Each year the Telegraph assembles a group of experts to compile a list of the top fifty ranked members of the Liberal Democrats. Meeting this year in the Westminster Intercontinental – the new hangout of choice for politicos – the panel judged the performance of Lib Dem politicians since September 2012.
The Liberal Democrats have proved remarkable disciplined over the last year. There is now no likelihood of any challenge to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s leadership before the 2015 election, even though his poll ratings remain at rock bottom. In February, retaining the Eastleigh seat vacated by Chris Huhne helped to steady nerves, and although in terms of vote share the local elections in May were the party’s worst ever, the chunks torn out of the Tory vote by UKIP helped to save dozens of Lib Dem councillors their seats. Now, as the party gears up for the general election, Clegg’s increasing readiness to disagree with his Tory ministerial colleagues is proving popular with Lib Dem activists – though whether this will help him convince them to ‘occupy the centre ground’, as he puts it, in a series of key conference votes this week remains to be seen.
Two years ago we described the ranking of 2011’s top fifty as ‘the rise of the left’. This year a more apposite title could be ‘the revenge of the Orange Bookers’, as Clegg stays at number one and sees two key allies rise to numbers two and three. Sidekick Danny Alexander, the other Lib Dem member of the Quad which takes the key coalition decisions (alongside Clegg, David Cameron and George Osborne) rises two places to number two, while David Laws, co-editor of the economic liberals’ bible, The Orange Book, the brains behind Cleggism and returnee to ministerial office last year, shoots up to number three, due to his appointment as chair of the key election manifesto group, which – Lib Dems hope – will be writing the negotiating mandate for the next coalition. And straight in at number six is Ryan Coetzee, Clegg’s Director of Strategy and former MP for the South African Democratic Alliance, brought in to apply some polling-evidence rigour to the party’s appeal. No less than seven other places are occupied by Clegg staffers.
The main losers are mostly on the left of the party. Down goes Party President Tim Farron, who annoyed many activists by his failure to back same-sex marriage, and Simon Hughes, conscience of the party, who’s had a quiet year. Also falling is Shirley Williams, gradually edging towards retirement, and rent-a-quotes Matthew Oakeshott – increasingly marginalised – and Evan Harris, who drops out entirely, mostly because of his focus on the Hacked Off campaign at the expense of party rabble-rousing. Down too is Vince Cable, not really on the left (he was an Orange Booker too), but always willing to criticise his Tory colleagues in public, which scores points with party members, but fails to compensate for his lacklustre ministerial record. Very few now see him as a credible leader-in-waiting.
And yet, being Lib Dems, the awkward squad are still around. Cerebral scientist and Cambridge MP Julian Huppert rises two places thanks to his trenchant defence of civil liberties. Social-liberal thinker Duncan Brack returns to the top fifty as vice chair of the manifesto group – carefully balancing Laws – and Leeds MP Greg Mulholland is a new entry because of his self-appointed role as convenor of the Lib Dem awkward squad in the Commons. Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Lib Dems in the Local Government Association, rises sixteen places; there may be fewer Lib Dem councillors left after three years of coalition, but they are still hugely important in this most localist of parties. Paddy Ashdown, who climbs to number five thanks to his role as Election Campaign Chair, is hardly a friend to the Tories, though he has always proved loyal to his leader.
Apart from Cable, and Jeremy Browne, who seems to have disappeared without trace inside the Home Office, the Lib Dem ministerial team have remained fairly stable in our rankings over the last twelve months; rising stars include Norman Lamb, who has a unique ability to generate positive news from the Department of Health. The smart money for the next leadership contenders, though, remains on Ed Davey (establishment) versus Tim Farron (grassroots).
The Lib Dems continue to struggle to show much diversity amongst their leading figures. Only ten women feature in the fifty – actually two fewer than last year, with the highest rating being the party’s two female ministers Jo Swinson and Lynne Featherstone at numbers fifteen and sixteen. However, the party can celebrate the entry of two men from ethnic minority backgrounds. The shortly-to-be ennobled businessman Rumi Verjee (in at number forty-six) funded the party’s Leadership Programme, which aims to improve its parliamentary representation from under-represented groups. Maajid Nawaz, a newcomer at number fifty, is one of the most interesting in the list, as a former self-styled Islamic extremist, imprisoned and tortured in Mubarak’s Egypt, who underwent a wholesale change of heart and is now Executive Director of Quilliam, the world's first counter-extremism think tank – and a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate.
