LibLink: Julian Astle – Is Nick Clegg’s time as Lib Dem leader coming to an end?

Is Nick Clegg’s time as Lib Dem leader coming to an end? Over on his Telegraph blog, Julian Astle poses a question which undoubtedly deserves a place on John Rentoul’s list of Questions To Which The Answer Is No – while also answering another QTWTAIN which others have posed.

And here’s why Julian think Clegg is here to stay:

First, the coalition is supported by the political equivalent of the “automatic stabilisers” which ensure that the weaker the coalition partners become, the stronger the coalition gets. Why? Because just as turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, so politicians don’t  trigger general elections if they think they or their party colleagues might lose their seats. And with the Lib Dems’ poll rating going through the floor and the Conservatives still trailing the Labour party in general election voting intention, neither side has an incentive to pull the plug.

Second, the fact that hasn’t (and won’t) change is that nobody, Clegg’s most vociferous critics included, has got a better strategy either for the Liberal Democrats or the country. Last year’s general election dealt Clegg an almost impossibly difficult hand, but that’s the hand the party has got, whoever leads it.

“Couldn’t the Lib Dems remain in government but change their leader?”, some wonder, posing what is a strong contender for the “Questions to which the answer is No” series. Should a leadership election take place, the candidates for the deputy prime minister’s job would have to take three months out to tour the country, playing to the gallery, desperately trying to convince party members that they dislike David Cameron and George Osborne more than their rivals do. Not only would they make themselves and their party look ridiculous, but they would probably kill the coalition in the process.

So as the debate about the future of the Lib Dems unfolds, let’s not get sidetracked by the idea that Nick Clegg’s job is under threat.

You can read the whole piece here.

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36 Comments

  • It might not be from members, but I do wonder sometimes whether he considers if it’s all worth it – he’d only be human if he did. There will, in 2014, come a point when the government has to appoint a new EU Commissioner – and if the reports over the weekend about Baroness Ashton are true, it could be sooner rather than later. Nick would I’m sure be interested, given his background, and if he went in as a direct replacement with the External Relations portfolio it would suit him down to the ground.

    While I don’t think he’ll go soon, a new leader for the party at that point would make it more likely that, in the run-up to the election, we could make our differences with the Tories clearer (maybe the leader wouldn’t sit in Cabinet, leaving the DPM post for Vince Cable?)

  • If Vince Cable became DPM ConservativeHome would explode. Just thinking about it makes me smile. Clegg has to stay because there is simply no point in dropping someone else in the hole he has created. What has to change is the strategy which has been utterly woeful in the last 12 months. I think defenestrating Clegg in 2014 or late 2013 is a likely and attractive option for the party.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 10th May '11 - 1:50pm

    YouGov are conducting a survey this week about the LibDem leadership. Wonder who commissioned it?
    Tim Farron
    Vince Cable
    Chris Huhne
    Catherine Ashton
    Votes on a postcard, in order of preference.

  • As long as Clegg remains he will draw the flack for coalition policy.

    The argument that the coalition must remain together because neither party will win an election will result in a situation where the public disapprove of the government, but neither government party will have the guts to withdraw. They will stay for purely selfish reasons and everything they do will be seen as desperate politicians ruining the country before the public can judge them. Although I suppose Tory voters will see it differently. They’ll love what Cameron is doing. Shame about the lib dem vote.

    To be honest, I can’t see the coalition lasting till October.

  • “… just as turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, so politicians don’t trigger general elections if they think they or their party colleagues might lose their seats.”

    One interesting question is how these calculations will change when (and if) the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill becomes law. Certainly things will get more complicated, and it may well be that the Lib Dems could pull out of the coalition without triggering a general election.

  • @ Andrew R

    “Clegg has to stay because there is simply no point in dropping someone else in the hole he has created.”

    Let’s get this straight: Clegg has not created any hole at all. Instead has been remorselessly pilloried by the right wing press and left-wing opportunists (intent on making the most of the unpopularity of cuts) and forced to suffer for the whole economic and financial situation of the country. He has been scapegoated incessantly and shamefully by the press since the first leadership debate last year, as have other senior colleagues in the party, particularly Vince Cable.

    The situation he has been put in is totally intolerable and speaks volumes about the massive vested interests ranged against anyone who wants to change our broken system of power politics in this country, from the Tories’ rich banker friends to Labour’s public sector trade union paymasters.

