Vince Cable has failed to declare expensive polling of his constituency provided privately by his friend Lord Oakeshott. Surveys carried out by ICM and funded by the wealthy peer were a cornerstone of an abortive coup attempt against Nick Clegg — but haven’t yet appeared on the relevant parliamentary register.
Along with a survey of his PPS Tessa Munt’s constituency in Somerset, the financial value of the 500-person polls would come to at least £8,000 and is well above the threshold for declaration on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Fighting suggestions he was looking to unseat the Lib Dem leader, Cable admitted last week that Munt had been shown the figures ‘in detail’:
“I was aware that [Oakeshott] was conducting other polls around the country and I was certainly told in general terms what the trends were, and in one particular case concerning … Tessa Munt from Wells, we sat down and discussed the details with her.”
But a new version of the register (PDF), including entries up to and including this Monday (2 June) has no mention of the donations-in-kind:
The constituencies of Lib Dem MPs Ian Swales (Redcar) and Julian Huppert (Cambridge) were also polled by Oakeshott but it is not known whether they were shown the results before the details were released into the public domain.
Parliamentary rules state:
“it is the responsibility of Members to notify changes in their registrable interests within four weeks of each change occurring”
It may still be possible that Cable registered the polling after Monday, in which case he may advance the defence that he was only shown the breakdown in the last four weeks.
This version of events would rely on Oakeshott, one of the business secretary’s closest political allies, keeping private polling of Twickenham a secret from him for at least two weeks.