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.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn bids for the NHS to rescue Labour

Ahead of tomorrow's by-elections, Corbyn damned Theresa May for putting the service in a "state of emergency".

Whenever Labour leaders are in trouble, they seek political refuge in the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, whose party faces potential defeat in tomorrow’s Copeland and Stoke by-elections, upheld this iron law today. In the case of the former, Labour has already warned that “babies will die” as a result of the downgrading of the hospital. It is crude but it may yet prove effective (it worked for No to AV, after all).

In the chamber, Corbyn assailed May for cutting the number of hospital beds, worsening waiting times, under-funding social care and abolishing nursing bursaries. The Labour leader rose to a crescendo, damning the Prime Minister for putting the service in a “a state of emergency”. But his scattergun attack was too unfocused to much trouble May.

The Prime Minister came armed with attack lines, brandishing a quote from former health secretary Andy Burnham on cutting hospital beds and reminding Corbyn that Labour promised to spend less on the NHS at the last election (only Nixon can go to China). May was able to boast that the Tories were providing “more money” for the service (this is not, of course, the same as “enough”). Just as Corbyn echoed his predecessors, so the Prime Minister sounded like David Cameron circa 2013, declaring that she would not “take lessons” from the party that presided over the Mid-Staffs scandal and warning that Labour would “borrow and bankrupt” the economy.

It was a dubious charge from the party that has racked up ever-higher debt but a reliably potent one. Labour, however, will be satisfied that May was more comfortable debating the economy or attacking the Brown government, than she was defending the state of the NHS. In Copeland and Stoke, where Corbyn’s party has held power since 1935 and 1950, Labour must hope that the electorate are as respectful of tradition as its leader.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.