Vince to quit? The party’s “senior sources” have been out and about stirring again…

It’s not even six months since my co-editor Caron Lindsay urged fellow Lib Dems to make nice and drop the internal briefing against colleagues. This followed a spate of whisperings against Vince Cable and Tim Farron among others. The voices off against Vince even prompted Nick to start an internal inquiry, though, as Jonathan Calder observed here, nothing more was heard of it.

Today, though, the Mail on Sunday reports:

Allies of Vince Cable reacted furiously last night over a Liberal Democrat ‘whispering campaign’ suggesting that he is on the brink of walking out of the Coalition. The Mail on Sunday has been told by two well-placed sources within the party that the 71-year-old Business Secretary is considering leaving the Cabinet immediately after the party’s autumn conference.

One source close to leader Nick Clegg insisted: ‘He wants to step aside from the grind of office and take up an Election campaigning role in which he would woo back disaffected Lib Dems. He would be replaced either by [Chief Secretary to the Treasury] Danny Alexander or [Scottish Secretary] Alistair Carmichael with [Employment Minister] Jo Swinson taking the remaining open Cabinet slot.’ The other source said: ‘He has just had enough. The fight has gone out of him.’

However, last night Mr Cable denounced the claims as ‘nonsense’ and insisted he would stick with the Coalition right up to next year’s General Election. His spokeswoman said: ‘Vince has already been reselected to fight his Twickenham seat in May 2015 and he fully intends to serve out his term in Government as Business Secretary.’

However, Mr Clegg’s inner circle believe Mr Cable will step aside when the Deputy PM reshuffles his team in October – and might even drop plans to contest his seat. It has been billed as ‘doing a Hague’, after William Hague’s surprise move in the Tory reshuffle last month from Foreign Secretary to the lower-profile role of Commons Leader.
Last night a former Lib Dem MP added to the reports by claiming even ‘friends’ of Mr Cable were suggesting he would stand down before the Election. The ex MP said: ‘The rumour that Vince may go is definitely circulating.’ …

But Mr Cable’s allies angrily blamed the reports on a ‘whispering campaign’ designed to undermine the Business Secretary. One said: ‘There has been no mention of Vince packing it in. Whoever’s putting this around is simply out to make mischief.’ Another said: ‘He’s already been reselected to fight Twickenham and there’s no suggestion at all that he won’t.’ Mr Clegg’s office also denied any suggestion that Mr Cable would quit.

What the truth is, I’ve no idea. Certainly earlier this parliament there was internal speculation that Vince would retire from the Commons at the 2015 election, prompting a flurry of interest in the Twickenham seat among potential successors. However his re-selection seemed to have put an end to that.

I hope so. Quite apart from my admiration for Vince, Twickenham would be a much harder seat for the Lib Dems to defend without him. And as I’ve said many times there is absolutely no doubt in my mind he should revive his role as the party’s economic spokesman next May: he is by a long, long way the most persuasive and convincing advocate the party has of the economic policies it’s pursued in Coalition.

Either way, the public speculation of “senior sources” helps no-one. If they don’t want to take a holiday in August I’m sure there would be many local parties eager to give then something more useful to do with their excess energy than mouth off to journalists.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Paul in Wokingham 10th Aug '14 - 12:19pm

    Even if it were true (and that’s a big “if”) why is a “source close to the leader” telling the press a thing that has the exact effect of undermining Dr. Cable’s position? Who exactly are these sources?

    At a time when the party can only dream of hitting double figures in opinion polls. At a time when the decimated remnants of the party’s local government base are in a state of shock after May’s elections. At a time when only 3% of the electorate think that the Lib Dems have “the best economic policies”. At this time, why are the last shreds of credibility being destroyed by people who seem to view ” The Thick Of It” as an instruction manual?

