Breakdown in relations with 'old friend' Vince Cable key to Lord Oakeshott resignation

File photo dated 9/2/2009 of Lord Oakshott Photo: PA

When Lord Oakeshott told me he was resigning at lunchtime today, it was clear the breakdown in relations with his "old friend" Vince Cable played a critical part in his decision to quit.

Yesterday, the Business Secretary effectively cut him loose with a statement saying the Liberal Democrat peer's actions, leaking damaging polls to the Guardian, were "totally inexcusable".

But according to Lord Oakeshott, Dr Cable had himself seen the polling data "several weeks ago".

This is very damaging indeed as it suggests - despite insisting yesterday "there is no leadership issue", the Business Secretary may, after all, have been involved in plotting to unseat Nick Clegg.

Vince Cable, who's in China, has yet to comment on the claims.

For years, Lord Oakeshott has made no secret of the fact he believes Nick Clegg is hindering not helping the party's prospects. But his suggestion, in his resignation statement, that the party is "heading for disaster" under Mr Clegg's leadership is likely to lead to more turmoil in the party's ranks over the coming days.

"A busted flush" is how one senior source described Lord Oakeshott to me, but that may turn out to be wishful thinking.

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