Mehdi's Morning Memo: The (Botched) Coup Against Clegg

Mehdi's Morning Memo: The (Botched) Coup Against Clegg
British Business Secretary Vince Cable attends the media launch of the Mars Yard test area at Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, England on March 27, 2014. The Mars Yard provides a test bed area for prototype 'Rover' vehicles that may be used to provide data from the surface of the planet Mars. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
British Business Secretary Vince Cable attends the media launch of the Mars Yard test area at Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, England on March 27, 2014. The Mars Yard provides a test bed area for prototype 'Rover' vehicles that may be used to provide data from the surface of the planet Mars. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
LEON NEAL via Getty Images

Here are the five things you need to know on Wednesday 28 May 2014...


The Independent splashes on the story of the "botched coup against Clegg" by Vince Cable ally and serial Lib Dem parliamentary rebel, Lord Oakeshott:

"Vince Cable was forced to disown one of his longest-standing political supporters after he was implicated in orchestrating a coup against Nick Clegg. The Business Secretary interrupted a trip to China to condemn the 'inexcusable and unacceptable' actions of his former confidant Lord Oakeshott, who secretly commissioned polling that undermined the Liberal Democrat leader. The survey of marginal seats, which was 'leaked' to a national newspaper, increased the pressure on Mr Clegg, suggesting that the party would do better if he were replaced by Mr Cable as leader... Within hours, Mr Cable was forced to release a statement disowning Lord Oakeshott and backing Mr Clegg’s leadership. 'Lord Oakeshott’s actions are totally inexcusable and unacceptable,' he said. 'I have made it very clear repeatedly that he does not speak or act for me. I [have] made absolutely clear there is no leadership issue as far as I’m concerned.'"

My favourite headline of the day is on the front of the Telegraph: "I'm not trying to oust Clegg but my friend is, says Cable."

Did Oakeshott really think he could get away with keeping his identity, as the sponsor of the poll, a secret? There aren't many Lib Dems who are both independently wealthy and deeply critical of Clegg.

Meanwhile, a (bare!) majority of Lib Dem MPs told the Sun that the deputy prime minister had their backing:

"The Sun... contacted nearly all 56 Lib Dem MPs to ask them if Mr Clegg should lead them into the 2015 General Election. By last night 30 said there should not be a leadership challenge. But 25 had yet to speak out in support of him, including former leader Charles Kennedy."

Some senior Lib Dems have come out fighting in defence of their leader, including Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary and David Laws, the schools minister; the latter called Oakeshott an “odd person on the edge of the party”.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that Clegg considered standing down on Sunday - a story the Deputy Prime Minister denies:

"His Lib Dem ally Baroness Williams of Crosby said yesterday evening that she had it on good authority that Mr Clegg had contemplated quitting after his party lost all but one of its 11 seats in the European Parliament — despite his own insistence that he had not. 'I think he himself has been persuaded he should stay, having been quite open to the idea that he shouldn’t,' Lady Williams told Channel 4 News. She repeated the claim five times, adding that he 'certainly considered it'."

Can the Lib Dem leader survive till May 2015? I suspect he will, given his two most likely replacements - Cable and party president Tim Farron - have no desire to lead their party ahead of its 2015 election wipeout. Farron, untainted by coalition with the Conservatives, will be a shoo-in after the next general election, not before...


After the hammering the mainstream parties received on Sunday night, in the European elections, what else did you expect but crisis talks in Brussels? From the BBC:

"EU leaders have agreed to re-evaluate the bloc's agenda after voters 'sent a strong message', European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has said. Mr Van Rompuy said leaders of the 28 member states had asked him to launch consultations on future policies. He was speaking after a meeting in Brussels to discuss big election gains by populist and far-right parties."

David Cameron is leading the charge for 'reform' - or, at least, wants to be seen to be leading the charge. The Daily Mail reports:

"David Cameron last night told the EU it had become 'too big, too bossy and too interfering' as he warned his fellow leaders not to ignore the Eurosceptic surge sweeping the continent. The Prime Minister travelled to Brussels to demand the union be dramatically scaled back in the wake of election results in which millions expressed their disdain for the European project. At dinner with the 27 other leaders, he warned them not to 'shrug off ' the view of the European people that Brussels should hand back power to national governments."


A week is a long time in politics, Labour's Harold Wilson once famously remarked. For Ukip, it's more like five days. From the Huffington Post UK:

"It only took five days… or amazingly it took five whole days, but Ukip has suspended one of its newly-elected councillors after the fledgling politician was allegedly caught tweeting about 'perverts', 'poofs and dykes' and 'Pakis'. Dave Small, a fresh face on Redditch Borough Council since Thursday, is to be investigated by the party for allegedly posting homophobic and racist remarks on social media. The councillor won the Church Hill ward by a hefty 665 votes, however he could soon find himself turfed out of Ukip should they conclude wrongdoing."


Watch this video of bunnies taking a bath. You know you want to.

4) ONE WORD OR... 11?

Ed Miliband was yesterday asked to describe what his leadership in one word and decided to answer using two. Oh dear.

The Telegraph has the details:

"After being described from within his party as 'too wordy', Mr Miliband was unable to describe his leadership in one word yesterday, instead replying: 'I'll give you two – One Nation.' He then used 111 words to explain what he meant."


First he sent an aide to get him a Byron burger; now he's sent an aide to retrieve his cat - from the Telegraph:

"George Osborne’s cat Freya was chauffeur-driven back to her Downing Street home after being found more than a mile away, mewing for help near one of London’s busiest junctions. The Chancellor’s pet was escorted home by a Whitehall aide after being found on the streets of Vauxhall, south London, by a group of young women, who were walking home after going out to dinner on Monday night. A member of Osborne’s staff went by car to pick up the cat the next day."

Did the government pay for the cat to be returned via car? Are we all in this together, even the moggies?


From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 34

Conservatives 32

Ukip 15

Lib Dems 8

That would give Labour a majority of 12.


Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Has Ed Miliband trapped himself on the wrong side of history?"

George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, says: "It's simple. If we can't change our economic system, our number's up."

Roger Boyes, writing in the Times, says: "Putin’s anti-US alliance threatens the globe."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (, Ned Simons ( or Asa Bennett ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons, @asabenn and @huffpostukpol


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