Mr Clegg conceded that the Liberal Democrats had not been pushy or irritating enough to win over voters at last week’s local elections. He compared his party’s humiliation at the polls with the millions of people who tune in regularly to The Apprentice, fronted by earthy business panjandrum Lord Sugar.
‘We got trashed, while Alan Sugar gets eight million viewers by sitting in a boardroom full of vain, shallow, self-serving morons who spout meaningless cliches in an effort to conceal their ignorance and outlast their colleagues,’ he said. ‘It’s time the Cabinet was more like that, so the Liberal Democrats are going to step up to the plate, give it 150 per cent, and deliver incredible results.’
Business Secretary Vince Cable criticised Mr Clegg’s plans to change the name of the party to ‘Team Win’. ‘He didn’t manage the team very well at all on that last task,” Cable complained. ‘I could have told him that we didn’t have a strong concept but he was unfortunately too full of himself to ask me, whereas I am a key cog in the wheel and he should have made better use of my extensive skillset and unstoppable charisma. I would have given this task two hundred per cent.’
In an open challenge to Mr Clegg’s authority, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne emailed party supporters to tell them: ‘I admit that we dropped the ball on this task, but if you make me project manager going forward then I promise you I will give it four hundred per cent and get astronomical results that will rock your world, transforming your notion of success.’
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said he ‘broadly supports’ Mr Clegg’s efforts to shore up party discipline and denied rumours that he is preparing to start firing one Liberal Democrat a week until only one is left standing. ‘But I’ll be watching Nick very closely in the next few weeks; he needs to prove he’s up to the job,’ Mr Cameron said. ‘I’m not a charity. It’s sink or swim: I don’t do lifeboats – at least not since we cut funding to the RNLI by 40%.’