    Any other leader – Huhne, Cable or anyone else – would have been subjected to exactly the same vilification and scapegoating. The proof of this? In any other party and at any other time, there would have been a queue of contenders waiting to oust a leader who had just suffered such a bad electoral defeat. Presently, there are precisely none. That is because they know the situation they would be put in if they took over leadership.

  • @George W. Potter

    I seem to recall you where calling for Nick Clegg to go back in January and tabling a motion for a vote of no confidence at the spring conferences .

    Surly your opinion could not have changed so soon, especially since Clegg has done nothing to improve his standing since, and indeed the opposite and he has only made things worse for the party.

  • George W. Potter
    Posted 10th May 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
    @Kirsten

    “I imagine it will more likely have been commissioned by a right wing newspaper, Lord Ashcroft or Labour. The motive will of course be to stir up trouble and put pressure on Clegg and also potentially on the coalition.”

    Can we not do a quick fund-raising operation to conduct an opinion poll about what people think about overseas tax avoiders like Lord Ashcroft distorting our democracy and poisoning politics with their untold millions?

    I think it would be good to put people like Lord Ashcroft under the spotlight again, considering how important they are to funding the Conservative party and what a persistent source of venom and nastiness they are.

  • @R C

    I’m afraid it is not the right wing press or labour oppurtunism, Clegg has made a serious of diabolical, unforced errors from the ‘no more broken promises’ broadcast right through to the AV referendum.

  • R C

    Instead has been remorselessly pilloried by the right wing press and left-wing opportunists (intent on making the most of the unpopularity of cuts) and forced to suffer for the whole economic and financial situation of the country. He has been scapegoated incessantly and shamefully by the press since the first leadership debate last year, as have other senior colleagues in the party, particularly Vince Cable.

    There is an element of truth in this. But, as Gordon Brown would tell you, a remorselessly negative media portrayal does not come out of nowhere. If your policies and party aren’t working then the media will seize on this weakness and attempt to destroy you.

    And, continuing on the Gordon Brown theme, Clegg has not yet been subjected to abuse based on a disability he might have, a medical diagnosis he doesn’t have, and a nationality that doesn’t appeal to home counties bigots. Frankly the media’s treatment of Clegg is nowhere near anything Gordon Brown was subjected to, and did you see him complain? Confess he cries? Have his party bleat about how terribly unfair it all is?

    Clegg simply isn’t cut out for the top, and neither it looks like are his party.

  • OK – so if there is no alternative but to soldier on then what will be fundamentally different when we come to the local elections next year?

    Repeat the 2011 shellacking (and remember that many mets and bigger councils with elections in 2010 had net losses then as well) and there is a serious danger of fundamental damage to local party organisations.

  • “OK – so if there is no alternative but to soldier on then what will be fundamentally different when we come to the local elections next year?”

    Nothing will be _fundamentally_ different, but there will be a difference of degree, because the spending cuts will really have begun to bite by next year.

  • Hywel – heres my five suggestions what to do…

    1. Stop blaming the media for what’s happening – as @g rightly says its just a mirror what is going on and he’s right – if you think this is bad….

    2. Stop blaming the voters for not giving you AV as if they’re all a bunch of dolts. I’ve just posted again on another thread where a decent post just looks ridiculous for making this sort of assertation. Get over it!

    3. Decide once and for all via conference what sort of party you want. Being in government has just exposed the dividing lines between where the party has been taken by its leadership, where its activists think they are, and a bemused (and angry) electorate – a recipe for electoral catastrophe.

    4. Stop banging on Tory Lite style about the mess Labour left the economy – when exactly is this line going to be dropped or are you still going to be saying it four years hence? – the electorate want to know what you are doing about it , not constantly preferring to blame someone else. It’s called being grown up.

    5. If Clegg is staying then he needs to eat a big piece of humble pie and say outright that mistakes have been made and he is sorry. Uncomfortable though it might be it may just resonate again with the honest principles that he once expoused. Carry on in the same way and every local election starting with next year he will be punished – and don’t moan about it being unfair (see 1 above) – its politics and if you don’t like it then stay away.

  • The last three leadership elections took 2 months not 3 BTW. Labours in 2010 formally took about 6 weeks (ie that’s what it would have taken if there had been a contest!).

