Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott. Photograph: BBC News.
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Clegg hints that Lord Oakeshott could lose Lib Dem whip

"Appropriate steps" will be taken against the rebellious peer. 

After Lord Oakeshott was unmasked as the man behind a poll suggesting that he would lose his seat, Nick Clegg has just given his first response at a press conference following his speech on international development. He described the behaviour of Vince Cable's ally as "wholly unacceptable" and suggested that "appropriate steps" would be taken against him when parliament returns next week (a meeting of Lib Dem peers is planned to determine his fate). That would most likely involve Oakeshott losing the party whip. 

Here's Clegg's full answer:

I think it's odd, to put it very mildly, that any fellow Liberal Democrat should spend time and good money, when the rest of us were out campaigning for these tough elections, instead surreptiticiously trying to come up with specious claims on the basis of polls which, by the way, were entirely confounded by the election results last week.

I don't need some partial poll to tell me how people actually voted. In my constituency, for instance, where as it happens the Liberal Democrats increased our majority across my constituency.

So I think it's a great, great pity that people choose to invest their time and their money in effect trying to undermine precisely the campaigns that the rest of us were seeking to campaign on over the last few weeks.

But this happens in politics from time to time. People start deciding to take pot shots at their own side. It's never sensible. At the end of the day we've got a year to go before the general election. My party suffered a very significant setback in the elections last week. Of course we need to talk about that, we need to think about that, there are a lot of soul searching questions about that ....

I think it is wholly unacceptable for people in a campaigning political party, facing very, very difficult elections last week, as we were, to find out now with hindsight a senior member of the party, far from going out and trying to win votes, was spending money and time seeking to undermine the fortunes of the party. Obviously parliament will resume next week. A lot of these things will be taken up then and discussed, in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and following those discussions appropriate steps will no doubt be taken.

Asked whether he believed that Cable (who condemned Oakeshott's treachery last night) was aware of the poll, he refused to say, but sources close to Clegg are briefing that they are "100% convinced" that the Business Secretary was not involved. 

As for whether Clegg is in danger of losing his seat, Lord Ashcroft's forthcoming poll of Labour-Lib Dem seats should hopefully give us the answer. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.