If the opinion polls prove accurate - the last three showed the Liberal Democrats on 10% - this might be the last time we can find enough elected Liberal Democrats to form a viable top 50. The stark reality they face, and the internal debate that is now raging, is reflected in the top ten. There is the whiff of succession planning in the air. The resilience of Chris Huhne is also hanging around – down just one place despite a difficult year in his personal life. Those in, or close, to the Clegg Operation (as Liberal Democrats a little self-consciously call it) remain powerful - his Chief of Staff stays at five. There have been recent changes reflected here, but the conflict between the government and the internal opposition has become much more of an equal one over the year.
As one MP put it, the year has been “about the rise of the left”. Confidence in the party outside Westminster has grown even as polling numbers remained minimal. Liberal Democrats seem to have discovered that even in government the world does not end if you disagree. And this has given rise to a new breed of rebel, personified in Tim Fallon, Lib Dem President and the leading establishment rebel (up 31 places to number three). The Liberal Democrats have learnt a great deal about coalition politics this year. It is unclear sometimes which are the sanctioned and which the unsanctioned rebellions. If Nick Clegg is eyeing an eventual move to Brussels - to replace Baroness Ashton - then this is informing the positioning that is taking place now.
The experience of government has also lead to a rather different set of discussions this year. There was much more talk about the hidden wiring of the political game. Names like Ben Williams, a fixer from the Whips Office were discussed - and while he did not make the cut, James Gurling, who is modernising the party’s electoral machine, comes in at 46. Also in at 35 comes James McGrory, the leader’s favourite spin doctor. Described by some as a cockney thug he is not your typical Liberal Democrat, but he has also been described as the best press officer in the business. The highest new entry at 26 is also from the inside of the machine: Julian Astle comes in to the Clegg machine and into the heart of government as the newly minted Deputy Head of Number 10 Policy Unit.
The Liberal Democrats who hold Cabinet positions and can therefore, in theory, shape policy have had a mixed record this year. The sharpest debate surrounds Danny Alexander. He survives at number two because of his status as part of the mixed doubles Quad – Cameron and Clegg, Osborne and Alexander. But he has also been described as being dead in the party. Vince Cable, still hugely popular in the party, also slips down a little (three places to seven) and opinion is sharply divided on the extent to which he is a busted flush. Further down the food chain, junior ministers have struggled to make a mark and some have slipped back – for example Michael Moore but others have done obviously better, like Steve Webb, up two as Minister of State for Pensions. It depends on the extent to which they have delivered what is grandly referred as the Liberal Democratic Agenda in Government.
- (-) Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Last year we wrote that Nick Clegg’s biggest challenge would be to find a way for his party to remain loyal to the coalition yet retain a distinct identity. That challenge remains. Clegg’s party have fallen out of love with their leader and even Chris Huhne is openly speculating about him becoming a European Commissioner. But Clegg remains willing to take risks and big decisions. After a difficult summer he seems to be finding his feet again.
- (-) Danny Alexander
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Danny Alexander has replaced David Laws as a hate figure for the LibDem left. They regard him as a Tory in all but name, due to his religious adherence to cuts in public spending. He has grown as a political figure of substance in the last year and is as close to Nick Clegg as he ever was. He wields power as a member of the Quad (Cameron, Osborne and Clegg being the other members) and looks likely to be the right’s candidate in any future leadership contest.
- (+31) Tim Farron
Lib Dem MP for Westmorland & Lonsdale & Party President
Tim Farron is a politician who knows how to reach the G spot of the Liberal Democrats and is considered on the party’s best speakers. A committed campaigner and believer in the traditional ‘pavement politics’ he rises this year partly because of his election as party president but also because he has become the party’s conscience. It is said he has his eye on the party leadership, and who could blame him? He may face a decision in the next twelve months if he is offered the chance to be a minister in a reshuffle.
- (-1) Chris Huhne
Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change
Some observers may be surprised to find Chris Huhne remaining so high in this list following his well publicised problems with his ex wife over speeding tickets. But he remains the LibDem minister who has delivered most and one that his Conservative colleagues trust to do what he says he will. But the main reason he remains high on the list is because there is a dearth of candidates who are more influential than he is, both on policy, the party and the coalition.
