“I am today taking leave of absence from the House of Lords and resigning as a member of the Liberal Democrats. I am sure the Party is heading for disaster if it keeps Nick Clegg; and I must not get in the way of the many brave Liberal Democrats fighting for change.
I leave, with a heavy heart, the party I helped to found with such high hopes with Roy Jenkins, Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams and David Owen at Limehouse in 1981. We then, like most Liberal Democrats now, wanted a radical progressive party, not a “split the difference” Centre Party, with, in Shirley’s memorable words, no roots, no principles and no values. But that is where Nick Clegg has led us.
I am sorry I have so upset and embarrassed my old friend Vince Cable and that we were not able to talk before he issued yesterday’s statement from China. This is the background:
Several months ago a close colleague, concerned about voting intentions in Twickenham, asked me if I would arrange and pay for a poll to show us Vince’s current position and how best to get him re-elected. I was happy to help, and Vince amended and approved the questionnaire, but at his request I excluded a question on voting intentions with a change of leader. Although Vince had excellent ratings, both as a Minister and a local MP, he was slightly behind the Conservatives in this poll, as the full details on the ICM website show. That poll worried me so much that I commissioned four more in different types of constituency all over the country and added back the change of leadership question. The results were in the Guardian yesterday and on the ICM website. Several weeks ago, I told Vince the results of those four polls too.
The combined message of these five professional and reputable ICM constituency polls, Nick Clegg’s dire approval ratings year after year in all national polls, and Thursday’s appalling council and European election results is crystal clear: we must change the leader to give Liberal Democrat M.P.s their best chance to win in 2015. On Thursday I also commissioned one more ICM poll, in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey; the results should also be on the ICM website tonight.
A few stout-hearted M.P.s and peers and hundreds, maybe soon thousands, of candidates, councillors and Lib Dem members all over Britain are now fighting constituency by constituency for a leadership election. I have tried to give them the evidence they need to make the change. I pray that they win, and that the right man, or preferably, woman is now elected to save the Party.
When Charles Kennedy rang to make me a peer, from a panel elected by the party, fourteen years ago he said he wanted me to shake up the Lords. I’ve tried – my bills to ban non-dom peers are now law – but my efforts to expose and end cash for peerages in all parties, including our own, and help get the Lords elected have failed. I am very sorry to leave my many old, close comrades-in-arms on the Liberal Democrat benches all over Britain, and good friends and fellow campaigners across the House. But the unreformed Lords is now a bloated balloon and at 67 it’s time to concentrate on running my business and my charity.”