Clegg hits back at Gove over claims of Lib Dem leadership plot

The Education Secretary "knows a thing or two about leadership ambitions", says Clegg on his LBC phone-in show.

There was an amusing moment on Nick Clegg's LBC phone-in show this morning when the Deputy PM was asked when he was going to slap down the "73-year-old Marxist" who wants to replace him as leader (Vince Cable, for the record, is 70). Clegg quipped in response, "his name is Cable, not Marx, or Lenin, or Trotsky", but added more seriously, "there is no leadership contest in the Liberal Democrats. I've been leading the party for several years and will continue to do so for some time", an answer that hardly reeked of self-confidence. 

When it was suggested that the caller was referring to Michael Gove's claim at the weekend that Clegg was blocking Tory policy due to "a campaign" against him by Cable's representative on earth, Lord Oakeshott, Clegg replied: 

The day that you rely on Michael Gove for insight into what goes on in the Liberal Democrats you will be lost in an impenetrable maze.

He mischievously added that Gove "knows a thing or two about leadership ambitions". Earlier this week, ConservativeHome editor Paul Goodman suggested that "with his brains, energy and fearlessness", the Education Secretary was "emerging as the real Conservative leader." But pick up this week's NS to read why Rafael thinks Gove is more likely to end up as Chancellor in a Boris Johnson-led government (don't say we didn't warn you). 

Nick Clegg leaves Number 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Would you jump off a cliff if someone told you to? One time, I did

I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain.

Ever heard the phrase, “Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?” It was the perpetual motif of my young teenage years: my daily escapades, all of which sprang from a need to impress a peer, were distressing and disgusting my parents.

At 13, this tomboyish streak developed further. I wrote urgent, angry poems containing lines like: “Who has desire for something higher than jumping for joy and smashing a light?” I wanted to push everything to its limits, to burst up through the ceiling of the small town I lived in and land in America, or London, or at least Derby. This was coupled with a potent and thumping appetite for attention.

At the height of these feelings, I was walking across the bridge in Matlock park, which is about 12 feet high, with a large group of other kids from my year, in the pouring rain. One of the cool girls started saying that her cousin had jumped off the bridge into the river and had just swum away – and that one of us should do it.

Then someone said that I should do it, because I always did that stuff. More people started saying I should. The group drew to a halt. Someone offered me a pound, which was the clincher. “I’m going to jump!” I yelled, and clambered on to the railing.

There wasn’t a complete hush, which annoyed me. I looked down. It was raining very hard and I couldn’t see the bottom of the riverbed. “It looks really deep because of the rain,” someone said. I told myself it would just be like jumping into a swimming pool. It would be over in a few minutes, and then everyone would know I’d done it. No one could ever take it away from me. Also, somebody would probably buy me some Embassy Filter, and maybe a Chomp.

So, surprising even myself, I jumped.

I was about three seconds in the air. I kept my eyes wide open, and saw the blur of trees, the white sky and my dyed red hair. I landed with my left foot at a 90-degree angle to my left ankle, and all I could see was red. “I’ve gone blind!” I thought, then realised it was my hair, which was plastered on to my eyes with rain.

When I pushed it out of the way and looked around, there was no one to be seen. They must have started running as I jumped. Then I heard a voice from the riverbank – a girl called Erin Condron, who I didn’t know very well. She pushed me home on someone’s skateboard, because my ankle was broken.

When we got to my house, I waited for Mum to say, “Would you jump off another cliff if they told you to?” but she was ashen. I had to lie that Dave McDonald’s brother had pushed me in the duck pond. And that’s when my ankle started to throb. I never got the pound, but I will always be grateful to Erin Condron. 

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser