into passive inaction, to make a pathological numbness at a worse-than-expected drubbing appear to be the just, right, and proper thing.
    It’s not. It’s a sickness. Nothing contributes to extinction faster than a failure to learn from mistakes. The key to survival is adaptability, and the key to adaptability is the willingness to change and to get rid of harmful habits and useless appurtenances, no matter how emotionally attached one may be to them. If one cannot adapt in politics, one perishes whether one “holds one’s nerve” or not.

  • I respect what both Phyllis and Peter Chegwyn say and the time could well come when the party would be better with a fresh leader. I doubt if Nick Clegg would argue with that. But that time is not now. The period of coalition with the Conservatives with all its good and bad points (it will be obvious from my remarks above that I consider the good as outweighing the bad) belongs to and will always be associated with Nick Clegg’s leadership. He must and we must see this through and then consider the situation after the next election in all its facets. Anyone who thinks we can sack the Deputy Prime Minister and carry on with the coalition as if nothing had happened is in cloud cuckoo land and to me it is now absolutely essential that for the first time in recorded British history a peacetime coalition is proved to be a viable way of governing this country for a full term. During the next year, even if the coalition survives, there is no way any new Lib Dem leader could achieve meaningful change in government policy in a Lib Dem direction. The electorate would regard our attempting to curry favour by chucking Clegg overboard very negatively and would not reward us at the ballot box in any way.

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