  • Nick Clegg is clearly toxic but his last act of sacrifice as leader has to be to stay the course here, or most of the course, because nobody will benefit from being handed the current poisoned chalice of being leader of the Lib Dems, it’s time for some long term thinking now.

  • @KL – I completely agree and I think the scenario you describe could well be on the cards. I suspect Nick has been considering it himself and a dignified departure about a year before the next GE would be good for both him and the party’s electoral prospects. And you’re right, he would be ideally suited for the EU post and would probably enjoy it (more than he’s enjoying his current job, no doubt!).

    Personally, I still think Nick has done a good job in extremely difficult circumstances. He made what are – in retrospect – a few errors of judgment, but then who hasn’t? It’s easy to say now that we should have done x instead of y, but who can honestly say they would have made all the right calls without the benefit of hindsight? I can’t think of a single one of our MPs who has unfailingly advocated decisions that always turn out to be the right choices. In most cases, Nick has shown good judgment and IMHO is a very good party leader.

    But public caricatures tend to get stuck regardless of reality (look at Gordon Brown). I think there’s still a reasonable chance that Nick will be able to turn around not just the party’s poll ratings but his own personal image over the next four years. But if he doesn’t then we’ll need a fresh face for the 2015 election. In that case, a changeover date of 2014 would be about right – any earlier and the new leader wouldn’t be very ‘fresh’ by 2015, any later and he/she wouldn’t have time to establish themselves.

    Thing is, I’m not convinced by the prospect of any of the other supposed contenders. Vince Cable hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory so far. Chris Huhne has good tactical skills, but his recent comments sound a bit whiny (I’d rather he was outspoken on policy rather than campaigning tactics, which most voters don’t give a toss about). David Laws and Danny Alexander would both be too divisive and seen as too close to the Conservatives. I’m not enamoured of Tim Farron and not convinced by his TV / interview skills to date.

    Who else might be a contender? Simon Hughes? More of a senior party statesman than a dynamic new leader… Sarah Teather? Jo Swinson? The return of Charles Kennedy? (I’d secretly love to see Charlie back but not sure if he’s through his personal issues yet.)

  • Norman Fraser 10th May '11 - 7:20pm

    There appears to be a concerted effort on this site to prop up Clegg by ignoring reality. The last few days have been downright embarrassing, watching Clegg first lose four elections single-handed, then try to bounce back by talking tough in opposition to NHS legislation which he himself has praised and endorsed. I have no faith in Clegg to deliver real change on this legislation but if he does it will only because the Lib Dem Spring Conference forced the change on him. Clegg’s lack of political skill has moved past ineptitude to become tiresome. He has become a byword for the betrayal of Lib Dem principles and we can only start to work to reclaim our reputation when he has safely been stuffed in a cupboard somewhere.

  • Finally some words of sanity, @Norman Fraser. Like Blair after Iraq, nobody apart from the hardest of hardcore LDs will listen to Clegg. Here in the North he is, literally, a joke and byword for broken promises. I know many LDs who do not post here who have either left the party or refuse to vote LD again until Clegg is gone. Not voting Labour, but actively abstaining. I sense a lot of delusion and people lying to themselves here, just like the delusion Labour suffered from after Iraq.

    People here can call me a Labour troll (which I am not, as I *want* to be able to vote LD again, but you’ve broken my trust) if they want, but name-calling is not going to help the situation now. The public are rejecting the LDs and people here are calling the public names. What hope for the party if they refuse to listen to the left-of-centre voters they courted in the 2010 election who they now call trolls?

  • Some comments here are just such pitiful “group think” it hurts. The only reality I will admit to is that Nick Clegg has been heaped unjustly with so much blame that it will indeed now be very hard for him to regain credibility as a leader. Not because he is a bad leader, but because he has been in the line of such a severe barrage of fire for such a long time that he has been transformed into a national hate figure.

    As for blaming him for the AV defeat, that really does take the biscuit for 20/20 hindsight. A referendum on AV was the most anyone could have wrung out of Cameron even if he had been being tortured to within an inch of his life. The reason it was lost was because it was turned into a referendum on Nick Clegg, who had already been scapegoated and victimised. Just remember, this time last year, the polling was strongly in favour of AV.

