Lord Oakeshott departs as a Lib Dem Treasury spokesman

By “mutual agreement”, earlier today Lord Oakeshott stopped being a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman in the Lords. In a lively alternative to the usually banal exchange of letters on such occasions, Oakeshott and Danny Alexander instead exchanged waspish soundbites.

Matthew Oakeshott criticised today’s deal with the banks on bonuses, lending and other matters saying, “If this is robust action on bank bonuses, my name’s Bob Diamond and I’m going to claim my £9m bonus next week”.

Danny Alexander responded on Channel 4 that his “name clearly isn’t Bob Diamond”.

Lord Oakeshott was not “the” Liberal Democrat spokesman in the Lords, a role which falls to Dick Newby. However, he was “a” spokesman. Aside from those in government, the Liberal Democrat peers in the Lords have since the election had a team of lead spokespeople on issues (Dick Newby in this case) along with a varying number of supporting spokespeople (one in the Treasury case, Matthew Oakeshott). There has been a range of views expressed in the last few days as to the exact formal role of the supporting spokespeople which, along with the lead versus supporting spokesperson distinction, helps explain the different comments made at different times.

Channel 4’s Cathy Newman reported, “Lord Oakeshott texted me saying: ‘I’ve decided I wd be more comfortable as a backbencher because I’m v unhappy with banking agreement.'”

Note: post updated to make clearer the situation with spokespeople in the Lords.

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  • toryboysnevergrowup 9th Feb '11 - 10:42pm

    What is interesting here is that the LIbDem response is being fronted up by Alexander rather than Cable, especially given that Cable has been the one involved in discussions with the banks. One could speculate as to why that is……………

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 9th Feb '11 - 10:44pm

    Matthew Oakeshott criticised today’s deal with the banks on bonuses, lending and other matters saying, “If this is robust action on bank bonuses, my name’s Bob Diamond and I’m going to claim my £9m bonus next week”.
    Danny Alexander responded on Channel 4 that his “name clearly isn’t Bob Diamond”.

    Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, is he, our Danny?

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 9th Feb '11 - 10:49pm

    Isn’t it interesting that a Lib Dem spokesman said Oakeshott couldn’t remain a spokesman because he didn’t support the “party’s policy”?

    That would be the Coalition Party, I assume.

  • Will Lord Oakeshott remain the head of Cables business advisor group. If he does then this will tell us much. Note how Cable has left it to Alexander to promote this policy. Is Oakeshott acting as his mouthpiece?

  • Alexander was well rattled on telly tonight – the only time he gets away a bit with his hard-man line is in the Commons when no one can answer back. He’s easy meat even to fairly weak TV presenters.

    One of these days someone will really take him apart on TV and I can’t wait to see it.

  • Elbowing a non-government-post-holding non-Commons Lib Dem from their post because they’re not staying on-message by the standards of the Coalition is worrying.

  • Still not just Alexander who’s coming apart. Cameron totally got it wrong or lied at PMQ or tried to be clever and failed over Sure Start budget,

    You really have got to take a microscope to every word that slides out his mouth.

    Still it was nice to hear him make it clear that Trident was going ahead despite Tim Farron claiming a victory on the issue. Looks like that’s another LibDem commitment broken.

  • This agreement is unacceptable it will allow the Banks to continue down the road to ruin. The Government has chosen to appease the billionaires presumbly convinced by their threats, although the fact that the Conservatives received half their funding from the City may have something to do with it. Do the politician just not get it, the electorate regard these bonuses as obscene.

  • Cable seems to have turned to guerilla wafare, after the Telegraph sting. It’s as if he has sent Oakeshott out as a suicide bomber against Osborne’s pitiful bank agreement.

  • David from Ealing 9th Feb '11 - 11:20pm

    Olly, I have never been impressed with Danny Alexander. God knows how he’s got where he has.

  • greg Tattersall 9th Feb '11 - 11:56pm

    Well done to Oakshott for saying what he did.At least we know there is at least one lib dem peer who will speak up and defend the hard working taxpayers who bailed out the banks for their reckless behaviour.

  • LabourLiberal 10th Feb '11 - 12:00am

    In fairness, Alexander has done a pretty good job of defending the indefensible since last May – he’s certainly handled an impossible burden far better than the rest of his fellow Lib Dem honchos, Clegg, Laws and Cable. But if he’s genuinely said his “name clearly isn’t Bob Diamond”, he’s just lost all that credibility. That was exactly the point of the accusation, you buffoon!

  • Danny Alexander – Diamond geezer!

  • Sky News reports…

    “The peer, who used to be a City financier, told Sky News: “I’m afraid the banks have taken the Treasury for a ride.
    “So I have decided I should say that from the backbenches, not the front.”
    Earlier, he branded the long-awaited deal with the UK’s biggest banks as “pitiful” and the Treasury negotiators were “incompetent”.
    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is said to be “furious” at Lord Oakeshott’s comments.”