  • Well it would not be a surprise, would it? He is 71 and everyone likes to slow down sometime. It is natural.
    Looking at the opinion polls this week, 8% nationally, ELECTORAL CALCULUS SUGGESTS ONLY 11 SEATS NEXT MAY,
    (supporting my often castigated prediction), dreadful local by-election results , including Worthing 1st in 2012, now 3rd, we are truly in a complete mess. PLEASE PLEASE lets have a change of leader at or shortly after the party conference. How can we go on in this naive fashion ignoring the b…….. obvious.

  • Let us not rush to believe this story in the Mail on Sunday. Even if it were to be accurate that Vince wishes to step down (and this does not prima facie seem to be the case), it is not at all likely that in a consequent reshuffle as many as three Scottish MPs – Danny Alexander, Alistaor Carmichael and Jo Swinson – would end up in the Cabinet when we as a party only have an entitlement to five Cabinet ministers in all.
    A rather more plausible scenario for an autumn reshuffle would be one in which Vince remained as Business Secretary but Jo Swinson replaced Alistair Carmichael as Secretary for Scotland, and Alistair Carmichael reverted to his old position as Liberal Democrat Chief Whip.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Aug '14 - 1:53pm

    ‘Senior sources’?

    It looks like someone has been on ‘the sauce’ or had a ‘senior moment’. 😉

    It’s the Mail fhs!

    The same Mail which today outing a UKIP MEP as admiring Hitler. Just like a certain prominent British newspaper did in days of yore.

  • paul barker 10th Aug '14 - 3:44pm

    If anyone in the Party is actually saying these things they should resign from any posts they hold. Equally, anyone trying to undermine Clegg should go. Its less than 4 Months to the official start of The “Long Campaign”, we dont have time for this sort of nonsense.

  • Paul, the electorate is telling us the status quo is and will be a disaster. We must stop living the fantasy that all is well , will be well. We are long past that stage.

  • roger roberts 10th Aug '14 - 5:24pm

    The Vince comments appear in the most illiberal newspaper whose aim is to undermine and destroy our party.IF “senior sources” within the party are spreading these tales they should come clean because they are bringing the party into disrepute.We have enough to contend with without such tittle-tattle.

  • Sounds like usual Hate Mail mischief making. If they have a “source” at all, I suspect it’s someone like Mark Littlewood or even Lembit … :roll eyes:

  • Is Vince old enough to retire? I thought under new government legislation the retirement age was 108.

  • Jonathan Pile 10th Aug '14 - 11:02pm

    Nick Clegg has publicly stated that Vince Cable will remain as Business Secretary for the foreseeable as recently as June/July. Any change to appease people such as Danny Alexander will be seen as retribution and a further betrayal of his pledges. If the party is to find unity in the run up to the election then the strongest team is needed, especially if Clegg continues to cling on (like a limpet)

  • “Nick Clegg has publicly stated that Vince Cable will remain as Business Secretary for the foreseeable as recently as June/July.”

    Presumably Clegg has redefined “foreseeable” to exclude anything more than nine months away?

  • David wilkinson 11th Aug '14 - 8:01am

    It’s the Mail and even given the stupidity of Clegg’s inner circle of clever people, it will have been made up by the hacks at the Mail.
    The result of the story is to generated a load more stories from Clegg’s team and Cable’s team and its worked

  • Tony Dawson 11th Aug '14 - 8:07am

    @paul barker:

    ” anyone trying to undermine Clegg should go.”

    That may be the first time we’ve seen you on here both recognising the extent of the damage done by this man and coming up with a solution! 😉 I guess the question still arises as to whether he is trying to undermine himself (and the Party) or whether it ‘just happens’. 🙁

  • Angela Davies 11th Aug '14 - 9:58am

    Me thinks its time Mr Clegg pulled his pants up and kicked these vermin out of our party

  • Angela Davies 11th Aug '14 - 10:06am

    The above comment refers to the whisperers and not to our amazing Vince

  • peter tyzack 11th Aug '14 - 10:12am

    ‘these vermin’ are not ‘in our Party’, or in ‘Clegg’s inner circle’ or even a ‘source close to the leader’… the nearest any of this came from was some aspiring journalist who happened to be leaning on Nick and Miriam’s front gate post at the time. As David say’s ‘IT’S IN THE MAIL’… really! if you are so short of fiction to read on your holidays pop into your local library.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '14 - 10:23am

    Those of us who are open about these things, and put our names to comments on the leadership and calls for changes there are accused of damaging the party by doing so. But those who fight their factional corner anonymously, making use of their elite positions and contacts with the media side of the Westminster Bubble are allowed to get away with it.

