At 11am on 20th June, an article was published on Lib Dem Voice, entitled: BREAKING NEWS: Vince Cable announces his candidacy for Leader. Vince’s messages in this statement were exactly those that I would have liked to see from someone wanting to lead the party. I will talk about what he has stated on Brexit later, but for now want to mention his position on social issues. The article read:
As a socially progressive party, we must build on our good policies in support of public services. The NHS, especially mental health, and social care and schools are now under severe financial pressure.
Part of our problem in the General Election was that everyone saw us to be defined by just our position on Brexit – even if that was not necessarily the case. It is therefore refreshing that Vince, whilst still supporting the strongly pro-EU line, is wanting to explicitly fight for social issues as well.
Now onto what he has said about Brexit. As we are about to enter a period of chronic uncertainty – which will most probably produce many economic, social and political challenges – it is essential that we are willing to cooperate across party borders. On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Vince explained:
There’s a need in Parliament at the moment to be much more collaborative – people in the Tory Party, Labour Party, also nationalists – see real dangers now ahead in this hard Brexit option the government’s pursuing.
We have seen from Anna Soubry’s attack on her frontbench and Chuka Umunna’s attempted amendment to the Queen’s Speech that many MPs in the two largest parties share similar views to the Lib Dems about the need for a softer Brexit. If we’re to put any serious pressure on the Government then we need to be able to establish cross party consensus on the issue. It is therefore pleasing that Vince seems to be incredibly open to the prospect of this and we may even be rewarded by the electorate if we’re the party seen to be willing to be collaborative and compromising. We need not work with either Corbyn or May, unless they change their views on Brexit (something that seems rather unlikely), but we need to work together with MPs in their parties that are becoming more and more disillusioned with their leadership’s position on our future relations with the EU. Three Labour MPs that supported Umunna’s amendment have been fired from the Shadow Cabinet, highlighting a clear disconnect between Corbyn and many of his pro-EU MPs.
I also liked seeing Vince’s honesty that Brexit may never happen on the Andrew Marr show:
I’m beginning to think that Brexit may never happen. I think that the problems are so enormous, the divisions in the two major parties are so enormous. I can see a scenario in which this doesn’t happen. And certainly our policy of having a second referendum, which didn’t really cut through in the General Election, is designed to give a way out.
Those that have explained their worries that Cable is not strongly enough supportive of the European project, must surely now feel satisfied that he is going to be in favour of going back into the EU, through a referendum on the final deal, if public opinion changes? The one thing that I would just say to Cable, however, is to drop the term ‘second referendum’ as it seems to imply a rerun of the previous referendum which is – as you have explained elsewhere – clearly not our policy.
For those that are concerned with his age, I will conclude by mentioning a few things. Jeremy Corbyn has managed to connect with young voters – despite being in his 60s – and the same has been true of Bernie Sanders (who is even older than Cable) in the US. Gladstone did become PM in his 80s, so I just want you to give Vince a chance. Don’t rule him out just because of his older age.