1. (-) Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
We said this would be a crucial year for Nick Clegg and it has been. He’s seen off half-hearted challenges from Vince Cable and no one now seriously doubts he will lead the Lib Dems into the next election. His "Call Clegg" phone-ins on LBC have done a lot to raise his profile and generated a lot of headlines for him. His task is now to start the differentiation process which will come to its conclusion at the election.
2. (+2) Danny Alexander
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Although he wields power as a member of the Quad (Cameron, Osborne and Clegg being the other members), he has lost influence among his own party for his strict adherence to spending cuts. He is seen as too supplicant to George Osborne, although the truth is that relations between him and the Chancellor have cooled. Being proved right over tuition fees has cut little ice among Lib Dem activists. This year he has begun to step out of Osborne’s shadow, sparking a debate on the future of Trident, but the Lib Dem left now regard him as a Tory in all but name.
3. (+4) David Laws
Minister of State, Department for Education and the Cabinet Office
Talking of Tories in all but name, David Laws’ return to government was welcomed with open arms by both coalition parties. A very close ally of Clegg, his appointment this year to chair the 2015 Manifesto Group – meaning he will write the next Lib Dem manifesto – was not greeted so warmly by the party as a whole. It is certainly a victory for the Orange Bookers. Many hope that Laws will return to the Cabinet in the not too distant future. However, he remains a bête noir of the Lib Dem left.
4. (+5) Lord Ashdown
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats 1988-1999 and Chair of the Lib Dem’s General Election Campaign 2015
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. Intrinsically anti-Tory, he, together with Menzies Campbell, led a rearguard action to try to persuade Nick Clegg to give Labour a real chance in the coalition negotiations. However Ashdown has put those feelings aside and has been a stout defender of Nick Clegg, perhaps because he is one of a small number who understand the uncomfortable burden of government placed on Clegg’s shoulder. At conference last year it was announced he would Chair the Lib Dems' General Election campaign for 2015. A master of by-election style campaigns, he will remember well the question “What would you do in a hung parliament?” from the 1992 election.
5. (-2) Tim Farron
President of the Liberal Democrats
Tim Farron had a big rise over the last few years and has cemented his place in the party members' hearts. He’s an accomplished speaker and knows how to rabble rouse. He is almost certain to stand in any leadership contest, and would be a favourite to win. However he is very aware of his front-runner status and that is beginning to grate with certain parliamentary colleagues. A committed Christian, his unwillingness to support equal marriage was a huge disappointment to his followers on the left of the party.
6. (NEW) Ryan Coetzee
Special Adviser to the Deputy Prime Minister
Appointed last September as Nick Clegg’s strategy adviser, the personable Ryan Coetzee has proved a big hit – just as influential on Clegg as his predecessor, Richard Reeves, but also far more popular and influential on the rest of the party than Reeves was. Coetzee comes from South African where he was both a Member of Parliament and Chief Executive for the Lib Dem’s sister party, the Democratic Alliance. He has taken close control of the party’s polling operation and is pushing hard for the party to have a long-term strategy to increase its core vote.
7. (-2) Jonathan Oates
Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister
Oates is a PR specialist and did a good job in refashioning the whole Lib Dem 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. When he became Chief of Staff to the Deputy Prime Minister he totally revamped his office. Sometimes criticised for being very cautious, Oates is nonetheless central to keeping Clegg's operation running smoothly. If you want to get to Clegg you have to get to Jonny Oates first. And therein lies his influence.
8. (-6) Vince Cable
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills
A big fall for Vince Cable in this year’s list. The growing tension between him and Clegg has been said to have spilt over in private, and Cable has been on the receiving end of a number of dressing downs from the Deputy Prime Minister. He’s heavily tipped (not least by himself) to be Clegg’s successor and maybe even challenger. However many in the party think his time has come and gone, and is now too old to be leader. Despite a less than assured performance in Cabinet, Cable is unsackable, and he knows it, although there really is personal animosity between him and his leader. He got a roasting from fellow Lib Dem MPs at their last "away day" for his desire to borrow more.
