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
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
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
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015