  • I find some of the defence of Nick Clegg bewildering. I agree with RC (his most passionate defender here and elsewhere) that the personal abuse of the right-wing press is unacceptable, though significantly less than dished out to Gordon Brown, but to suggest that Nick has done nothing to lose the public trust is ludicrous. Leaving aside breaking his tuition fees pledge (n.b. the personal pledge not the manifesto commitment), he has either misled the public, changed his story or changed his supposedly strongly held views on a wide range of issues. I found a few examples fairly quickly.

    In his Observer interview on 6 June, Nick attributed his conversion to faster deficit reduction to his conversation with Mervyn King on 15 May, after the election. In the BBC2 documentary ‘Five Days that Changed Britain’ he changed his story and admitted that he had changed his mind before the election (though he never mentioned it to the electorate).

    In the House of Commons on 22 June 2010 he said that the directors of Forgemasters were seeking public finance “because they didn’t want to dilute their own shareholding in the company”. In a letter to the Chief Executive on 2nd July he admitted that the directors had “made clear to me your own willingness to dilute your equity share.”

    On the Today Program on 7 April 2010 Nick explained why he wanted to avoid a VAT rise, saying, “Well you clearly can’t write budgets in the future but what you can say is that the only way you can avoid a huge hike in VAT, which let’s remember is a regressive tax, is by making sure that you take some of the decisions that we’ve done.” By the time he wrote in the Independent on Sunday on 27 June 2010 he was able to argue that VAT was the tax of choice for Liberals, “When it comes to taxing what people choose to buy and taxing work, it is liberal to come down on the side of consumption rather than payroll taxes.”

    Now we come to the NHS. Although Nick is now promising to defend the NHS against these tory reforms, on the Andrew Marr show on 23 January 2011, when asked whether the major reform was in the Lib Dems’ manifesto he replied, “Actually funnily enough it was. Indeed it was … “ – a point which he had made in his joint introduction to the White Paper where he said, “Our ambition is to once again make the NHS the envy of the world. Liberating the NHS – a blend of Conservative and Liberal Democrat ideas – sets out our plans to do this.”

  • Simon McGrath 10th May '11 - 8:55pm

    @KL
    “While I don’t think he’ll go soon, a new leader for the party at that point would make it more likely that, in the run-up to the election, we could make our differences with the Tories clearer (maybe the leader wouldn’t sit in Cabinet, leaving the DPM post for Vince Cable?”
    Given the enormous damage Vince has done us through his utterly idiotic behaviour on tuition fees I should think the Tories would love him as DPM.
    he should be fired, not promoted.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 10th May '11 - 9:41pm

    This feature has attracted more comments than others today so why is hidden away in the archive?
    Surely it should be in the ‘most read’ section?
    And why has the ‘Recent Comments’ tab been disabled since the weekend?

    I think we should be told…

  • Kirsten says >This feature has attracted more comments than others today so why is hidden away in the archive?

    Er, it isn’t. It’s fourth down, below the three threads posted since. They show up in time order.

    >Surely it should be in the ‘most read’ section?

    The number of comments may equal the number of people who’ve read it. Conversely, other threads may have been read by a lot more people than chose to comment.

    >And why has the ‘Recent Comments’ tab been disabled since the weekend?

    Don’t know for sure, but I’d guess a glitch that hasn’t been fixed yet.

    >I think we should be told…

    Conspiracy theory? Oh joy.
    If LDV disabled anything that linked to negative comments, there’d be no tabs at all, given that a lot of people only ever come on here to be negative.

  • “As for blaming him for the AV defeat, that really does take the biscuit for 20/20 hindsight.”

    Except a number of us were saying a year ago that the AV Referendum was the wrong fight at the wrong time. I was saying last May that it would be lost. Look in the archives if you don’t believe me. As soon as I heard that Clegg had agreed a referendum on AV with the Tories I knew he’d made an enormous strategic blunder. You need to get your head out of the sand.

  • Julian Astle repeats the common claim that the LibDems daren’t leave the coalition because Cameron would then call a General Election and win easily.

    Possibly correct at the moment but not for much longer. Once the fixed-term parliament bill is passed, Cameron won’t have that luxury. The LibDems could leave the coalition and the Tories would have to soldier on as a minority administration.

    Whether, in the long term, such an action would strengthen or weaken the party in the eyes of voters remains to be seen – I guess it depends on the circumstances at the time and the reasons for leaving. But the “we daren’t pull out because we’d be massacred in the resultant election” argument will no longer apply.