9. (-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. Very popular in the party, Carmichael’s star is very much on the ascendant. He worked well with the Conservative chief whip Patrick McLoughlin and is increasingly highly thought of, although the recent vote on intervention on Syria was not his finest moment.
10. (-) Ed Davey
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Davey’s effectiveness as a minister at the Business Department was rewarded when he joined the Cabinet last year, following his appointment as Energy Secretary after the departure of Chris Huhne. He has worked well on green policies with his Tory colleagues, including the new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, and wasn’t bulldozed by former Energy Minister John Hayes. Davey has been a staunch defender of the controversial fracking process, telling those on the left of his party that it is not an “evil” process.
11. (-) Michael Moore
Secretary of State for Scotland
Many were surprised when Moore was promoted to the Cabinet. However during his time in the Cabinet he has proven himself to be a safe pair of hands and avoid any major cock-ups. He may be rather lacklustre, but Moore will find himself at the heart of independence referendum standing shoulder to shoulder with Alistair Darling at the forefront of the ‘Better Together’ campaign over the next year.
12. (-) Steve Webb
Minister of State, Department for Work and 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. He has joked that his auto-enrolment pension policy can be deemed a success because it hasn’t created any headlines, good or bad.
13. (+6) Norman Lamb
Minister of State, Department for Health
In 2010 it was widely expected that Lamb would become health minister, but it was rumoured this was vetoed by the then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. However, when Lansley was replaced with Jeremy Hunt in the reshuffle, Lamb was finally given the health brief, after a brief sojourn as a BIS minister. A doughty campaigner and good front bench performer, in 2013 he has been quietly effective and remains close to the leadership. His new "slickback" haircut has led to all sorts of rumours about his ambition.
14. (-8) Simon Hughes
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
After 20 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 as the party’s deputy leader, 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. This year has been comparatively quiet in recent years, but his influence remains.
15. (+1) Jo Swinson
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
In a meteoric rise Swinson went from PPS to Vince Cable, to PPS to Nick Clegg, and now minister at the Business Department. Many have speculated she is at BIS to keep Cable in check on behalf of Clegg. Whatever the reason, it falls to her and the rest of her BIS colleagues to keep British business growing over the next few years. Her husband Duncan Hames is Clegg’s PPS, solidifying their position as the party’s power couple. Swinson is an impressive media performer, and the highest ranking woman on this list. Criticism of her role in the Rennard scandal hasn’t diminished her influence.
16. (-1) Lynne Featherstone
Parliamentary Under Secretary, Department for International Development
Feisty and telegenic, Lynne Featherstone was a low-key winner in the reshuffle, securing a long-held ambition to move to international development issues and avoid being pigeonholed permanently as "the equalities person". Very popular with party members, the absence of equal marriage from the Coalition Agreement did not stop her taking it to the verge of legislation before last year’s reshuffle. Far less active on social media than before entering government, Featherstone still continues to be one of the higher profile Liberal Democrats online. This year she has brought the issue of Female Genital Mutilation to the attention of the media and the public.
17. (+1) 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 has been a surprise success as a Minister and is one of the few Lib Dems who seems to understand the concept of collective responsibility. He is the only Transport Minister who has remained in post since 2010, and as the only Lib Dem in the department he has consistently fought against any plans over Heathrow expansion and kept HS2 as the department’s top priority.
18. (+2) Julian Huppert
Lib Dem MP for Cambridge
Another great year for Julian Huppert who remains the highest ranked backbencher on the list. In a Lib Dem Voice poll of the most impressive new Liberal Democrat MP elected in 2010 Huppert topped the poll. 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. Huppert may be a key rebel on the Lib Dem benches, but over the past year he has grown in stature and is widely respected by the leadership for his intellect. This year has saw him battle with the Coalition over the Data Communications Bill, Trident, and Syria. He even accused some of his Parliamentary colleagues of bullying him.
19. (NEW) Polly Mckenzie
Senior policy and strategy adviser to Nick Clegg
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 exercised great influence over policy and wrote Nick Clegg’s important speeches. After the election she was catapulted to the centre of the coalition as deputy to Steve Hilton in Downing Street. Despite a break for maternity leave – with another one later this year – she remains one of Clegg’s closest and most trusted advisers, and will have a key input into the election manifesto and the election campaign.
