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Clegg will survive the Rennard crisis but if he doesn’t watch out for Norman Lamb, the LD John Major

January 21st, 2014

In a crisis go for the grey haired man

I’ve been getting a number of requests for my view on whether Clegg will survive the Rennard crisis and what my thoughts are on a likely successor.

Certainly what appears to be open warfare between LD peers and the leadership together with the threatened legal action by Rennard make this a tricky period for Clegg. There might be factions who’ve never been supporters who could use the issue to try to force change.

    I believe that Clegg has an extraordinary level of resilience and if he wants to carry on then he will do so – any observations I make here on the leadership have to be seen in that context.

A key figure is former leader Paddy Ashdown and I would be very surprised if he isn’t totally supportive of the leader in both public and in private with his fellow LD peers.

In the what I consider the unlikely event of Clegg standing aside then the views of Ashdown and fellow grandee, Shirley Williams, would be crucial. The coalition would still be in existence and they would give their backing to the contender best equipped for the demanding 16 months until GE2015.

    I’ve got a hunch that they would avoid current betting favourite Tim Farron simply because he’s not a minister. Instead they’d opt for health minister and Clegg’s ex-chief parliamentary and political adviser, Norman Lamb.

Lamb, like John Major in November 1990, is not widely known but he’s is a safe pair of hands and a good communicator with few enemies within the party. He’d be a unifier in a way that Farron, Cable or Ed Davey wouldn’t.

He is able to be assertive without being aggressive and would get good support within the Parliamentary party. His best chance of leadership was always if circumstances meant that a contest took place before the general election.

I bet on him nearly 3 years ago at 25/1. He’s now at 10/1. I’m not putting any more on because I don’t think there’ll be an immediate vacancy.

Mike Smithson

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