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Lembit Opik calls for Clegg to stay as Deputy PM... but for a new Lib Dem leader to be elected

By Tim Montgomerie
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I know it's a Lembit Opik idea but just because of that it doesn't deserve to be dismissed out of hand. The defeated MP believes that Nick Clegg should continue as Deputy Prime Minister but should stand aside as Lib Dem leader - allowing a successor to begin the task of winning back the left-wing voters that the party has lost to Labour.

I'm quite keen on the idea because I proposed it myself! This is what I wrote more than one year ago:

"My hunch is that the "Liar Clegg" thing is now stuck in the public imagination. He'll be a huge handicap for his party if he is the leader at the next election but he should stay until 2014 (partly because he can hope things will change) but also because, to change leader now, would mean his successor will get the blame for the many difficult decisions to come. A gracious resignation speech as party leader, twelve or so months before the next election, will revive his own reputation somewhat (resignation speeches always do) but allow his party to choose a leader who isn't connected in the public mind with broken promises and a close relationship with the Conservatives. He could stay as Deputy PM until polling day, again allowing his successor some distance from the government."

The key thing is when Clegg does step aside. Too early and the Lib Dems will become too detached from the Coalition's mission. Too late and the new Lib Dem leader will struggle to establish a post-Clegg identity.

The Montgomerie/Opik model is already operating in Germany. The junior partner in the CDU/ CSU/ FDP coalition has its ex-leader as its most senior member of the government (Guido Westervelle, Foreign Minister) and has chosen another person, Philipp Rösler, as FDP leader.

Mr Opik discusses his idea in the video below.