Breaking…Vince to step down in May

Sir Vince said he was announcing his departure now to pave the way for a leadership contest so a 12-week leadership contest can begin in May.

‘I wanted to set it out so that there’s an orderly process of succession and the next generation can come through rather than chaotic power struggles you’re seeing inside the Tory party and Labour party so I wanted us to do better than that,’ he said.

His decision to step down will mean he is able to spend more time with his family, he said, adding: ‘My wife Rachel has been very supportive [of my time as leader] and doesn’t mind me doing it and has come round the country with me, but she would like to spend more time with me. I think she will see it as a bonus that she sees me more.’

He added: ‘I’ll be continuing as an MP. I want to get back to writing books again in my spare time.’

Sir Vince said he was planning a follow-up to his political thriller Open Arms which was published in 2017, and a non-fiction book about politicians who have changed the way we look at economics, from the US founding father Alexander Hamilton to Margaret Thatcher.


Party members got an email at the exact same moment the tweet was posted.

This has been a dramatic week in Parliament with Theresa May’s Brexit proposals heavily defeated, and a very clear statement that a ‘no deal’ Brexit must be avoided. It is now clear that Brexit will be postponed, and very possibly stopped.

The future is very uncertain but despite Labour’s continued prevarication, there is still a real chance of securing a People’s Vote and, indeed, of stopping Brexit.

The fact that these possibilities are still alive is a great tribute to our Party. Unlike the Tories and Labour, we never saw it as our duty to ‘deliver Brexit’.

The tribute is primarily to you as members, for marching and campaigning so energetically. Thank you for securing the progress we have made.

I indicated last year that once the Brexit story had moved on, and we had fought this year’s crucial local elections in 9,000 seats across England, it would be time for me to make way for a new generation. I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like, succession unlike the power struggles in the other parties.

So I wanted you, our members, to know that, assuming Parliament does not collapse into an early General Election, I will ask the party to begin a leadership contest in May.

At our spring conference this weekend, members will have the chance to make that contest the biggest and most open leadership election British politics has ever seen. It’s a real opportunity for our party to seize the radical and liberal centre of British politics. We can and should invite hundreds of thousands of new supporters in, with the chance for us to choose a new leader together.

It has been my great privilege to lead the Liberal Democrats at this crucial time.

I inherited the leadership after two difficult and disappointing General Elections. But I take pride in seeing the party recovering strongly, with last year’s local election results the best in 15 years, record membership and a central role in the People’s Vote campaign.

And long after my period as your Leader ceases, I will continue to work with you and my successor to make sure the Liberal Democrats are at the centre of Britain’s rapidly changing politics. By building a movement of voters who share our values, we can help rescue the country from a profound political crisis and give hope of a better future.

Thank you for all your support.


I’m not massively surprised. He pretty much said in September that he was going after Brexit.

He took us on in 2017 when we needed him to and did what he always does – talked sense.

He had been initially sceptical about the idea of a People’s Vote on Brexit but had come round to the idea a couple of weeks before Theresa May’s rush of blood to the head in April 2017.

He has been the Voice of Reason in British politics since well before the 2008 crash.

He’s more commentator than leader, though. And that’s fine because his comments are worth hearing. . He’s settled the party and now he’s handing over to someone else to take us through the next phase of our recovery.

We owe Vince thanks and wish him well for the next phase of his career.

Maybe this Autumn he and Rachel will  make it to the ballroom competitions in Blackpool.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Time for a fresh start. It has to be Layla.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Mar '19 - 9:37pm

    Quick quiz: Who was UK Prime Minister from 1951 to 1955?
    Clue: born 30 November 1874

  • It has to be Layla. I understand about her revised constituency, new to the role blah blah blah. in these days of presidential style politics at GE -she is a natural – just what we need. not tainted by coalition – and based in reality. Could those with influence please persuade her.

  • John Marriott 14th Mar '19 - 9:48pm

    It’s a funny time for him to step down. Things are starting to hot up in Parliament and the Lib Dems decide to concentrate on electing a new leader. Why couldn’t he at least wait a bit longer to see this bit of Brexit through?