  • The Tories won’t call an election until they have rigged the electoral system in their favour. And they certainly won’t relish a campaign which will focus on their plans for the NHS. The Lib Dems still have a decent hand if they are bold enough to play it. Frankly there will be little left to lose by 2015 if they continue along the same course as the last year.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th May '11 - 1:07am

    R C

    As for blaming him for the AV defeat, that really does take the biscuit for 20/20 hindsight.

    I explained here, in Liberal Democrat News and in the London Region Liberal Democrat conference, just why I thought the “Yes” campaign was using the wrong tactics. This was before the opinion poll showing “Yes” was losing came out.

    I explained here and a little later in Liberal Democrat News, just why I thought the line our party was taking on presenting our position on the coalition was wrong. I accepted the situation left little alternative but to go into the coalition, but I explained why I felt the line that was taken by the party’s national image makers at the start was just so wrong.

    Here, and in our presentation of the whole situation following the May 2010 election, our leadership HAS made disastrously wrong decisions, playing into the hands of our opponents. On the coaltiion the line we should have played – and I said it at the time – was that we should play down our influence and make it quite clear from the start we were doing it only because FPTP forced us into it, and most certainy we should NOT present it as some sort of coming together of “liberal” ideologies. Those leading our party and making its national image did the opposite of what I suggested, and look at the result.

    On AV, I said from the start we should play down what it could achieve, agreeing it was a compromise with minor effects, rather than some amazing thing which would transform politics. I said we should explain the system clearly to the people, to avoid the charges that it was “too complicated”, and to scupper the ignorant, illogical and innumerate lines being used against it. Those leading our party and making its national image did the opposite of what I suggested, and look at the result.

    You call this 20/20 hindsight? Look back and see my postings in Liberal Democrat Voice to be quite sure it was foresight.

    I also warned during the time of the leadership election that Nick Clegg would be a disaster as leader, and urged party members not to vote for him.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th May '11 - 2:02am

    Julian Astle

    First, the coalition is supported by the political equivalent of the “automatic stabilisers” which ensure that the weaker the coalition partners become, the stronger the coalition gets. Why? Because just as turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, so politicians don’t trigger general elections if they think they or their party colleagues might lose their seats.

    Well, Clegg and a few other may have comfy jobs they can keep for another four years as “turkeys”, but the same does not apply to the rest of his party. Very many of us lost our local government jobs last week, and more will lose next year and the year after. Why should those of us who have given decades of our time and thousands of our money sit back and see our party destroyed just to keep Clegg and a few others in comfy jobs a little longer?

    It does seem to me that much of the advice given to our party by public commentators is advice which is only really aimed at the interest of the Conservative Party. Well, this is how it has always been – they write what they want to be our story in advance, and call us fools if we don’t act to the lines they’ve given us. But they still kick us in the teeth even when we do – witness the AV referendum and the lies about AV in all the right-wing press, and how they used that to insult and abuse us. We do seem to be wasting so much time and going down so many wrong paths forever chasing this idea that if only we do what the right-wing press tell us we should do, they’ll take us seriously and write nice things about us. They never do, and they never will.

    I think if we put a serious case “We tried working with the Conservatives, but it didn’t work out, and now you the people have seen what they’re like, it looks like you wished you hadn’t voted them in at the last general election – so we’re going to give you a chance to vote them out” could work in our favour. I certainly think it will work better than soldiering on until 2015. My line just after the general election was that it was reasonable to give the Tories two years, and I haven’t changed in that.

    To me, the biggest barrier is actually Labour. I couldn’t call for an early general election until there was a reasonable alternative coalition, and there isn’t now. If we are seriously going to consider bringing this government down, they have to offer one – and that includes policies more than just “stop the cuts”. One thing it must mean is that they go down on their knees and say “Sorry” for their role in this country’s mess. It was on THEIR watch that inequality continued to grow in our country, and that the process by which it was sold out to international financiers continued. They let everything else in this country get run down to the point where it now exists essentially as a place to service a few thousand very wealthy people who have no strong loyalty to it. Britain is now the colony, not the colonisers, the bankers and fat cats are very close in their role and control of this country to the colonial governors we used to send out to civilise/exploit/rule large parts of the rest of the word in the past. And Labour led the process by which they colonised us for 13 years, urging it ever forwards. I remember watching the election results coming in last week, and it was the Labour people I was screaming abuse at – for their smugness, for the stupidity/ignorance/innumeracy of those of them who opposed AV, for the way all they seem to stand for is a desire to get all power for themselves next time round, and for their total refusal to acknowledge their part in this country’s economic and social downfall. Noty a good basis for forming an alternative coalition, is it?

