Lib Dems Should Get Rid Of Nick Clegg To Prevent Electoral Wipe Out, Says Lord Oakeshott

A senior Liberal Democrat peer has said the party must consider getting rid of Nick Clegg in order to avoid an electoral wipe out at the next general election, but the deputy prime minister has said he is not going anywhere.

Lord Oakeshott, a former Lib Dem Treasury spokesman and close ally of business secretary Vince Cable, said that since entering coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 the party had lost nearly half of its support and it would be hard to win it back with Clegg in charge.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have lost over half our market share, if you like to put it that way, if we had been Sainsburys, since the election and any business that had done that would be looking very hard now at both its strategy and its management to see how we get some of that back because otherwise we are going to lose a large number of seats at the next election."

The Lib Dem peer, who is a frequent critic of the Conservative Party, said that the Lib Dems would not be able to get protest votes back as they were now in government.

"But people who voted for us because of our fair and progressive tax policies we do need," he said.

"And 39 out of our 57 MPs held their seats against Conservatives last time, and in almost every case they needed a lot of Labour tactical votes."

"If we dont get some of those back we are going to lose far more seats than we need to at the next election."

In a thinly disguised swipe at the deputy prime minister, Lord Oakeshott added: "Elections are not just about the message they're also about the messenger."

And while he said Clegg did a "brave thing" by entering a coalition, he said most Lib Dem activists would prefer to be in government with Labour.

"We must be independent and open to both sides," he said.

Lord Oakeshott's comments come ahead of the Lib Dem party conference in Brighton next month, where Clegg will seek to reassure his activists that their voice is being heard in government.

Yesterday he floated the idea of a temporary "wealth tax" on Britain's richest people in order to help pay down the deficit and help out the poor - an idea likely to be popular among his party's grassroots.

While the deputy prime minister has made no moves to indicate he is prepared to step down, Vince Cable let it be known in July that he would be interested in the top job and noted that the "worship of youth has diminished".

In an interview with the Guardian published today, Clegg said he was "going to lead this party through the next general election and beyond".

He added: "But I am acutely aware of how much work we have got to do over the next two and a half years."