    By the way, what chance now for a ‘People’s Vote’ following tonight’s vote?

  • Thank you for what you tried to accomplish.

    I have to admit the timing is a little odd though. It’s the right decision, but the timing is still a little strange.

  • The right decision from Vince, and the thing to do tonight is to thank him for his service. We are not an easy party to lead at the best of times, and he took on the job when we were still in a difficult position and frankly no-one else wanted it.
    In terms of achievements, he has been solid (if unspectacular) on Brexit, he has overseen an increase in councillors, and he has offered the party an important constitutional change. I suspect history will also discover that he played an important role behind the scenes in persuading the TIGs to jump ship(s).
    It is definitely time for a new face and – dare I say it – a bit more energy. I’m confident that will emerge, but Vince deserves our thanks and good wishes this evening. He can be proud of the last 2 years.

  • I like all 3 putative candidates but for me it’s got to be Jo: just the right blend of freshness & experience; a sharp political brain & an instinctive Liberal. Anecdotally, neighbours & work colleagues have said “why isn’t she your leader?”, so she seems to have a broad appeal outside the party too. I’m feeling energised by the prospect!

  • James Baillie 14th Mar '19 - 10:06pm

    I’m not sure this is the post to be commenting on votes for the next leader, honestly.

    Here, I’d mostly just like to thank Vince for the commitment and diligence he’s shown us as a party for many years. I’ve had my critiques of his leadership but today’s the time to echo Caron above and absolutely warmly wish him all the best for whatever comes next.

  • I think the timing is interesting. If the Government call a GE in the next few months the Independent Group is stuffed. They have no party machine.

    But if someone like Chukka now joins the Lib Dem’s to run for leader then that problem goes away and the Lib Dem’s get a reboot and eliminate the risk of voter confusion…. This is no accident I’m sure.

    Lastly parliament is seriously messed up. If the TIGS come across the Lib Dem’s might just have the numbers to split the parties even wider open.

  • The right decision. And Layla is the right choice. Ed and Jo are stained by the coalition, and Jo seems obsessed by identity politics. Layla’s background, dynamism and obvious commitment to her education brief could play very well.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Mar '19 - 11:31pm

    Gary: Lib Dems elect by STV, so, hopefully three candidates.

  • Vince is to be thanked and congratulated on all his work for the party. Now we must have the courage to make a complete generational shift in our leadership.

  • A sensible decision by a sensible and very able man. Leading the party over the last two years must have been more of a duty than a pleasure for him.

    Just a pity he didn’t take the leadership after Ming. The whole history of the party might have been different and the dreaded Brexit word may never have been heard.

  • I worked for Vince until November, didn’t much like the job at first – but then got to know this most brilliant of people.
    I don’t agree with the timing of this announcement, but I really hope the party membership understands what they had here as leader: a phenomenally hard working man, with great instincts, and a wonderfully caring side.
    A wonderful, wonderful guy.

  • LDV disappoints again. Why do I have to read about Lord Steel’s suspension elsewhere?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar '19 - 12:28am

    There was a sense of real concern in Sir Vince over the way TIG were not initially as pro Liberal Democrat as he was pro them, but this misunderstanding aside, this man has barely put a foot wrong, as leader and dancer!!!

    He was not ever a media performer, but is a man who you need to hear at length to truly appreciate, he is a better two hour man than two minute soundbite.

    Although without the experience

    background work experienced by Mark , with Vince, my talking with him in person when I have had that pleasure, revealed the twinkle in the man not easily seen on television. I was delighted to have made him really laugh and watch that not common sight thus far.

    He should be around a good long while and we can appreciate him more.

