Nick Clegg has attempted to rally his party after Vince Cable warned that Tim Farron would not be a "credible leader".
The deputy prime minister told BuzzFeed News that the high-profile pair should be focused on May's general election rather than a hypothetical leadership contest.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News earlier this week, the business secretary launched an extraordinary attack on Farron, the left-winger who is the bookies' favourite to succeed Clegg as Lib Dem leader.
Cable said of Farron: "I suspect he would not be seen as a very credible leader, at least now. Maybe in five, 10 years' time, things are different."
BuzzFeed News asked Clegg whether it was helpful for his ministers to indulge in leadership chatter ahead of the election.
"The most helpful thing they can do is what the whole Lib Dem team is doing," he said, "which is focusing on explaining to the British people that only with the Liberal Democrats round the cabinet table can you get a stronger economy and a fairer society in which there's opportunity for everybody."
Pressed on whether he agreed with Cable's remarks about Farron, he said: "I'm not going to start providing a running commentary on who may or may not – in many, many years to come – possibly wish to throw their hat in the ring to succeed me.
"At the moment all I'm focused on, which I'm sure Tim and Vince are as well, is on winning as many votes and securing as many seats for the Liberal Democrats on 7 May."
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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