20. (+3) Willie Rennie
Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats
After the 2011 Scottish elections he became the only new Lib Dem MSP, and was elected unopposed as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. Rennie has made himself popular with the leadership because of his loyalty to the UK Liberal Democrats. He will play an important part in next year’s Scottish Independence referendum, already causing rows in Scotland by accusing the Chief Executive the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations of secretly working with SNP for more powers.
21. (NEW) Lena Pietsch
Adviser to Nick Clegg
German national Lena Pietsch is a skilful media handler and played a key role in preparing Nick Clegg for the prime ministerial debates. She and Clegg are known to speak together in her native German when they don’t wish to be overheard. Her return from maternity leave adds some much needed experience to a Lib Dem press operation that at times struggles with the lack of supportive voices among journalists and columnists.
22. (+16) 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. Established and well connected, his wedding pictures are a "who’s who" of senior Lib Dems.
23. (+3) Kirsty Williams
Leader, Welsh Liberal Democrats
Having joined the Liberal Democrats at the age of just 15, Williams is clearly something of a diehard: 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. Despite leading her party to a poor performance at the 2011 Assembly Elections, losing one seat overall, she remains a likeable and well respected figure among the national party. Some say she has ambitions to become a Westminster MP.
24. (+1) David Heath
Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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. Well liked among his coalition colleagues, his success as Deputy Leader of the House of Commons earned him a promotion to Minister of State at DEFRA in last year’s reshuffle. Thrown right into the thick of it, Heath has settled in well. He is very influential if you’re a badger.
25. (+2) 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. Viewed as a disappointment by many Lib Dems because of the lack of impact he has made in his Justice brief, his reputation among the grassroots has plummeted further thanks to the introduction of secret courts under his watch.
26. (-12) Jeremy Browne
Minister of State, Home Office
Browne is treated by suspicion by his own party because he is the most right wing Liberal Democrat MP in the House of Commons. Many openly joke that he is a secret Tory. He was a solid performer at the Foreign Office, but he has not flourished at the Home Office. During his year working under Theresa May he has underperformed, but has never knowingly been under-lunched. He holds firm free market convictions and is the nearest thing the Lib Dems have to a Eurosceptic.
27. (+3) Lord Newby
Deputy Government Chief Whip in the House of Lords
Lord Newby was drafted in last year as the party’s Chief Whip in the Lords to help bolster the leadership and maintain discipline in the Lords. Previous roles with the Lib Dems include Treasury spokesman, press officer to Paddy Ashdown, and Chief of Staff to Charles Kennedy during his time as leader.
28. (+3) Duncan Hames
PPS to Nick Clegg and Lib Dem MP for Chippenham
Another rise this year for the Deputy Prime Minister’s PPS, Duncan Hames. Fiercely loyal to the Lib Dem leadership, he was made Chair of the Federal Policy Committee. However some have said that he is weak and deferential in the role, and think it unlikely that they will pass many motions at Party Conference. 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. It was announced this year that him and his MP wife Jo Swinson are expecting their first child.
29. (-12) Baroness Williams
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats 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 was an outspoken critic of the coalition’s health reforms in 2011. She annoyed many Lib Dems with her stance on equal marriage, but after Nick Clegg and Charles Kennedy she is probably their most recognised face on TV.
30. (NEW) 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 2010 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. More recently, has provided valuable support behind the scenes to Michael Moore on the delicate negotiations over the Scottish referendum.
31. (+2) Tim Gordon
Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
A relatively unknown when appointed as the party’s Chief Executive, Gordon was a long-standing local activist who had combined that with a successful career in strategic business managements. His quiet, low-key appearance belies a willingness to confront difficult decisions and his time at party HQ has been winning plaudits for careful management of scarce resources. He has also put a strong emphasis on improving internal communications in the party, introducing a popular weekly internal email recapping the party’s main messages. This year he oversaw the move and restructuring of Lib Dem HQ which was widely hailed as a success.
32. (+9) Stephen Tall
Co-editor, Liberal Democrat Voice
This year Stephen Tall replaced Mark Pack as the Co-Editor of the hugely successful Liberal Democrat Voice, the must-read site for party activists. A Research Associate at CentreForum, Tall is usually more at home with the politics of David Laws than of Simon Hughes, but rarely picks factional fights, being a critical friend of the party who prefers to talk up its achievements rather than knock them down.
