Will the Lib Dems ditch Clegg?

Nick Clegg is the “least popular party leader in modern political history”, says The Daily Telegraph. YouGov research for The Sunday Times found just 13% thought the deputy prime minister was doing a good job, compared to 78% who said the opposite. At the time of the 2010 general election, Clegg’s approval ratings stood at 74%.

Infighting broke out in the wake of “disastrous” local and European election results, with senior figures in the party describing Clegg as a “toxic brand”.

Lib Dem activists have begun no-confidence proceedings against Clegg in 190 local associations (they need to be successful in 75 associations to trigger a leadership contest).

Lord Oakeshott, a friend and ally of Vince Cable, has resigned from the party after commissioning ‘private’ opinion polls that were then ‘leaked’ to The Guardian, suggesting the Lib Dems would win more votes if they ditched Clegg.

A Clegg resignation wouldn’t solve all of the Lib Dems’ problems, but if he doesn’t resign, his party risks a “dodo-like extinction”, says Tim Montgomerie in The Times. “His party needs a fresh message, and only a new leader will have the credibility to provide that.”

But who exactly would that be? asks Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. There is no willing or credible alternative to Clegg and a sudden tilt leftwards at this stage would look “comically incredible”. As long as there is a decent chance of a hung parliament at the next election, the Lib Dems could “still be in the game”.

Quite, says Philip Collins in The Times. In a divided nation, there is a “viable, indeed a necessary future” for the Lib Dems as a “counterweight in office”. The Lib Dems are no longer a protest party.

Lord Oakeshott and the other “social democratic malcontents” should rejoin Labour and Clegg can then “wave them not only goodbye, but also good riddance”.

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