- (-) Jonathan Oates
Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister
Oates is a PR specialist and did a good job in refashioning the whole LibDem communications structure before returning to the private sector in 2009. Clegg persuaded him to return for the election and his first job in the coalition was as deputy to Andy Coulson. In August last year he moved to become Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister and has totally revamped his office. If you want to get to Clegg you have to get to Jonny Oates first. And therein lies his influence.
- (-) Simon Hughes
After twenty years as a leading player in Lib Dem politics – often described as the best leader they never had - Hughes’s star was very much on the wane. Yet having won the party’s deputy leadership election last June he has found a new lease of life and his role as ‘conscience of the party’ is giving him a role in which he feels free to critique the coalition and play up to his self-styled role as protector of all things liberal. He skillfully played both sides on the student fees debate.
- (-3) Vince Cable
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills
Last year we said that Vince Cable’s star was on the wane, as was his influence. That still holds true a year on. His tendency to believe he can say what he likes regardless of the political consequences has got him into trouble on more than one occasion, the most famous being at the hands of two reporters from this newspaper whom he told of his planned war on Rupert Murdoch. He may think he had the last laugh but his political stock both within the Lib Dems outside took a dramatic hit.
- (+2) Steve Webb
Minister of State for Pensions
Deeply cerebral, Webb was tipped as a possible leadership candidate in the last Lib Dem leadership election, but decided instead to back Nick Clegg. He got his reward by being appointed to his dream role as Pensions Minister at the Department of Work & Pensions. Widely seen to be on the left of the party, Webb is acknowledged as an expert in his field by politicians across the political divides. If he makes a success of his current job, he could well rise to yet dizzier heights.
- (-2) Polly MacKenzie
Deputy Director of Strategy, Number 10 Downing Street
One of the Lib Dems’ brightest young talents, Polly Mackenzie was Clegg’s senior policy adviser when he was Home Affairs Spokesman and resigned her post to be part of his leadership campaign team. She has great influence over policy and writes most of Nick Clegg’s important speeches. Her role as deputy to Steve Hilton in Downing Street has seen her catapulted to the centre of the coalition, where she remains one of Clegg’s closest and most trusted advisers. However, later this year she goes on maternity leave, to be replaced by Julian Astle.
- (+14) Evan Harris
Former Lib Dem MP for Oxford West & Abingdon
One of the doughtiest Lib Dem campaigners, Harris is an inveterate ‘taker-upper’ of causes. And since he lost his seat at the election he has had more time to do so. Even though he is not in parliament he is often seen as a Lib Dem spokesman on the media and retains strong support amongst the Lib Dem grassroots members. He is seen as a spokesman for the left of the party. He has been vocal over phone hacking and abortion counseling. His position in the party has been consolidated through his election to the party’s Federal Policy Committee.
- (+7) Norman Lamb
Chief Parliamentary & Political Adviser to Nick Clegg
A doughty campaigner and good frontbench performer, Norman Lamb had been expected to be a health minister, but it is rumoured he was vetoed by Andrew Lansley. It was Lamb who got his revenge by speaking out against Lansley’s health reforms. He told Clegg he would resign over the issue but Clegg gave him permission to speak out. A dead cert to become a minister in the next reshuffle. But not at the Department of Health.
- (+13) Baroness Williams
Former Leader of the Lib Dems in the House of Lords
Although she no longer holds an official position, Shirley Williams is seen as the Grandmother of the Liberal Democrats, as well as a national treasure. She has been an outspoken critic of the coalition’s health reforms. After Nick Clegg and Charles Kennedy she is probably the Lib Dems’ most recognized face on TV.
- (-1) Lord Ashdown
Leader of the Lib Dems 1988-1999
It was Ashdown who led the Lib Dems to an electoral breakthrough in 1997 and for that reason alone he is revered by Lib Dems. Of the former leaders, he is closest to Nick Clegg. Intrinsically anti-Tory, he, together with Ming Campbell, led a rearguard action to try to persuade Nick Clegg to give Labour a real chance in the coalition negotiations. His pleas fell on deaf ears and for that reason alone he has to fall marginally in last year’s chart. But he is still regularly consulted by Nick Clegg and is a regular media go-to Lib Dem.
- (+1) Alastair Carmichael
Convivial and well liked, the MP for Britain’s most northerly constituency and Deputy Chief Whip in the Commons has not had a typical rise through the ranks. In March of 2008 he resigned from the post of Liberal Democrat Northern Ireland and Scotland Spokesman in order to vote in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty – one of thirteen colleagues to rebel and two to resign their front bench responsibilities. Clegg, however, quickly reappointed him to the position later the same year. Very popular in the party, Carmichael’s star is very much on the ascendant.