33. (-1) Mark Pack
Mark Pack is a key player in the Lib Dem blogosphere. Despite leaving the Liberal Democrat Voice blog as Co-Editor, he remains a regular contributor to the site. His daily email bulletin is a must read for senior Lib Dems and politicos alike. Co-author of ‘101 Ways To Win An Election’, he is also considered one of the party’s key thinkers on campaigning tactics and organisation. 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. Pack is the go-to Lib Dem pundit for the mainstream media, especially BBC News and Radio 4.
34. (NEW) Duncan Brack
Vice Chair of the Lib Dems Manifesto Working Group
Long-serving party apparatchik, environmental policy expert and Liberal historian Duncan Brack lost his place in this list last year after his boss Chris Huhne resigned from the government; until then Brack had been his special adviser, and before the election, Chair of the party's Conference Committee. He returns this year because of his post as Vice Chair of the key election manifesto group. Co-editor of the 'Reinventing the State' book and this year's 'Green Book' – both of which challenge the more economic liberal position of the Orange Book crowd – he was clearly put there to balance manifesto group Chair David Laws. As we said before, though, he's one of the few Lib Dems who everybody seems not only to respect but also to like.
35. (-13) Baroness Grender
Paddy Ashdown's Political Coordinator
Last year we said of Grender “that she might one day adorn the Lib Dem benches in the Lords”. How right we were. After a very successful period as Nick Clegg’s Head of Press covering Lena Pietsch’s maternity leave, she proved herself so indispensable to the Lib Dem operation she was snapped up by Paddy Ashdown. She is now a key part of the Liberal Democrat’s General Election campaign 2015. In September of this year she joined her boss on the red benches.
36. (-23) Lord Oakeshott
Liberal Democrat Peer
As Vince Cable declines in influence, so does his cheerleader-in-chief Lord Oakeshott. He tried very hard to oust Clegg, and get him replaced by Cable but failed miserably. Although his outspoken nature appeals to certain sections of his party, most are now fed up with his constant criticism. However, he remains one of the biggest thorns in Clegg’s side, and is still able to create a headline every time he speaks. One commentator recently described him in one word: “spent”.
37. (-1) Don Foster
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Foster has been MP for Bath now for 20 years, first elected when he famously defeated Chris Patten in the 1992 General Election. Foster has flourished in government as one of the Lib Dem spokesmen on the Olympics. He sat on the Olympic Board and was also made Deputy Mayor of the Paralympic Village. Last year he joined the Department for Communities and Local Government, with special responsibilities for building regulations. His current pet project is to try and halt the spread of betting shops on the high street.
38. (+1) Jo Foster
Deputy Chief of Staff to Nick Clegg
Jo Foster has only been Deputy Chief of Staff to Nick Clegg for a year but has already made a big impact. The former Chief Executive of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is popular and down to earth. She keeps Nick Clegg in check and has an important role as his gatekeeper. Jo is a crucial link between the leader and the parliamentary party and works closely with Jonny Oates on strategy and negotiating within the coalition.
39. (-5) Matthew Hanney
Political Adviser to Nick Clegg
Matthew has worked for Nick Clegg for over seven years and is well respected throughout the party. His role as Senior Political Adviser puts him in contact with the grassroots of the party, day in day out, and ensures that Nick Clegg keeps in touch with the party at all levels. Matthew advises the Leader and his office on party feeling and is crucial in ensuring the leadership stays connected with the party. He attends all the important meetings with Clegg and senior party figures, but his judgment is often called into question. Hanney is the Marmite member of Cleggs’ team: you either love him or hate him.
40. (-11) James McGrory
Press Officer, No 10 Downing Street
Handling most of the Deputy Prime Minister’s press and communications, James McGrory has climbed the greasy pole to become Nick Clegg’s favourite and most trusted spin doctor. Described by some as ‘a cockney thug’, he is not your typical Liberal Democrat. He has achieved power and influence at a very young age. McGrory got into a bit of hot water this year for using his civil service email address for party political reasons during the Eastleigh by-election. His influence has diminished since Lena Pietsch’s return, and Ryan Coetzee’s entry to the fold.
