Clegg's own stalking horse is less than discreet and less than capable

The Liberal Democrats need to avoid Vince Cable as a future party leader, if they want to detoxify in the next decade

"That man in the hat is following me"
On 23 September 2012 10:04

While so much recent leadership speculation has centred around the Prime Minister and his potential 'stalking horses', one party leader in particular has far more to fear.

Mr. Sorry, also known as Nick Clegg, will this week attempt to shore up his position as beleaguered party leader at the Liberal Democrat party conference. But he won't be successful.

You see Mr. Clegg has long had a stalking horse of his own, one that he has foolishly empowered and aggrandised while acting as David Cameron's flak jacket and consequently, a whipping boy for the consistently cognitively dissonant Lib Dems.

As a junior coalition partner, Clegg's party was offered the chance to balance a Conservative government and help round off the edges of potentially prickly policies. 

Instead, they got greedy.

Between a devastating defeat in the referendum on electoral reform, Vince Cable's inability to unbiasedly moderate the BSkyB takeover bid, their shrill promises on tuition fees and more recently, Lords Reform, the Liberal Democrats have sought like an overexcited judge, to engage in 'activist government' rather than playing softly softly catchy monkey.

This could have been to their credit, but it will actually mark their downfall.

In reality, Lib Dem strategists (if such a phrase can be used), presciently noted that after 5 years in government, their jig may well be up - so best to tackle the 'major reforms' while they could.

Sadly, having incredibly made their brand more toxic than either of the other three major parties (yes, I'm counting UKIP as a significant electoral force in 2015), the increased chances of another hung parliament in 2015 means that the Lib Dems will no longer be a boon or effective sop to liberals, regardless whether the Tories or Labour require a coalition partner.

Despite his recent chats with 'big names' in the Labour Party, Clegg's cabal will no longer be able to claim anything more than some votes in the House of Commons chamber. And as everyone knows, politics may start there, but it ends on the doorsteps, on televisions and in the newspapers of tens of millions of Britons. The Lib Dems are now as much of a liability to a coalition partner than they are a welcome distraction.

This all bodes terribly for Nick Clegg. His one time political duet partner, Vince Cable, is now circling like the opportunistic vulture that he is. 

Saying he'd 'never say never' to the Liberal Democrat party leadership is as good as calling for a vote of no confidence in Clegg. This is another vote that the man at the helm of his party will undoubtedly lose, despite his recent recantations.

But a Cable-led Liberal Democrat party would have much to do in the way of detoxification, and as ardently activist as Cable remains about anti-affluence, his tenure would be nullified by rifts, public relations efforts and a destructive lurch to the left. Realistically, he is also pushing it at 69 years of age, and the Liberal Democrats, while slimmer in ranks, do indeed have some up and coming talent. 

As the Lib Dems descend on Brighton this weekend, the question the party faithful must ask of themselves is not whether it's time for a change at the top of the party, this is surely inevitable before 2016. The question is, is Vince Cable really the man to save the Liberal Democrats? I think not. And it would appear that even The Guardian agrees. Shudder.

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator. He tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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