- (-2) Michael Moore
Secretary of State for Scotland
Michael Moore has been thought of as one of the great plodders of Lib Dem politics. No one was more surprised than he to find himself in the cabinet. Having held a succession of junior frontbench roles for the Lib Dems and failing to shine in a brief interregnum in the Lib Dems top lineup when Ming Campbell was ill, some are at a loss to explain his sudden promotion. But he’s a safe pair of hands in a job where the definition of success is being able to keep out of trouble.
- (-8) David Laws
Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Lib Dem MP for Yeovil
David Laws might have been expected to drop further down the list, but the fact is that his influence is still very strong within both coalition parties. He is said to be destined for a return to government, but few expect it to be at Cabinet level. His last year has been spent publicising his book, 22 Days in May, and writing occasional newspaper articles. His gradual rehabilitation will surely be completed in time for next year’s list.
- (-) Lynne Featherstone
Minister for Equalities, Home Office
Feisty and telegenic, Lynne Featherstone was a leading cheerleader for Chris Huhne and as a consequence had been somewhat sidelined by Nick Clegg. She is one of the Lib Dems’ foremost bloggers and a doughty constituency campaigner. Somewhat to her own surprise she was appointed a Minister at the Home Office in charge of equalities. This portfolio has given her a high profile, but she is said not to get on with her Home Office boss, Theresa May, who rather likes to handle any positive Home Office news story herself.
- (-10) Lord McNally
Minister of State, Ministry of Justice
A genial figure, Lord McNally started political life as head of James Callaghan’s political office. Elected to the Commons in 1979 he defected to the SDP two years later. He was one of the key players in the overthrow of Charles Kennedy. Lib Dems are said to be disappointed at the lack of impact made by McNally in his minterial position, hence his fall in the list this year.
- (+13) Nick Harvey
Minister of State, Ministry of Defence
Despite being comparatively young Nick Harvey is seen as a Liberal Democrat old stager, having first been elected in 1992 in Jeremy Thorpe’s old seat. His self parodying style likened to something out of Jeeves and Wooster belies a sharp tactical mind. He was probably one of the few MPs considered capable of serving in the most Conservative government department, defence. His appointment as a senior Lib Dem Minister at the Ministry of Defence put many Tory noses out of joint, but he has had a good year in the job and is well thought of at the MoD.
- (-12) Lord Oakeshott
Liberal Democrat Peer
A close ally of Chris Huhne, Lord Oakeshott is an economist by training, having once worked for the Kenyan Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. He was a special adviser to the late Roy Jenkins between 1972-76, and also had a stint as a City Councillor in Oxford before becoming a peer in 2000. He is the Lords’ equivalent of Norman Baker and always has an eye for a headline. He is easily the most omnipresent Lib Dem peer in the media, although his media tartery has understandably diminished since the advent of the coalition, hence his fall this year – exacerbated by him standing down as Finance spokesman in the Lords.
- (+15) Ed Davey
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Business, Innovation & Skills
Davey had been seen as a rising star of the Lib Dems, but his role as Foreign Affairs spokesman was not considered a success. Indeed, he is rumoured to have got the job because Chris Huhne turned it down. His appointment on the lowest ministerial rung of the ladder seemed to prove how low he had sunk. However, his work prior to becoming an MP as an economist advising on post office systems means he is back in his comfort zone and is the man the coalition is trusting to see the Royal Mail privatization bill through parliament. He has been quietly effective and has seen a bit of a rehabilitation in party circles.
- (+16) Norman Baker
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport
The maverick’s maverick, Baker is seen as an obsessive, even by his party colleagues. He published a book asserting that Dr David Kelly was murdered. He’s viewed as the very antithesis of a team player, but is an effective media operator despite his less than matinee idol looks. Some think he is getting a reputation as a rent-a-quote, a reputation which was burnished during the MP expenses scandal when he seemed to have a view on every case of misdoing. His appointment as a junior Transport Minister was viewed by many as an attempt to buy his silence. If so, it failed. He has been a surprise success as a Minister and is one of the few LibDems who seems to understand the concept of collective responsibility. But will it last?
