26 May 2014

Lib Dem rebels claim ’12 MPs’

Lib Dem critics of Nick Clegg claim they have “12 firm promises from MPs” to call for Nick Clegg to quit. Only two have so far surfaced – Adrian Sanders and John Pugh calling for a re-think at the top of the party. John Hemming saying he’s “open-minded.”

MPs can famously promise something in private to colleagues and then not deliver.

The names that get circulated as other potential dissidents include Greg Mulholland (currently on a flight to Panama to climb a volcano) and John Leech (who along with John Pugh and Charles Kennedy was one of the three MPs who failed to raise their hands and vote for coalition when it was put to a room of parliamentarians in May 2010).

Sir Andrew Stunnell, who actually helped to negotiate the coalition agreement and was the party’s chief whip in opposition and then a junior DCLG minister until 2012, is rumoured to have been amongst those discussing whether the party would be better off without Nick Clegg as leader even though the Lib Dems actually managed to hang on in Stockport in his patch.

Other names Nick Clegg’s critics speculate about include Sarah Teather, Michael Crockhart, Ian Swales, Gordon Birtwistle, Andrew George and Julian Huppert.

They even say they may have ministers on board for this revolt. I would be very surprised if these MPs all rose up against their leader.

When you talk to activist rebels they aren’t calling for the end of the coalition. And many of them aren’t wanting to anoint Vince Cable either.

Senior figures in the party say they’ve already had private indications of support for the leader from some of the names in this list. Which tells you that the rebels may be over-claiming and that the leadership has been doing a ring round.

As so often in the past – most recently attempts to topple David Cameron and the repeated attempts to topple Gordon Brown – it could be lack of agreement about an alternative candidate that stops this uprising reaching critical mass.

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