Members of the new ConservativeHome Jury offer their thoughts. These thoughts were first submitted a week ago and appeared in the ConservativeHome Party Conference newspaper.
ANGIE BRAY MP: Nick Clegg is probably a better partner for the Conservatives because instinctively he is a Liberal rather than a Social Democrat and doesn’t carry the Labour baggage Vince Cable does from the past – what he needs is a bit of spine-stiffening to remember that sometimes.
MOHAMMED AMIN: At the next General Election we need the Liberal Democrats to take votes from Labour rather than taking them from us. Vince Cable definitely has more left wing appeal than does Nick Clegg, especially after Clegg broke his promise on tuition fees. Indeed Clegg could easily pass as a left wing Tory. Accordingly we would be far better off with Cable leading the Liberal Democrats, as he would have minimal appeal to Conservative leaning voters, but strong appeal for Labour leaning voters.
RYAN BOURNE: “From an ideological perspective, the Tories would find it much easier working with a 'liberal' Liberal Democrat like Nick Clegg. Electorally, the picture is more complex. I suspect the appointment of Cable would give the Lib Dems a poll boost - if this means current disaffected Lib Dems returning to the party in Con-Lab marginals, the Tories win. Where it leads to more Lib Dems votes in Lib-Con marginals, the Tories evidently lose. On balance, Clegg will be better for the Tories if they don't think there's much chance of winning a majority anyway and would rather remain in Coalition post-2015 than occupy the opposition benches.”
ANDREW BOFF: Electorally, clearly Cable would be the best leader for the Lib Dems. There is a huge opportunity for the LibDems to use their base in government to say to anti-Tory voters "We were the ones that stopped the Tories being awful, not Labour". Clegg is a little bit too orange book for that part of the electorate.
MAX WIND-COWIE: In terms of governing Britain with a partner, Nick Clegg is clearly the lesser of two evils. He is a man we can do business with, a man whose liberalism is broadly of the modern centre-right, freedom over ‘fairness’ type and a man who has demonstrated his readiness to make tough compromises. But that’s different to the question of who it would be better for the Conservative Party to be running against in 2015 – strategically, Vince Cable would be a better bet. He is a social democrat, has made it clear that he would happily work with Labour and represents little differentiation from Ed Miliband. Vince vs. Ed vs. Dave would leave broadly centre-right, ‘let’s keep Labour out’ voters with only one real choice: The Conservative Party.
RYAN SHORTHOUSE: Here comes another hung parliament. Who will the Lib Dems go with in 2015? It depends on the maths, of course. But assume there’s a choice. If Vince Cable takes the reins, he’ll go with Labour, no question. Clegg – if we’re a bit nicer to him, and give him a bit more credit –may well stop the bed-hopping. Broadly, he’s an economic and social liberal; a good partner. And he may well see a richer future for the Liberal Democrats in another Coalition with us. If Conservatives want a second term, Nick Clegg could be our best chance.
SPENCER PITFIELD: “I have no doubt that in a perfect world Vince Cable would be the better Lib Dem leader for the Conservatives to go head to head with. His age coupled to his unbridled (or should I say uncontrolled!) social democrat views make him a much easier target. Having contested the Sheffield Hallam seat against Nick Clegg I can honestly say from personal experience that he is most likeable. Indeed, prior to the tuition fees turn-about-face debacle, Clegg has been warmly embraced by the constituents of Sheffield Hallam. Oh, and by the way, Orange Booker that he is, Mr. Clegg is no doubt much closer to we of the blue order than his yellow colleagues. A Lib Dem who we can do business with!”
BRIAN CONNELL: Any change of leader will be a massive distraction from getting the economy fixed: risking the implosion of the coalition and opening up the prospect that our economy gets buffeted as the markets speculate on the UK's ability to meet the coalition's concrete financial commitments. The answer for the country must be that Nick Clegg should remain as leader. The question though isn't 'what's good for the country' but 'what's best for the Conservative Party'. As so often in life, the answers are the same - Nick Clegg. Inconsistency and opportunism have been the hallmarks of LD campaigning: it took Clegg to call their inner bluff and say 'if you're serious about politics, then you must take your opportunity for power'. With a record of delivery, and a critical media there is less space for the ‘ambiguity and apple pie’ that they’ve thrived on. Nick Clegg is a permanently weakened leader and his party will be weakened with him.