- (+10) David Heath
Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
One of the few Lib Dems MPs who seems to be popular across the party – maybe it’s because he has a beard and appears avuncular. A leading constitutional reformist, Heath was expected to lose his seat to the glamorous Conservative Annunziata Rees-Mogg, but he defied expectations and increased his majority to 1,819. He was sacked from the Lib Dem front bench for defying the whip and supporting a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but was reappointed a year later. Popular among his coalition colleagues, Heath has been a success as a minister.
- (+23) Sean Kemp
Deputy Head of Press, Number 10 Downing Street
With a background in journalism and a nose for a story, Sean Kemp is a trusted contact for the media within No10. His hard-hitting and questioning style became an essential part of the preparation of Nick Clegg for the leadership debates. He also held his nerve as the then Head of Media under the onslaught from the media against the party. He, Lena Pietsch and Jonny Oates have formed a tight knit team which is strong on trust and fast moving when necessary. He has earned the respect of his Conservative coalition and the media in his new role at No10.
- (+18) Jeremy Browne
Minister of State, Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Possibly the most right wing Liberal Democrat MP in the House of Commons, he is viewed with huge suspicion by the beard and sandals brigade – and with good reason. He holds firm free market convictions and is the nearest thing the LibDems have to a Eurosceptic, hence the reason William Hague was happy for him to join his FCO ministerial team. Has been a solid performer so far.
- (NEW) Julian Astle
Incoming Deputy Head, Number 10 Policy Unit
A current Telegraph columnist and blogger, Julian Astle is best known for his work with the Centre Forum think tank, which he ran from 2005-2011 . He worked as Paddy Ashdown’s political advisor in his last two years as party leader and during his time in Bosnia (2002 - 2005) alongside David Cameron’s Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn. He was due to work as Special Advisor to David Laws in the Treasury before Laws resigned 17 days after becoming Chief Secretary. Astle is also a member of the Coalition 2.0 group looking at policy ideas for the second half of this Parliament. He will take over from Polly Mackenzie as the senior Lib Dem in the No10 Policy Unit when she goes on maternity leave in December.
- (-) Duncan Brack
Special Advisor to Chris Huhne
Former Lib Dem Policy Director Brack is one of the few Lib Dems who everybody seems not only to like but also to respect. He was for a number of years a research programme head at Chatham House and more recently was behind the Reinventing the State book, which challenged the more liberal economic position of the Orange Book crowd. He gave up his powerful position as Chair of the Lib Dem Conference Committee last May to take on the job of advising Chris Huhne on climate change. He continues to edit the Journal of Liberal History and this week published a new history of liberalism in Britain called Peace, Reform and Liberation.
- (NEW) Olly Grender
Head of Press for the Deputy Prime Minister
Olly Grender became the Lib Dem pundit of choice for a media desperate to find talking heads who can explain the Lib Dem point of view. A former speech writer and Director of Communications for the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown’s leadership, she was Director of Communications for Shelter the homelessness charity. Her regular appearances on Newsnight and her calmness under pressure have led to suggestions that she might one day adorn the Lib Dem benches in the Lords. Earlier this month she accepted a job as Nick Clegg’s head of press, while Lena Pietsch goes on maternity leave.
- (-3) Richard Reeves
Special Adviser to Nick Clegg
One of Britain’s leading centre left thinkers, Reeves left the comfortable job as head of the think tank Demos to take a central role in Nick Clegg’s private office. Someone described him as the “left half of Clegg’s brain”. He burnished his liberal credentials with a well reviewed biography of John Stuart Mill, but he is a figure of suspicion among grassroots activists as he has apparently not been a card carrying member of the party and in 2008 he suggested that self-styled social liberals (a sizeable proportion of the party’s activists) should go and join the Labour Party.
- (-9) Lord Alderdice
Lib Dem Convenor in the House of Lords
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Lord Alderdice is a popular member of the House of Lords, where he is responsible for leading Liberal Democrat Peers. He was leader of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1998 and Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly from 1998 to 2004.
- (+19) Kirsty Williams
Leader, Welsh Liberal Democrats
A vocal member of the Welsh Assembly, Williams became Wales’ first female party leader when she was elected at the end of 2008. Having joined the Liberal party at the age of just 15, Williams is clearly something of a die-hard: she was a staunch campaigner for a Welsh Assembly in the 1997 referendum, and became an Assembly Member in its first ever election in 1999. She is struggling to give the Welsh Lib Dems a new identity but by comparison to her Celtic colleagues in Scotland the Welsh Lib Dems did well in the 2011 Assembly elections and Williams can take the credit for that, even though they lost one seat overall.
