Why a Lib Dem leadership election doesn’t look likely

by Stephen Tall on June 15, 2014

lib dem conf votingThere are two formal mechanisms in the Lib Dems for getting rid of the party leader. First, a vote of no confidence by the party’s MPs. It’s pretty clear that won’t happen. The second option is for enough local Lib Dem parties to request a leadership election:

the receipt by the President of a requisition submitted by at least 75 Local Parties (including for this purpose, the Specified Associated Organisation or Organisations representing youth and/or students) following the decision of a quorate general meeting;

This option is currently being pursued by a number of local parties though no one knows the precise number.

We reported on Friday night the result from Cambridge, where a resolution calling for a leadership election was rejected in a secret ballot by 45 votes to 32. This was the first such result we’ve seen reported – however the, erm, vigorous discussion that posting triggered has highlighted other local parties which have apparently held ballots.

Here’s my understanding of the situation based on what I’ve been able to glean. Please feel free to update in the comment threads (I know you will). To be clear, I am including only those local parties which have held votes of quorate general meetings. Many local party executives have already discussed holding such meetings and have decided against doing so (though in those cases a meeting can still be called if enough party members write to request one).

Local parties which have held a quorate general meeting…

Wanting a leadership election
Nottingham
Ribble Valley

Not wanting a leadership election
Cambridge
Southwark
Salisbury

My sense is that there is nowhere near enough momentum for a leadership election to be triggered by this route. I doubt there are even 75 local parties planning to hold a general meeting. And, based on the current split in results, it looks like around 150 would be having to plan to do so in order to get to the magic 75. As it stands, therefore, it seems highly likely Nick Clegg will remain as party leader.

Historical footnote: the Lib Dem conference last year rejected a motion (christened by opponents “The Opik Motion” because of its association with Lembit) which would have made it much easier for a leadership contest to be triggered.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.