41. (+3) Lord Wrigglesworth
Treasurer of the Liberal Democrats
One of the great survivors of Lib Dem politics, Sir Ian Wrigglesworth was one of only six SDP MPs elected in 1983, losing in 1987. He was the first President of the merged party, presiding over both its calamitous early years and the beginnings of revival. With a background in business in North East England, in 2010–12 he worked alongside Michael Heseltine in heading the Regional Growth Fund Advisory Panel. In 2012, he became Treasurer of the Liberal Democrats, spearheading the party's fundraising efforts, and this year was raised to the peerage.
42. (NEW) Greg Mulholland
Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West
The shop steward of the Lib Dem rebels, Mulholland organises the swivel-eyed loon section of the Lib Dems. A serial rebel, he has built himself a reputation in Parliament as the enemy of the whips. Recent causes include anti-intervention in Syria, calling for an EU referendum, and more strangely contributing to a book titled Liberal Democrats Do God. He is a growing thorn in the Deputy Prime Minister’s side.
43. (+3) Sir Ming Campbell
Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats 2006-07
Elder Statesman of the Lib Dems, Sir Ming Campbell remains the mediator of party disputes. This year he was made a Companion of Honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. In it he was described as "one of the most respected politicians of his generation". An experienced media performer, he is mostly seen commenting on the foreign policy issues of the day.
44. (NEW) Lord Macdonald
Lib Dem Peer and Former Director of Public Prosecutions
As a former Director of Public Prosecutions, effectively head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Ken Macdonald’s voice carries a lot of weight. Since being made a peer in 2010 he has been invited by the Home Secretary to oversee the government review of counter terrorism and security powers. Popular with colleagues of all parties, he is a staunch defender of civil liberties on the red benches.
45. (NEW) Chris Saunders
Adviser to Nick Clegg
If Nick Clegg wants any advice on economics, Saunders is the man he goes to. His Twitter account proudly declares that he is an “economic geek”, which will be helpful when working out the intricacies of the inevitable mansion tax in the Lib Dems 2015 manifesto. Saunders has worked for the Lib Dems for over a decade, and has been one of their leading voices on banking reform. He was revealed to be planning a fierce anti-Cameron campaign in a leaked WikiLeaks cable in opposition describing the Prime Minister as “out of touch with real life”.
46. (NEW) Rumi Verjee
Businessman and Lib Dem Donor
One of the ten new Peers announced by Nick Clegg in August, Rumi Verjee CBE is a Ugandan Asian entrepreneur and philanthropist. He brought Domino's to the UK and businesses he created now employ more than 20,000 people in the UK. A former barrister, Verjee also established The Rumi Foundation in 2006, which supports a range of humanitarian initiatives, including working with The Clinton Foundation to provide new schools for 3,000 children in Uganda. An active Liberal Democrat for several years, Verjee has sponsored the party’s Leadership Programme which aims to increase the number of candidates from under-represented groups.
47. (+3) Stephen Gilbert
PPS to Ed Davey and MP for St Austell & Newquay
Stephen Gilbert was elected to Parliament in 2010; he was instantly marked out for advancement when appointed as one of the internal Liberal Democrat whips. In 2012 Gilbert was appointed as the PPS to the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, despite helping to lead the pasty tax rebellion after the post-budget fallout. He recently revealed he had formed a friendship with his namesake in Downing Street, as they often have to forward each other’s mail to one another. One to watch.
48. (-) Miriam Gonzalez-Durantez
Wife of the Deputy Prime Minister
Miriam 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 highflying corporate lawyer day job, describing the media interest as “patronising”. 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.
49. (NEW) Helen Duffett
Internal Communications Manager, Lib Dem HQ
Helen Duffett acts as a bridge between the party establishment and the membership. She is credited with a huge improvement in the effectiveness and relevance of party communications. As Honorary President of Liberal Youth, Associate Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and host of regular online Q&A sessions with Lib Dem Ministers, she is, unlike most messengers, widely liked – which assists her greatly in the role.
50. (NEW) Maajid Nawaz
Parliamentary Candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn
Maajid Nawaz is a British Pakistani and former radical Islamist. He was imprisoned in Egypt for four years for being a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was banned in the country. Having renounced radicalism in 2007, the year after he was released from prison, Nawaz co-founded Quilliam, the world's first counter-extremism think tank. Selected in July as the Lib Dem candidate for three-way marginal Hampstead & Kilburn, he is the party's latest visible minority candidate for a seat which they are in with a shout to win.