Nick Clegg said this morning that ‘appropriate steps’ will be taken to deal with Lord Oakeshott after the peer was outed as the ‘Lib Dem supporter’ who had commissioned uncomfortable polling about the Lib Dems’ chances in 2015. As with other difficult situations with Lib Dem peers, though, Clegg doesn’t have that much power to remove the whip from Oakeshott, even if he’d like to. Speaking after his speech on international development the Deputy Prime Minister said:
‘I think it is wholly unacceptable for people in a campaigning political party facing very very difficult elections last week as we were to find out now with hindsight that a senior member of the party far from actually going out and trying to win votes was spending money and time seeking to undermine the fortunes of the party and obviously parliament will resume next week and a lot of these things will be taken up then and discussed in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and following those discussions, you know, appropriate steps will no doubt be taken.’
What matters more than whether Oakeshott is disciplined by peers, though, is whether his actions have taken all the steam out of the revolt against Clegg. That revolt wasn’t as big as its agitators had hoped, according to LibDemVoice’s poll. Those who had crossed over to the anti-Nick camp in the past few days are livid with the peer, though, as they feel his botch job has made it much more difficult for them to get a hearing from the leadership. There are two groups within the anti-Nick camp: those who have long wanted his head, such as Naomi Smith (more on that from Charlotte Henry here), and those who are disappointed with the way the local and European elections worked out but furious with the way the leadership responded by suggesting that seats with a sitting Lib Dem MP had performed well (they point to Southwark and Brent as signs of this being bunkum).