- (NEW) Sharon Bowles
Lib Dem MEP
Sharon Bowles chairs the Eurpean Parliament’s powerful Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, and in 2011 was ranked as the highest placed Brit in a list of the most influential figures in global financial regulation, beating both George Osborne and Mervyn King.
- (NEW) Willie Rennie
Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats
Former Member of Parliament for Dunfermline and West Fife, Willie Rennie briefly served as a SpAd in the Scotland Office after his defeat in the 2010 election, before he quit to run for the Scottish Parliament. He became the only new Lib Dem MSP after the 2011 Scottish elections, and was elected unopposed as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Praised by Michael Moore for his loyalty to the UK Liberal Democrats, he has made himself popular with the leadership.
- (NEW) Brian Paddick
Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mayor of London
A familiar face for most, Brian Paddick made a welcome return as Lib Dem Mayoral candidate this year. Paddick has made a great effort to distinguish himself from the Coalition, promising a “radical agenda” to help improve the Lib Dems’ image in London. He served as Deputy Police Commissioner at the Met until 2007, later featuring as a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. In the 2008 Mayoral election Paddick achieved 9.8% of the vote. He vowed never to run again.
- (NEW) James Mcgrory
Press officer, Number 10 Downing Street
James McGrory is said to be Nick Clegg’s favourite spin doctor. Described by some as a cockney thug he is not your typical Liberal Democrat. He has also been described as the best press officer in the business. He has achieved power and influence at a very young age. Time will tell if he seeks elected office.
- (-8) Andrew Stunell
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Communities & Local Government
One of the more obscure Lib Dem MPs, Stunell presided as a benign Chief Whip in the last parliament and now finds himself working under Eric Pickles as a junior minister in the DCLG. He has a local government background having been political secretary of the Association of Liberal Democrat for seven years in the 1990s. He also spoke from the Lib Dem front bench on the subject for four years in the 2005 Parliament. Well thought of by Eric Pickles, Stunell has disappointed some Lib Dems in local government by not being outspoken enough.
- (-6) Paul Burstow
Minister of State, Department of Health
Burstow spent two years as Lib Dem Health spokesman but was dropped by Charles Kennedy after the 2005 election. A year later he was elected Chief Whip by Lib Dems MPs following Ming Campbell’s election as Lib Dem leader. He established a reputation for firmness in a party where whipping is considered as difficult as herding cats. His appointment as a minister at the Health Department was considered a surprise, but he is said to have established a good working relationship with his fellow Conservative ministers. In fact, this was so good that he seemed to let all the health reforms go by without a whimper.
- (-8) Lord Shutt
Government Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords
A Life Peer since 2000, David Shutt figures prominently on this list not just because of his role as chief whip in the Lords. He was also chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which has become a large provider of funds to the Lib Dems in recent years, to the tune of several millions of pounds, but left the job recently, hence his fall in this year’s list.
- (+1) Mark Pack
Co-editor, Liberal Democrat Voice
Mark Pack is a key player in the Lib Dem blogosphere and one of the main contributors to the successful Liberal Democrat Voice blog, on which he plays the part of attack dog, with a constant stream of blogposts highlighting scandals in other parties. He left his job at Lib Dem HQ to take up a position with a communications consultancy, but is still a figure of influence behind the scenes. He is a close political ally of Lib Dem online supremo Lynne Featherstone. He is increasingly used by the BBC and Sky News as a pundit.
- (-1) Sarah Teather
Minister of State, Department of Education
A sparky media performer, the diminutive Sarah Teather has never really matched up to her potential following her famous by-election win in Brent East in 2003. However, when electoral boundary changes rendered her seat apparently unwinnable she decided to stay put. To her credit, she won and was then given the plumb job as deputy to Michael Gove. She was said to have found the early weeks as a minister very difficult, and has never really recovered. Thought to be at risk in any reshuffle.