    Are we seeing lines being drawn inside Liberal Democrats, maybe who knows…

    But to be honest after the revelations of Conservative contributions from the city I expected any deal to be in favour of the banks no matter what spin is said about the deal…

  • I think it’s you that have that one wrong LabourLiberal, the point Alexander was making, in a not very original way, was that it WAS robust action. Matthew Oakeshott’s decibel level has been going up over the last few days, I noticed, and I am not really surprised it has ended like this. Good on him.

  • LabourLiberal 10th Feb '11 - 12:20am


    I may have had a few drinks tonight, but…:

    “If this is robust action on bank bonuses, my name’s Bob Diamond “, followed by:

    his “name clearly isn’t Bob Diamond”.

    Means that it isn’t robust action, surely? Or am I missing something?

  • I actually took Alexander’s ‘His name clearly isn’t Bob Diamond’ to be a subtle and humorous reference to the fact that even he thinks it isn’t ‘robust action’.

  • Well done Lord Oakeshott. At Last! A senior Lib Dem who is prepared to tell the truth and seems not one jot afraid of Clegg, Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the “Coallitiion”. The bankers had nothing to fear from their friends in the Tory Party, and now they have got a white flag from the Lib Dem “leadership” as well. Just watch those bonuses now. As for Clegg and Cameron, you are really are in it together; and as for Alexander, I have just seen the most awful performance imaginable from him on the BBC news channel. The word “pitiful” keeps springing up this week.

  • I wonder if this is just a higher profile sign of a growing divide. The LD ministers are increasingly falling into two camps – the human shields who support Conservative policies irrespective of how extreme and a much less partisan group. I watched a bit of Vince’s performance in the BIS session in Parlt yesterday and he kept a very close focus on a policy supported across the House and avoided partisan jibes. I also notice how Chris Huhne has been staying clear and concentrating on the detail of his brief. Meanwhile Clegg , Alexander and Stunnell blunder on and Laws schemes away. Presumably Oakeshott will not be alone for long. Month by month the list of disaffected peers and MPs will grow.

  • Laws is the answer

  • Grammar Police 10th Feb '11 - 8:23am

    @ matt, I suspect the “mutual consent” business is about avoiding a resignation following the deal rather than a sacking.
    (I suspect Oakshott said “I’m quitting” and the response was “that’s fine”)

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 10th Feb '11 - 8:28am

    “Clearly Cameron and Clegg where lying last month when they said they would allow “disagreements” and “differences” between parties to be more public.”

    Oh, I don’t know. How about this from the BBC?

    “More than 90 prominent Liberal Democrat councillors, including the leaders of 18 local authorities, have criticised the scale and pace of government cuts.
    In a letter to the Times, they say cuts will have “an undoubted impact on all front-line council services, including care services to the vulnerable”.
    They also accuse ministers of “denigrating” councils in the media.”

  • Despite the best efforts of the Party to spin + diminish Oakeshott’s role, this is clearly yet another sign that the Coalition is simply tearing the Lib Dems apart.

    Seeing the hateful Danny Alexander trying to appear macho on the news last night was disturbing.

    This, on top of the letter to the Times today from 92 angry + disenfranchised Lib Dem councillors, is just the beginning. Clegg has thus far protected himself by surrounding his position with sycophants like Cable, Alexander, Teather etc. It will not be too long before the Lib Dem Ministers begin to depart, leaving Clegg and his love-in with the Tory Party in tatters.

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 10th Feb '11 - 9:26am

    The Mail has this:

    … last night a source close to Mr Clegg said: ‘He has been nothing but a pain in the a*** for years and this is the last straw.’

    (I think the source was referring to Oakeshott rather than Clegg, though it’s not entirely clear.)

  • I think this proves what slippery customers the banks are and that with the Tories being only half-hearted (if that) in their efforts to bring them to heel, the Lib Dems on their own faced a massive challenge when set against powerful and wealthy vested interests.

    However, while in office, Labour didn’t even try to restrain the banks. Look at the poor deal they negotiated under the terms of the bailout. That was a sham as well. So I don’t think the Labour supporters here have much to crow about, given their party’s record of caving in to the banksters.

  • Why is it that when Lib Dems disagree with each other their “party is being torn apart” and when Labour and Conservative figures disagree with each other (as they often do, and equally as vigorously) there is nothing like the hyperbole. Dissent is healthy. Which makes Andrew Stunnell’s dismissal of the councillors’ statement as “pointless debate” all the more depressing.

    All in all, three cheers for Lord Oakeshott. “Project Merlin”, as well as being stupidly named, was ridiculous. The “increase” in lending is not even an increase, in real terms. Back to the worst of New Labour.

