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28 May 2014

Clegg hints that Lord Oakeshott could lose Lib Dem whip

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

By George Eaton

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.

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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.