Sarah Olney causes a stir at Lib Dem HQ

Sarah Olney causes a stir at Lib Dem HQ
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I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: The Short and Gilded Life of Tara Browne, the Irish Aristocrat Who Inspired the Beatles’ Greatest Song

Paul Howard

Picador, pp. 392, £

Oh dear. Trouble is brewing at Lib Dem HQ over Sarah Olney. After losing her seat by 45 votes in the snap election, Olney was quickly appointed as Vince Cable’s Chief of Staff – beating several more conventional candidates (i.e. trained press officers) to the coveted job. At the time, Olney made a verbal agreement with Cable that she would not stand as a Parliamentary candidate – given that this would mean she would be unable to continue as Chief of Staff.

So there was much surprise this month when Olney stepped down from the role so she could campaign to retake her old seat. At the time, Vince Cable made clear that Olney would still be involved – just in a different role:

'She has moved to a different role, basically working as a consultant to the party and also to me. She’s been restricted in what she can do working for me, but this will allow her to campaign in Richmond Park again.'

So, a solution that works for everyone? Alas not. Mr S understands the arrangement has left several Lib Dem staffers fuming – with Olney thought to be only working a couple of days a week while retaining a sizeable salary.  With members of staff privately considering walking out, the blame is being pointed at Sir Vince for going against advice and hiring her in the first place.

'Vince is the worst leader the Lib Dems ever had. He is from another era and is killing the party. He has a tin ear – just look at his support of Chris Rennard', says one Lib Dem senior source. Meanwhile, an MP chips in: 'He surrounds himself with fools'.

A Lib Dem spokesperson says: 'We do not comment on internal staffing matters. Sarah is highly talented and Vince and the party are enjoying working with her in her new role.'

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Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from London and beyond. Email tips to