- (NEW) Jo Swinson
PPS to Vince Cable & Lib Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire
Many were surprised that Jo Swinson failed to become a Lib Dem Minister last year. Now PPS to the Business Secretary Vince Cable, she will play a key role in helping to shape government policy over the next year. Swinson is Deputy Leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, but made enemies last year when she voted to increase tuition fees in England despite it not affecting her constituents. An impressive media performer, she could be promoted in a future reshuffle.
- (-) Lord Wallace
Liberal Democrat peer & Advocate General for Scotland
If the Lib Dems had men in grey suits, they would be led by Jim Wallace. It’s no stretch of the imagination to believe that had Jim Wallace not existed, the coalition talks may have floundered. The Lib Dem negotiating team took advice from Wallace’s experience creating a Lib/Lab coalition in the early years of the Scottish Parliament. His robust stance and experience on fighting elections as the leader of a minority party in government makes him uniquely useful.
- (-8) Fiona Hall
Leader, UK Liberal Democrat MEPs
A second-term MEP, Hall worked for several Lib Dem MPs from the mid-1990s before winning election to the European Parliament in 2004. She was elected as leader of the Lib Dem delegation in Brussels in 2009. Her work, both as an MEP and externally, has focused on renewable energy and climate change.
- (NEW) Julian Huppert
Lib Dem MP for Cambridge
Huppert may not seem like the most interesting Member of Parliament, but this year he was voted the most impressive new Liberal Democrat MP elected in 2010 by party members. He is independently minded and on the left of his party, he voted against any increase in tuition fees and is a passionate anti-nuclear weapons campaigner. As the Coalition continues Huppert could become a key rebel on the Lib Dem backbenches – the new Evan Harris?
- (NEW) Duncan Hames
Lib Dem MP for Chippenham
Jo Swinson’s husband and Member of Parliament for Chippenham, Hames has been fiercely loyal to the Lib Dem leadership since he was elected last year. He is tipped by many for a future ministerial career, much to the annoyance of some of his colleagues who view his fast rise up the greasy pole with suspicion. Recently appointed as PPS to the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, he remains one of the most active members in the Chamber.
- (NEW) James Gurling
Chair of the Campaigns and Communications Committee, Liberal Democrats
Former London Councillor and brother to Sarah Kennedy, James is the first non-Parliamentarian to chair this key committee, widely regarded as a mark of the faith Nick Clegg has in the Party infrastructure. In that role James has undertaken a review of the General Election 2010 and the 2011 elections including the AV referendum. So far his work has led to a radical change in party communications and new campaigning practices. He has the ear of the Leader and the outgoing CEO as well as being widely respected by the party membership at all levels.
- (NEW) Gerald Vernon-Jackson
Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the Local Government Association
A veteran campaigner and party stalwart, Gerald has been a Councillor in Portsmouth since 2003 and has been Leader of the Council since 2004. He’s a former Councillor in rural Berkshire and his assent through local government ranks was completed this year when he became Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the LGA. Born and brought up in Hampshire he trained as a social worker and is a member of the Federal Executive.
- (-) Miriam Gonzalez-Durantez
Wife of the Deputy Prime Minister
Mirian Gonzalez-Durantez is no ordinary politician’s wife. For a start she turned her nose up at the usual campaigning in the election and got on with her high flying corporate lawyer day job, describing the media interest as “patronizing”. As a former EU official and the daughter of a Spanish Senator, her knowledge of the world of politics rivals her husband’s. She is renowned for knowing her own mind with a thick skin in contrast to her stylish looks. Clegg definitely seeks her advice and pillow talk in this household is likely to be highly political.
- (NEW) Caroline Pidgeon
Leader, Greater London Assembly Liberal Democrats
Caroline Pidgeon is hugely popular among London Lib Dems thanks to her record of local campaigning around the capital. She has repeatedly refused blandishments from all levels of the party to stand for London Mayor, instead preferring to concentrate on work such as being at various times Vice-Chair and Chair of the Assembly’s Transport committee. Previously a local councillor for twelve years in Southwark, she stood for Parliament in 2010.
- (NEW) Tim Snowball
Political Secretary to Nick Clegg
Tim Snowball met Nick Clegg during a lecture he was giving at the University of Sheffield. He managed Clegg’s 2010 election tour and combines his current role as Political Secretary with a role as Chief of Staff at Lib Dem HQ. The switch to Chief of Staff / PS role means he is one of the few people with a foot in both party and government camps, making him a key link person and shows the degree to which Nick Clegg trusts his efficiency and discretion.