By Tim Montgomerie
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The Conservatives are allegedly Britain's most ruthless party but when it comes to ousting leaders we're amateurs when compared to the Liberal Democrats. Since David Cameron became Tory leader he has seen the yellow party oust Charles Kennedy (because of his drinking problems) and Ming Campbell (because of his age). Will the Lib Dems be making a third change soon?
I've thought for some time that it's a matter of when Clegg will step down/ be replaced. Only a new leader like Vince Cable can start to win back support from the legions of left-leaning voters who have deserted the Liberal Democrats since the party entered government with the Conservatives. Today's Sun reports that David Cameron has concluded that the Deputy PM's position is, indeed, “very precarious”. It follows a poll by the LibDemVoice website which found that 46% of party members wanted Nick Clegg to stand down as leader by the time of the next election (some, like me and Lembit Opik (!), think he could stay as Deputy PM).
The thought of Clegg being ousted terrifies Cameron. He knows that all of the likely alternative Lib Dem leaders would be less supportive of a continuing relationship with the Conservatives. He may feel he needs to do all he can in the coming months to bolster the Deputy PM's standing in his party. It certainly explains why he has quietly accepted Clegg's wounding betrayal on boundary changes. Further appeasement will, of course, will anger Conservative backbenchers but it will also prove my rule of the Coalition that it was always likely to drift Leftwards or break up.
PS On Platform today we publish a terrifying piece from Mark Gettleson. He looks at the extent to which Labour may be winning back voters who defected to the Liberal Democrats since 1997 overm for example, the Iraq war. He looks at the seats where Tory MPs are vulnerable if they continue to succeed in doing so.