Elections 2014: Calls for Liberal Democrat unity in face of ‘foolish’ calls for Nick Clegg to go

 

Paddy Ashdown put himself at the head of a “save Nick Clegg” operation as critics of the Liberal Democrat leader stepped up their attempt to oust him.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, the party’s former leader, appealed to members “not to lose our heads” after poor local and European election results. Writing in The Independent, he insisted that if the Lib Dems “keep our nerve and our unity, there is still everything to play for” at next year’s general election.

But rebel activists have dubbed Mr Clegg “toxic” and plan to force a leadership contest this summer.  Under party rules, an election must take place when a majority of Lib Dem MPs or 75 local parties demand  one.  The Clegg critics are actively pursuing both options.

Some 250 Lib Dem members have signed an e-petition, revealed in The Independent on Saturday, calling on Mr Clegg to resign. They include councillors, candidates and former staff.

Sandra Gidley, a former MP who has signed it, said: “What we need over the next year is somebody to lead the party who is credible, who has questioned the coalition in the past, not seen to be in a love-in with David Cameron and has the confidence of the party.” She suggested Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, because he had been "independent-minded within the coalition".

Read more: Ukip top poll as Europe moves to right
Far-right parties flourish across Europe
BNP leader Nick Griffin loses seat
Ukip sets target of 20 seats for 2015
Labour MPs call on Miliband to promise referendum
Conservatives bid to ward off Ukip threat

She added: “We should be making more of a case for what we have done in the coalition and we are not able to do that at the moment while we have Nick, as a leader, associated with some of the negative aspects of the coalition - the broken promises.”

Chris Huhne, the former Lib Dem Cabinet minister, said: “One option being discussed is to keep Clegg as deputy prime minister, but elect a caretaker – Vince Cable – to lead the party into the general election. Another is for a clean shift to a new leader and deputy prime minister, possibly with a staged withdrawal from the Coalition to distance the Lib Dems from the Tories.”

Writing in today’s (mon) Guardian newspaper, Mr Huhne said that “solidiering on under Clegg” was the most likely option. “Regicide should never be undertaken lightly. It is rarely surgical, and Clegg does not want to go,” he said.

Three Lib Dem MPs --John Pugh, Adrian Sanders and John Hemming—said the leadership issue should be considered.   Mr Sanders, MP for Torbay, said: "The problem is the messenger, very few people say it's the message."

But Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president and a possible future leader, said: “I just think, at this time, it would be absolutely foolish for us as a party to turn on ourselves.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star