That poll on Nick’s leadership – what the papers say

Strangely, that Liberal Democrat Voice poll which showed that members were split 47%-46% on whether Nick Clegg should still be Liberal Democrat leader at the next election has attracted a bit of coverage in the press.

The Guardian suggests that:

Clegg is vulnerable because he is seen as one of the few people at the top of the party who is ideologically sympathetic to the Conservatives.

Well, that’s maybe because Polly Toynbee and the Guardian are always trying to paint him that way. David Cameron, on the other hand, who is probably in a better position to judge, is always whinging about how that pesky Nick Clegg is stopping him from doing the proper Tory stuff he really wants to do.

The Daily Mail says David Cameron is going around telling people Nick Clegg’s position is precarious. That would be the same David Cameron who’s having severe problems with about a third of his parliamentary party.

The Sun says Cameron is frightened Clegg will be toppled. He clearly hasn’t either read the poll, which only has 14% of people wanting him to go this year or next, or the Liberal Democrat constitution. There are only two ways to trigger a hostile leadership election: A no confidence motion must be passed by a majority of MPs or 75 local parties, after quorate general meetings, can send a request to the party president.  I cannot see either of these things happening any time soon. They also, bizarrely, say that Vince Cable has put himself forward as leader. Let’s look at what the Financial Times article actually said:

Should a vacancy arise for the leadership of his party, might he be a candidate? “I wouldn’t exclude it,” he replies in his flat, nasal tones.

It’s not quite watch out, Cleggie, I’m coming to get you, is it?

The Mirror mentions it in passing in a story which says that plans to issue a revised Coalition Agreement have been delayed.

The Liberal Democrat blogosphere, on the other hand, has been largely silent which indicates that we really don’t see this kind of stuff as a big deal. Whether we’re fans of Nick or not, bloggers generally have a reasonable knowledge of the party and clearly nobody thinks there are  any imminent leadership shenanigans afoot. Frankly, our party is not known for deference to its leader. We are generally a bolshy and argumentative lot and the fact that only 14% want him to go this year is a pretty good show. I’m fairly certain Paddy, who is pretty much universally adored now, would have had higher anti ratings in his time.

I wrote my response in a comment to the original piece but other than that, the only person I can see who’s written anything else is our Stephen Tall himself, who asks whether he was right to publish the poll. He said, in response to somebody who had complained to him:

For the record, I’m a fan of both the Coalition and Nick Clegg as anyone who’s read my stuff will know. But I think it’s important that members who disagree with me — and who feel at least as passionately about the party as you do — have the opportunity to express their views, even if they’re not very convenient. Indeed, even members of Nick’s team I’ve spoken to feel it was a reasonable question to ask. A good friend will always let you know the truth.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “We are generally a bolshy and argumentative lot and the fact that only 14% want him to go this year is a pretty good show. I’m fairly certain Paddy, who is pretty much universally adored now, would have had higher anti ratings in his time.”

    Not so sure. Paddy’s most unpopular moment was just after the Joint Statement agreement with Blair (Oct/Nov 1998). LDYS held its conference that weekend and discussed and rejected quite clearly a motion to call for a leadership election with myself and Alex Wilcock speaking against (and I think Gareth Epps as well though I might be misremembering that!). What that translates to across the membership I don’t know but I’d be surprised if it was much above that

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 23rd Aug '12 - 5:50pm

    I remember Cix being awash with horror at the time, too.

    Paddy did wonders for us as leader and brought us from an asterisk to a proper force within the space of 3 years – we still didn’t worship him unconditionally, though. We are traditionally pretty bolshy – and that’s a good thing.

  • Ruth Bright 23rd Aug '12 - 6:43pm

    Are we such a bolshy and argumentative lot? The recent membership figures suggest that people are just quietly drifting away. With a few brave exceptions the party has been pretty supine about welfare changes which would have sent us into campaigning orbit had Blairites implemented them a few years ago.

  • One is rather astonished at the semantic change which the word “bolshy” seems to have undergone since its first attestation in 1918.

  • Tony Dawson 24th Aug '12 - 2:56pm

    “A good friend will always let you know the truth.”

    Are you saying Nick Clegg has no good friends at all?

    You quote various methods of ‘toppling’ leaders but in reality the most common method of leadership change is when the incumbent realises it is time (or long past time) to ‘walk’.

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