Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Is Charles Kennedy sober yet?

The Lib Dems might need him:
The electoral oblivion apparently confronting the Liberal Democrats as led by Nick Clegg was underscored on Monday by leaked opinion polls in four seats showing that the party will be wiped out. 
Commissioned by a Lib Dem supporter from ICM and subsequently passed to the Guardian, the polling indicates that the Lib Dem leader would forfeit his own Sheffield Hallam constituency at the next election. 
The party would also lose its seats in Cambridge, Redcar and Wells, costing MPs Julian Huppert, Ian Swales and Tessa Munt Westminster seats. 
If the business secretary, Vince Cable, were to take over as leader, the Lib Dems would perform marginally better, the data suggests. Appointing Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, would give the party a more modest boost. 
The damning verdict comes after a crestfallen and visibly exhausted Clegg said in the early afternoon that he would not buckle in the face of woeful European election results which cost the party 10 of its 11 MEPs and left it in fifth place. 
Ukip topped the polls – winning 23 MEPs – leaving huge questions for all three mainstream parties, but especially for Clegg's strategy of confronting the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, in two TV debates that he was deemed to have lost.
I'm not really in favour of leaders resigning over rather trivial mid term elections, nor do I like parties reneging on agreements. But the Lib Dems really are in dire trouble and I think Clegg might need to resign, and the contest needs to be not just about a new leader but the future of the coalition agreement.

I'd suggest the new leader should run on a 'quickie divorce' agreement but on the explicit understanding that they will 'endeavour' to allow the Tories to continue a minority administration until the pre-agreed dissolution (Cameron can not dissolve parliament to suit himself).

This would get the Lib Dems out of a toxic arrangement but not leave them looking like wreckers - but in the powerful position where the Tories have to come to them for support.

It will also hurt the Tories, which is obviously a good thing. Though it might also hurt Labour, as a couple of percentage points of Lib Dem defectors return home.

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