Vince Cable ally Lord Oakeshott calls on Nick Clegg to quit as leader before next election

Outspoken Lib Dem grandee Lord Oakeshott wants to prevent voter backlash in 2015

The Liberal Democrats should consider ousting Nick Clegg as their leader ahead of the next General Election, a senior party figure said yesterday.

Lord Oakeshott, a close ally of the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, called for the "strategy and management" of the party to be reviewed in order to head off a bloodbath at the 2015 election. He said: "Elections are not just about the message. They are also about the messenger."

Clegg allies accused Lord Oakeshott of disloyalty. Although he is an outspoken critic of the leadership, his criticism was a setback for Mr Clegg, who tried to calm his party's jitters this week by proposing a temporary wealth tax on the rich.

There is no organised plot to oust the Liberal Democrat leader. But his critics believe his position will be discussed in the margins of the party's autumn conference in Brighton next month. They say he could come under pressure to promise to stand down before the next election if the Liberal Democrats suffer another rout at next May's local elections.

In an attempt to head off any such move, Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, today issues a plea to the party to rally behind Mr Clegg and avoid "short-term manoeuvring." Writing in The Guardian, he praises Mr Clegg for challenging the party to leave its "comfort zone" in opposition. But his appeal will be seen as a sign that the threat to the leader's position is being taken seriously.

Lord Oakeshott told BBC Radio 4 that progressive policies were needed to win back tactical voters who had backed the Liberal Democrats to stop Conservatives winning key marginal seats. He said 39 Liberal Democrat MPs defending seats where Tories were runners-up would struggle to hold on in 2015 unless Labour supporters backed them again.

"We have lost over half our market share, if you like to put it that way if we had been Sainsbury's, since the election and any business that had done that would be looking very hard at both its strategy and its management to see how we get some of that back, because otherwise we are going to lose a large number of seats," he said.

Lord Oakeshott added that the challenge was "not just to put the message across but to get it implemented in government" – an implicit call for Mr Clegg to fight harder for Liberal Democrat ideas inside the Government. He believed voters were not against a coalition, but did not like the Liberal Democrats being in coalition with the Conservatives.

Mr Cable, who insists that at the age of 69 he is not too old to lead his party, has kept lines open to Labour and is seen as having more appeal to centre-left voters than his party leader.

Clegg allies insisted he was relaxed about Lord Oakeshott's latest intervention. One Liberal Democrat source said: "He [Lord Oakeshott] does not necessarily think of the interests of the party. To use his own business analogy, if someone is running a company which after 60 years achieves its core purpose, as we have done by going into government, that person is probably owed a bit of loyalty."

Mr Clegg hit back at Lord Oakeshott, telling ITV News: "In politics you always have back-seat drivers who sit there making endless comments about people who have to lead."

The Lib Dem leader's critics believe party members will decide his fate. Growing disquiet at grassroots level emerged in a survey of 500 members by the Liberal Democrat Voice website last month, which found them evenly split on whether he should lead the party into the next election.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project