Business Secretary Vince Cable has been accused of knowing about a potential challenge to his party’s leader, Nick Clegg, organised by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshot. Oakeshot commissioned polls, subsequently leaked to the Guardian, which suggested the party could loose fewer seats at the next election if they were led by Cable.
In an interview, reproduced in part below, Cable reiterated his support for Clegg, and denied knowledge of two of the polls, including one in Mr Clegg’s own constituency.
“I was aware that he was conducting other polls around the country and I was certainly told in general terms what the trends were, and in one particular case concerning my parliamentary private secretary Tessa Munt from Wells, we sat down and discussed the details with her, but I had absolutely no knowledge of, or certainly was not involved in any commissioning of the surveys that were done in Sheffield Hallam and Inverness, and indeed I criticised him very severely yesterday…
“Lord Oakeshott and I are longstanding family friends, going back 40 years and I very much regret the fact that he needs to leave the party. I’ve given a full and complete explanation of what I knew about these polls and I think that explanation is straightforward.
“We’ve been through some very bad elections—a lot of people are very bruised by it. I want to help—along with my party colleagues—to put it back on track. [Lord Oakeshott] and I have had a good friendship over many years. We’ve clearly disagreed about the handling of this. I’ve made that very clear and I’m happy to make that publicly clear. But I will continue with my work and I hope he reconsiders his position about [leaving] the party in due course.”