The U.K.’s Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove said that Nick Clegg’s opposition to child-care changes is due to an internal Liberal Democrat plot to unseat him as the party’s leader.
Tory Child-Care Minister Liz Truss has suggested letting adults look after four babies under 24 months of age rather than three, as now, and six two-year-olds rather than the current four in a bid to cut child-care costs for working parents. A spokesman for Clegg, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said by telephone on May 9 that the deputy premier has still to be persuaded that’s the right move.
Gove said the proposed changes are “absolutely right” and alleged Clegg was the victim of “maneuvers” by a Liberal Democrat lawmaker in the upper House of Lords, Mathew Oakeshott, an ally of Business Secretary Vince Cable. Clegg’s Liberal Democrats are the junior coalition partner of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.
“I don’t think that we can understand Nick Clegg’s position without also appreciating the position that he’s in because of internal Lib Dem politics,” Gove told the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show” today. “There’s a campaign at the moment being led by Matthew Oakeshott to try to destabilize Nick Clegg because Matthew Oakeshott wants Vince Cable to succeed him.”
In a separate interview given before Gove’s allegations and published in the Sunday Telegraph today, Cable said “the party’s wish and his wish” is that Nick Clegg “should continue as leader and nobody’s questioning that. I don’t have an ambition.”
Cable, 70, also told the newspaper that he has plenty of “energy” and “stamina” to continue.
A Liberal Democrat aide, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the party appreciated that Gove has leadership ambitions of his own and wants to turn public attention away from Tory divisions over its relationship with the European Union.
The concerns over child-care ratios are shared by a number of Tories in private and Clegg will not allow dogma to be put ahead of the interests of Britain’s children, the aide said.