  • I see no Iceberg 10th Feb '11 - 9:48am

    In what universe does Clegg get “furious” at Oakeshotte instead of a Treasury that had shown “an awful combination of arrogance and incompetence” in negotiations and got lending commitments which were “weak and waffly” while “viable” firms were being starved of funds ?

    Danny Alexander was a punchline last night while Clegg continues to look more out of touch by the day.
    12 weeks to the May elections. Cameron proves the Trident pledge was another worthless one, the Big Society car crash keeps rolling on over the top of the CAB and other vital services and to top it all the AV Vote was hit by a body-blow wrecking amendment which Clegg cannot bear to speak about.

    The Osborne clique in the Treasury and around Cameron (including Clegg) simply have no conception of how despised the bankers are and after yesterdays Conservative Party City funding revelations the Bankers ‘problem’ isn’t going anywhere and is going to get worse and worse as the months and years go by.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 10th Feb '11 - 9:49am

    I think that we are forgetting that Vince was the one having the discussions with the banks – what happened to accountability, getting Beaker to provide cover clearly isn’t the answer..

  • Nick (not Clegg) 10th Feb '11 - 9:52am

    At last, a LibDem parliamentarian with some balls. Well done, Lord Oakeshott. And a message from the grass roots on the same day. Perhaps the party is beginning to find its voice

    It makes me almost wish I was going to Conference next month

  • @Nick (not Clegg)

    Methinks anyone going to the conference needs a tin hat and flak jacket – I’ve still got mine from my Labour Party days – Oh happy memories 🙂

  • Another day another disaster. With the big cash splash for the banks due
    Osborne has cobbled together a shambolic deal most of which is unenforceable.
    Not surprising after it was revealed that the City is picking 50% of the tab for running
    the Tory Party. Yes I know the Unions underwrite Labour but does that make it ok then?
    Danny Boy is obviously trying to outperform Slasher Osborne.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 10th Feb '11 - 2:40pm

    @ EcoJon,

    Perhaps, like Walter Wolfgang, you needed protection from your stewards? I used to be a steward at LibDem conferences, but I did not manhandle people nor physicaly eject them from the auditorium.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Feb '11 - 7:39pm

    “there is such a thing as collective responsibility”

    Unfortunately, in this aspect of government, there appears to be collective irresponsibilty. Oakshott wants some ‘beef’. On offer is really cheap salami.

  • Jonathan Hunt 10th Feb '11 - 9:55pm

    What should worry us all is the fact that the writ of the leader runs to party as well as to coalation spokespeople.

    Oakeshott’s departure shows that we must have a separation of powers between the leader of the coalition and that of the party.

    Otherwise it will be impossible for the party to develop the kind of independent thinking or discussion that we need to reassert truly Liberal Democrat principles and values into formulating the radical and very different policy platform on which we fight the next election.

    If Clegg and his sycophant cronies are in command of the party and can police all independent thought, we are doomed to having to defend the coalition at the next election. And, worse, thinking in coalition terms of diluted Toryism.

    It is time we let the leader and his ministers get on with running the country for another four awful years. And let us devote our time unfettered to putting the party first

  • @Jonathan Hunt

    It’s too late the public know that the Party is toothless and that Clegg’s the Main Man so they’ll take their revenge at the next GE.

  • Just noticed Mark’s reference to Dick Newby in his piece. All I can say is that we have heard a lot more in the media over the months from Oakeshott than we ever have from Newby. Or are we not supposed to hear from our Lords’ Treasury spokesman? My impression has been that Oakeshott has been doing exactly what he should over the months, and has had to fall on his sword for trying to campaign publicly for what was always supposed to be LD policy!

  • Jonathan Hunt 11th Feb '11 - 11:35pm

    Matthew Harris should realise that we are in entirely new territory where many of the traditional conventions no longer exist.

    We must learn to differentiate between ministers in the coalition, who as in any government are bound by collective responsibility, and party spokesmen who, if responsible to anything or anyone, owe their allegience to the party and its manifesto,

    That is why there may have to be a separation of powers, where Nick Clegg commands the parliamentary party in government and another form of leadership controls spokespersons and other whose first loyalty is to the party.

    While I argue that we as party members should ignore the coalition and let it get on with governing the country, we should be working on radical new policies aimed at securing victory for the party and our beliefs and values in 2015. We ain’t going to achieve that by by relying on the succes of the coalition.

    Voters look forward, never backwards.

    So our spokespeople are rather large piggies in the middle, not involved in making government policy, but expected to blindly support it. As we grow closer to an election, we must expect them to be championing the party’s policies rather than those of the coalition.

    If the leader and deputy prime minister can sack them at will for doing so, we will find ourselves in unnesssary conflict.

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