Ashdown dismisses talk of Lib Dem leadership change

Nick Clegg

Getting rid of Nick Clegg would "damage the Lib Dems for ever", former party leader Lord Ashdown has said.

Two Lib Dem parliamentary candidates in key swing seats have urged Mr Clegg to step down after the party lost 307 councillors in Thursday's election.

But Lord Ashdown said this would be "divisive", not "serious politics" and said Mr Clegg was "the best Prime Minister Britain hasn't got".

Tim Farron also warned Lib Dems would be "foolish" to turn on themselves.

On Saturday Jackie Porter, would-be MP for Winchester, said that after another poor local election showing, it was time to act in the party's best interests.


And West Dorset candidate Ros Kayes also said the public had lost trust in Mr Clegg. Both Winchester and West Dorset are currently held by the Conservatives but are seen as winnable by the Lib Dems.

Mr Farron, Lib Dem president and the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, said he understood a lot of people were "bruised" by the local election results on Thursday and Friday.

"I've lost elections before and it's miserable," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

"I also understand why many people will feel that the message they got back on the doorsteps - that they didn't like us in government - is a really tough one."

Mr Farron said the Lib Dems would continue to stand united

He added: "But I just think that at this time it would be absolutely foolish of us as a party to turn in on ourselves."


Former leader Lord Ashdown said he respected the opinions of party members but believed calls for a change of leadership were "ridiculous".

"This idea that is being put about by these people who are calling for a leadership election is just about the silliest idea I have heard in my political career," he told the BBC's Sunday Politics.

A leadership contest a year away from the election would be "totally unnecessary and divisive", he added.

"It is not serious politics," he added. "This is the moment we need to get out with a really good message and campaign through the summer in the context of a general election."

Lord Ashdown says replacing Nick Clegg as the Liberal Democrat leader "would damage the party forever"

Over the next year, he suggested, voters would be asking themselves whether the Lib Dems could "hack" being in government.

"If we were to take that step, I think the answer would be incontrovertibly no and that would damage the party for ever."

Following the local election results on Friday, all three established parties have faced questions about their reaction to the share of the vote achieved by the UK Independence Party.

Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said with 300 new councillors following the elections, she would be "baffled" at her party turning in on itself.

She said Labour had had a great set of elections on Thursday and rejected suggestions that Labour leader Ed Miliband was less popular than his party, or that the party should have done better.

Harriet Harman and Theresa May Harriet Harman and Theresa May appeared on the Andrew Marr Show

Ms Harman said Mr Miliband was the only leader to have "cognised" people's views on things like his cost of living campaign and had changed the agenda. She told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show people should "look at what he has done".

She said predicting next year's General Election by comparing these local election results with previous years was "for the birds" given the "unprecedented situation" of the Tories and Lib Dems in coalition, and UKIP having gained ground.

"I'm sorry I'm not able to be here to tear my hair out and agree we are emerging blinking from the rubble... that might be the case for the other parties but it's not the case for us," she said.

Ms Harman added that the message from UKIP's vote showed that people had concerns, and that Labour was "determined to address them".

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May said the "only leadership question in politics today" was whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband would be elected prime minister in 2015.

The MP dismissed suggestions, put to her on the Andrew Marr Show, that she was "arm-wrestling" George Osborne and Boris Johnson to take Mr Cameron's place as party leader.

She said the party was focused on "getting on with the job" of looking ahead to the next general election.


More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1511.

    1502.GideonsBible "at the moment the overall tax burden is roughly equal for everyone as a % of income"

    I have no idea where you get that utter nonsense from, presumably straight from Labour HQ.

    Even if a poor person spends all their income on VATable items they pay 20% max of their income on tax. A rich person has up to 45% taken straight away (plus NI) and then 20% on every VATable spend

  • rate this

    Comment number 1510.

    1502. GideonsBible
    If the flat rate is say 30%, that means EVERYONE pays that 30% rate (unless there is tax free threshold for the poorer). Everyone, regardless of their income levels. A person earning £100k pays 30%, just as someone on £50k.

    Ideally we don't need the particularly harmful income tax. Imagine if Nick Clegg proposed to replace the income tax with a 35% VAT.
    I'd vote for him!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1509.

    Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat - wearing purple tie

    Sadiq Kahn, Labour - wearing purple tie

    Anyone else want one?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1508.

    The Lib deems need to get rid of Glegg. He does not have what it takes to be a leader. If he did he would recognise his own failings and resign if he had any bottle. Trouble is he thinks he is doing well. Good help us all if he ever becomes Prime Minister. Mind you I will not lose any sleep over that as I have more chance winning a million on the lottery.
    Time to go Mr Clegg

  • rate this

    Comment number 1507.

    1503. Henry Hazlitt
    1496. florere
    No NHS, fine by me. Its an insolvent disaster in which treatment is appalling, and staff treated poorly. What was Clegg's position on NHS, pour more money at it, despite its poorer outcomes? Great incentive.

    Are you rich or impervious to illness and accidents.


Comments 5 of 1511


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.