How would the Lib Dems perform with Cable as leader?

Support for the party would rise from 14% to 18% with Cable as leader.

Vince Cable has made it clear that he's available should a vacancy arise for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, but what difference would he make to his party's election prospects? The latest Independent/ComRes survey asked voters this question and identified a significant Cable bounce.

With the Business Secretary as leader, support for the Lib Dems would rise to 18%, compared to 14% under Nick Clegg. On a uniform swing, that would leave the party with 39 of their 57 seats, compared with 23 under Clegg.

One should always be wary of polls showing that a political party would perform better under an alternative leader. Voters have a habit of favouring would-be leaders until the moment they're actually in charge. But with little evidence that Clegg can revive the Lib Dems' fortunes, the ComRes findings will concentrate the minds of his MPs. If the choice is between keeping their seats under Cable and losing them under Clegg, it would be surprising if they didn't rediscover their taste for regicide before the election.

He's behind you, Nick. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tim Farron sacks former MP David Ward

The Liberal Democrat leader said Ward's remarks made him "unfit" to stand. 

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has sacked David Ward as a candidate declaring him "unfit to represent the party". 

Ward, who lost his seat in Bradford East in 2015, once said "the Jews" were "within a few years of liberation from the death camps...inflicting atrocities on Palestinians". At the time, the comments caused outcry, and Ward faced disciplinary procedures - later adjourned.

Farron, though, doesn't intend to revisit this particular episode. After news broke that Ward had been re-selected to stand as a candidate, he initially said it was not the leader's job to select candidates, but hours later had intervened to stop it. 

In a short statement, he said: "I believe in a politics that is open, tolerant and united. David Ward is unfit to represent the party and I have sacked him."

Although Ward has been involved in anti-racism organisations, he has courted controversy with his conflation of Jews with Israel, his questioning of Israel's right to exist, and his tweet in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, in which French Jews were targeted, that "Je suis #Palestinian".

While the anti-Semitism row threatened to knock the Lib Dem's early election campaign off course, Farron's decision may help him avoid the ongoing saga haunting the rival Labour party. In April, Labour decided not to expel Ken Livingstone for his claim that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism "before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews".

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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