UK & World News

  • 29 May 2014, 1:51

Vince Cable Denies Peer's Anti-Clegg Poll Claims

Business Secretary Vince Cable insists he had "absolutely no knowledge" of a poll carried out in Nick Clegg's constituency - despite his friend Lord Oakeshott saying he told him about it weeks ago.

Earlier, Lord Oakeshott resigned from the Liberal Democrats, saying he is sure the party is "heading for disaster" under Mr Clegg.

He quit after Mr Clegg warned steps would be taken against him for leaking the ICM poll, which found the Lib Dems leader at risk of losing his seat at the General Election.

Lord Oakeshott was named on Tuesday as the man who commissioned the poll then leaked it to the Guardian newspaper after a day in which Mr Cable was accused of being part of a plot to oust Mr Clegg.

The peer, in his resignation, said he told Mr Cable about the results of the poll in Mr Clegg's Sheffield Hallam constituency "several weeks" ago.

But speaking in China on Wednesday evening, Mr Cable denied all knowledge of the poll and said he regrets Lord Oakeshott's departure.

Mr Cable, who has been widely touted as a credible alternative leader of the party, said: "The information released to the press and commissioned about Sheffield Hallam and Inverness was damaging.

"I knew absolutely nothing about that, I was not involved with it in any way. I made that clear yesterday."

Sky News Chief Political Correspondent Jon Craig said the disclosure of Mr Cable's knowledge of the results did mean he still had questions to answer.

Condemning Lord Oakeshott's behaviour, Mr Clegg said: "I think it is totally unacceptable in a campaign for the Liberal party facing very, very difficult elections last week, as we were, to find out now with hindsight that a senior member of the party, far from actually going out trying to win votes was spending money and time seeking to undermine the fortunes of the party."

Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Simon Hughes backed Mr Clegg, telling Sky News: "Now is not the time to think about changing leader."

Meanwhile, another ICM poll commissioned by Lord Oakeshott showed another party star, Danny Alexander, could lose his seat in 2015.

The poll shows he would drop from first to third, if a General Election was held tomorrow.

The ICM poll showed that in the event of an election tomorrow Mr Clegg's party would finish third in his constituency of Sheffield Hallam behind Labour and the Conservatives.

Mr Clegg has been under increasing pressure to step down after an abysmal performance in last week's local and European elections.

However, he has repeatedly refused to go, saying it would not be in the best interests of the party.

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