    For all that I have attacked Clegg for his mistakes, I have not accused him of “abandoning principles” or of “making a pact with the devil” for his role in the coalition. I don’t think he has done either – I’ve made clear I accept his situation in May 2010 left little alternative, and that I accept with 57 MPs he’s hardly going to be able to implement the whole Liberal Democrat manifesto. I therefore do regard all these claims of “abandoning principles” as nonsense and have defended Clegg to the hilt when they are made. The reality is that democracy means you have to “abandon your principles” if you don’t win, and accept the right of those who did win the election to put forward their policies and their principles. Otherwise, what should we do? Mount a military coup to force through our policies on the grounds that to accept the election result – we won less than 10% of the MPs – is to “abandon principles”? As I keep saying, the one argument that might support us – that the Tories have so much power and us so little is down to an electoral system which distorts our share of the seats – has been scuppered by the decision of the British people to vote heavily in favour of that electoral system.

    So my line is not that Clegg is a bad man, but that he keeps making mistakes in judgement. I think that’s enough to be able to say “we have seen him at work, and we want someone with more political skills doing his job”. Look, we are the Liberal DEMOCRATS aren’t we? And doesn’t “Democrat” means “someone who believes the people have a right to choose their leader”? I do think we need a new leader soon, and that will need to be one who is pragmatic about the coalition, as well as one with a lot more political nous than Clegg. I’m not saying such a person should be trying “to convince party members that they dislike David Cameron and George Osborne more than their rivals do”, but I am saying it must be someone who clearly rejects the “rose garden love-in” attitude we saw when the coalition was formed. I have put the pragmatic argument for the coalition – that it’s what the people voted for and there’s nothing worth bothering with offered by the Labour Party at present – and that’s enough.

    Above all, let us have a leader who doesn’t think his/her job is to preach down to the party members, but rather someone who wants to work with party activists as a team. Someone who realises what an asset our members are and listens and takes his/her advice primarily from them rather than from City ad-men and PR-people or media commentators who dangle the prospect of support for us, but will always really be Tories.

  • The precise timing of Clegg’s demise as our leader is impossible to judge but he must go. The reason is that he simply lacks judgement. This is the most important atttribute for a Leader. Charlie Kennedy has it in spades; not only over Iraq but in his positioning of the Party to the left of centre which unified and even inspired our Party. he made us proud to be Lib Dems. Despite advice from Vince he included the signed pledge by our candidates on tuition fees. Clegg appointed a right wing political amateur Danny Alexander with 5 years experience in parliament, to head negotiations with experienced clever Tories. Danny & Nick ditched the pledge apparrently in favour of pupil premium as though a personal pledge equates to a manifesto policy. Once they had ditched our collective integrity ther has been no way back.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 11th May '11 - 8:22am

    @ cassie
    You can’t beat a good conspiracy theory.
    Never fails to spice up the proceedings.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th May '11 - 9:10am

    Brian D

    This is the most important atttribute for a Leader. Charlie Kennedy has it in spades; not only over Iraq

    Er, you are aware that it was not Kennedy’s initiative to take this line? In fact he had to be kicked and kicked by party activists into taking it. But at least he listened, and in doing so got it right.

  • Tony Dawson 11th May '11 - 1:02pm

    “Clegg has not created any hole at all.”

    You are suggesting, maybe, he has ALWAYS been in one?

  • Neither Charles Kennedy nor Ming Campbell were anywhere near as unpopular as Clegg, they certainly didn’t lose you all those council seats, or those devolved parliamentary seats, or an AV referendum, and you didn’t have any difficulty getting rid of them.

  • “Thing is, I’m not convinced by the prospect of any of the other supposed contenders.”

    That’s what Labour said a year or two ago when debating just who might be the right person to replace Gordon Brown. The correct answer, of course, was that any of several contenders would have been better than the disastrous decision to dither, do nothing, and let Brown hang on. The same applies now to Clegg and the Lib Dems!

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