‘Stop it now!’ Ashdown begs for end to Lib Dem plotting

Paddy Ashdown has implored Liberal Democrats to cease manoeuvres against Nick Clegg, as activists continue to undermine the party's leadership.

A group of frustrated grassroots members are distributing a no-confidence motion against Clegg which they claim will force a vote in 190 constituencies.

The attempt follows the dramatic exit of Vince Cable's ally Matthew Oakeshott from politics last week, when he quit the party after leaking polling showing Clegg and four other MPs were on track to lose their seats.

A leadership election will be triggered if 75 seats pass the no-confidence motion. That remains unlikely, but ongoing news of disquiet within the party will damage Clegg's attempt to stay on until the 2015 general election.

"Polls show that four out of ten party members frankly hate Nick's guts," rebel ringleader Seth Thevoz was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times newspaper.

"Voters have a serious trust issue with him and they stopped listening to him a long time ago. Anyone under 30 hates Nick with a visceral loathing and anyone over 30 thinks he’s a joke."

Ashdown appeared on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show this morning calling for Lib Dems to rally behind their leader after Oakeshott's "plot of deep malice" failed.

"Anything you do now which is not getting out on the street, campaigning in the context of the next General Election … is a distraction and a dangerous distraction," he said.

But a poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times put Clegg's leadership rating on minus 65%, making him the most unpopular leader in modern political history.

Only 13% of voters believe the deputy prime minister is doing a good job, compared to 78% who think he is doing a bad job.

Clegg's party faces further scandal, however, after Oakeshott claimed in his resignation statement suggested the Liberal Democrats had sold peerages.

SNP MP Angus  MacNeil has written to the Metropolitan police commissioner asking him to re-open police investigations into the cash-for-peerages scandal.