3 Jun 2014

One pub, two Lib Dems and an awkward-looking pint

In their first appearance since Vince Cable was forced to deny he was plotting to get rid of Nick Clegg, the pair appear in public a la Nigel Farage, as reporters peer in from outside.

Video: Political Correspondent Michael Crick reports

You could almost hear the Lib Dem communication team’s collective brain cogs at work: Nigel Farage drinks pints, Ukip stormed the recent elections – therefore a pub can help rescue the Lib Dems from crisis.

The photo op at the Queen’s Head pub in central London was nominally to announce new measures aimed at helping pub landlords. The government is giving publicans new rights under a statutory code, allowing them to request a rent review, after complaints by publicans tied to larger companies over low incomes: over half of these publicans earn less than the minimum wage.

The deputy prime minister pulled a pint of London Pride for the business secretary and an Archer Mild Ale for himself.

But aside from a pre-lunch refreshment, the announcement granted Mr Cable and Mr Clegg the opportunity for a relaxed public appearance in full view of the public after a week of trauma for the party – and specifically for the pair’s working relationship.

Last week, Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott resigned after admitting that he had commissioned research which indicated the party would perform better without Nick Clegg as leader at next year’s general election. In his closing remarks, the peer said the party “is heading for disaster if it keeps Nick Clegg”.

Lord Oakeshott had also said that his close friend Mr Cable was aware of the poll question about Mr Clegg’s leadership – forcing the business secretary to deny he knew anything about it.

All this followed a disastrous showing at the ballot box in the European elections, and further internal party wrangling over how to deal with Lord Rennard, another Lib Dem peer who last week apologised to four female party members who complained about inappropriate behaviour.

The Lib Dems’ most high-profile members were greeted by a sizeable press pack as attention continued to focus on the pair’s working relationship. But after they had enjoyed a few mouthfuls of beers, the reporters and photographers were asked to step outside in the rain, left to peer in through the windows.

Mr Clegg said the Lib Dem MPs will tomorrow attempt to ask the “most searching questions” after the poor election results.

He added: “Vince has been very, very clear – he had absolutely no idea what Matthew Oakeshott was getting up to with his polls.

“All I would say is, setting personalities aside, we had a really bad result last week.

“It’s the most normal thing in the world that, after such a bad result, Vince, myself, the whole party – we’re having a parliamentary party meeting tomorrow – that we really ask ourselves the most searching questions about what we can do to make sure we get our message across.”

Mr Cable told reporters: “We work together, I support his leadership. We’re going to move on from some very difficult elections. I’m optimistic we are going to turn this corner.”

He added: “I haven’t been communicating with Lord Oakeshott recently.”

As well as giving birth to a new batch of photos for the Lib Dem album, the pub visit also spawned its very own hashtag #libdempubs. And below are some photo caption suggestions from our readers on Facebook:

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Post by Channel 4 News.