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Nick Clegg denies Vince Cable plotted to oust him from Liberal Democrat Party's top job

By Sam Lister

Nick Clegg may have made a pig's ear of the election, but he was determined not to let a bacon sandwich get the better of him as he defended his leadership on radio.

After a dismal performance in the local and European elections, the deputy prime minister scored a victory over Ed Miliband by maintaining his dignity when confronted by a bacon sandwich.

Unlike Mr Miliband, whose efforts to eat a bacon butty on the campaign trail led to a series of unflattering pictures and online mockery, Mr Clegg appeared to cope with the challenge – although he then went on to talk with his mouth full as the LBC radio interview continued.

Mr Clegg insisted Vince Cable was not involved in a failed attempt to oust him as Liberal Democrat leader. He said the business secretary was fully supportive of his leadership and insisted he did not believe "for a second" the Cabinet minister had been behind the plot to force him out of the party's top job.

During his Call Clegg show on LBC he said: "He was absolutely not aware of polls elsewhere. He has made it very, very clear that he, for instance, didn't want any questions about leadership in the poll which he did have some control over in his own constituency.

"So, look, I fully expect that people will try and suggest that there are endless plots and conspiracies. I don't believe that for a second. Vince is an outstanding Secretary of State for Business. He and I have worked together for years and years and years and we are going to continue to work together in harness as part of a really strong Lib Dem team in government. Full stop."

Mr Clegg insisted the business secretary is fully supportive of his leadership and the pair speak daily. "He supports me, he has said so and will no doubt say so again," he added.

Mr Clegg said he would "absolutely not" sack Mr Cable in the wake of the botched coup launched by the business secretary's close friend, Lord Oakeshott.

After it emerged that Lord Oakeshott was almost certainly the instigator of the polling, Mr Clegg threatened him with disciplinary action.

The peer quit the party, lashing out at the "disastrous" deputy prime minister and saying he left the party with a "heavy heart".

Mr Cable told the BBC in China that he wanted to make it "absolutely clear" he was backing Mr Clegg. He said: "People are putting round the story that there is some division on that. There is not. I made it absolutely clear from the beginning of this week that there is absolutely no leadership issue.

"We have a united team. We have clearly got to recover from the very difficult election and I'm part of that team and will be supporting the leader."

During the radio phone-in, Mr Clegg said he remained "absolutely gutted" about the drubbing his party took in the local and euro elections, but denied he had been crying before a TV interview in the wake of the results, in which his eyes appeared bloodshot.

Background

Lord Oakeshott, a long-time critic of the deputy prime minister, commissioned a series of polls that indicated the party's general election performance would improve if Nick Clegg resigned.

Business Secretary Vince Cable was forced to issue statements about his knowledge and involvement in the polling while on a trade mission to China, insisting he had "absolutely no knowledge of" surveys that were done in Sheffield Hallam and Inverness – the constituencies of the Lib Dem leader and Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury.

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