    If Clegg is a decent person who wants party unity, he should demand of these media people that they name their sources, and demand of all those around him that they pledge never to make anonymous comments of this type. He should come out in the open and denounce all “sources close to the leader” rumours as unacceptable. Of course, if he knows who they are, and is encouraging them to do it, then he is not fit to be our leader.

  • Although I have regularly called for NC to resign, because of his unpopularity with the voters and the knock on effect on seats held, it does appear that the situation in Gaza and in other conflicts has given him a chance to redeem his reputation by standing up for human rights in these conflict zones which seems of significant concern for voters.

    In doing so he will incur the wrath of the US, but since he has little to lose, he could use his remaining time in the Coalition with a crusaders zeal to challenge the status quo and at the same time unite the Party behind a cause that I would imagine most members would support.

  • paul barker 11th Aug '14 - 1:40pm

    I dont like repeating myself but it looks like I have to . We have less than 4 Months to the official start of the Election Campaign (The Long campaign); does anyone seriously think that spending 3 of those 4 months on an Internal Election would be a good use of our time ? We should behave as though the Election had already started, no slagging off of each other in Public or “Private”.

  • A Social Liberal 11th Aug '14 - 2:10pm

    Paul, the fault for carrying on the calls for Clegg to resign can be laid at our leaders door. If he had done the right thing earlier we would have had a new leader in place by now !

  • matt (Bristol) 11th Aug '14 - 2:51pm

    If this is coming from those who have genuine access to the knobs and whistles inside the Party, then this is bad and not a good way to start the run up to a long and probably bruising GE campaign ideally requiring hyper-strength teamwork, flak vests and preternatural stamina from our side.

    Otherwise … it’s mid-August. This is what journalists do when they don’t want to do proper reasearch: make up things.

  • @ Caractatus

    “well I would think anything that prevents Nick Clegg appearing in two leaders debates and alienating even more people must be worth it.”

    I does seem, now, that there is little chance of NC resigning before the GE. Apart from NC’s unpopularity, my previous concerns included the lack of any big and identifying policy that the Party had that would incline any voter to shift their allegiance – unlike the Party’s main rivals UKIP and the Greens.

    I have suggested ‘human rights in conflict zones’ [above] as this is likely to still be an important issue to the voters in May – I have suggested a limited form of Direct Democracy in the past.

    Do you agree that, given the current circumstances, the best hope for the Party to salvage seats is to have an identifying policy on a very big issue that members could support [and would be popular with the voters] – this should also have the effect of pulling the members together around a significant cause?

  • roger roberts 12th Aug '14 - 1:00pm

    “It was team Clegg who started the briefing against Kennedy, then against Ming so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was them again “. Where is your evidence ?

  • Paul Pettinger 12th Aug '14 - 3:13pm
  • Peter Watson 12th Aug '14 - 4:51pm

    @roger roberts
    It might not meet the highest standards of proof, but from 2006 –

  • Roger – in the 2007 election contest I asked both candidates to give a categoric public denial that they hadn’t been involved in off-the-record briefings against Ming. Nether replied.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Aug '14 - 11:12am

    John Roffey

    I have suggested ‘human rights in conflict zones’ [above] as this is likely to still be an important issue to the voters in May – I have suggested a limited form of Direct Democracy in the past.

    Er, no. Most ordinary voters couldn’t give a toss about things like this. When people are struggling to pay bills, find adequate housing etc, high minded issues like this just put the message across “We’re a bunch of political types who care more about people living on the other side of the world than for plebs like you”.

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