  • Of course we have to thank Sir Vince for his service to the country and to the party. He has an obvious dedication to the work he does. I have never believed that there is any point in comparing anyone with the ideal person – where we define ideal. We have to accept that each of us would have different ideas.
    The perspective that I look from is that of an ordinary member of the party with little idea what goes on in Westminster and London. The building of a movement has to do with how the people who join can be used. This to me is the key to whether the party survives or not. One thing is to me certain. The ongoing pantomime in Westminster is creating a barrier between the people and the people involved. It is almost impossible to guess what exactly is going on. Looking at the television it is as if they live on another planet, with a lack of any idea how to relate to the important decisions that should be made.
    As I set off for York I have the same impression of my own party. I do not see a party in any having the structure to build a movement for those people who feel alienated by the pantomime in London.

  • Jayne Mansfield 15th Mar '19 - 7:24am

    A life in politics cannot be not an easy one, particularly when public and political dialogue has coarsened.

    My generation did not assert our right to ‘me’ time. The mid seventies seems like a good age to catch up on lost time.

    May he have a long and happy retirement.

  • Colin Paine 15th Mar '19 - 8:01am

    A contest not a coronation this time please!

  • Who is now eligible to stand for party leader. Could a TIG stand?

    I think the timing of Vince Cables departure is odd, I’m not saying it’s been done to allow a TIG in but it still feels a little odd.

  • Christian 14th Mar ’19 – 10:15pm……………I think the timing is interesting. If the Government call a GE in the next few months the Independent Group is stuffed. They have no party machine…………….But if someone like Chukka now joins the Lib Dem’s to run for leader then that problem goes away and the Lib Dem’s get a reboot and eliminate the risk of voter confusion…. This is no accident I’m sure……….

    Chukka is, like Boris, interested only in himself. He was fast tracked through the Labour ranks and yet, in an ‘exclusive’ to the Guardian, he says he was never comfortable in that party.
    He wanted to be leader, wasn’t, so went freelance at the first opportunity to hurt the Labour party.
    Is there really such a dearth of talent in this party that he is a serious candidate?

  • Thanks to Vince for all he has done. Often the only party leader in Westminster who was saying what he actually thought. Also, it seemed he was the only party leader who understood what the EU negotiations were about.

  • Ruvi Ziegler 15th Mar '19 - 9:56am

    Echoing those calling for Layla to go for it! As someone fortunate enough to live in Oxford, I have been continuously impressed by her ability to engage constructively with both national & local issues, and to offer a hopeful vision that is grounded in reality.

  • marc stevens 15th Mar '19 - 11:02am

    I think the ageism levelled at Vince on social media and from the tabloid press was appalling and disappointingly there was very little criticism of it on here or action taken by the Party. I would like to see ageism and insults of people with disabilities to be dealt with in the same way as ageism, homophobia and sexism, all hate crimes. You don’t see Jeremy Corbyn get all that ageist crap whenever he speaks. It’s a great shame as Vince represented party values closer to the days of Charles Kennedy and didn’t really get the media exposure his status as leader deserved.
    I cannot really see any one of the current group of MPs of leadership calibre. Ed Davey performs, Norman Lamb is probably the better speaker but I think the latter ruled himself out before. I think the problem with Jo Swinson and Layla Moran is when I’ve seen them on QT and heard them on radio, they do not always come across as convincing and the lack of detail in the answers lets them down. Perhaps this will come with more experience, exposure and confidence. I am not sure Christine, Jamie or Wera are yet leadership material. So for me I will go for Charlie Mullins or Gina Miller both strong characters who would attract people to vote for the Party. Hurray up supporters scheme then we can get voting.

  • I mean ageism should be treated in the same light as racism, sexism, homophobia and insults of people with disabilities, some of the ageism I have seen levelled at Vince is vile and offensive.

  • Neil Sandison 15th Mar '19 - 11:42am

    Can i also echo the comments” it must be a real election not a coronation” .We should not dismiss other reliable performers like Tom Brake who rolls his sleeves up and takes off his tie and gets stuck in .Christine Jardine who can wrong foot even prime minsters .
    Perhaps we should be running the Leader and Presidency contests together to create a new dream team for Liberal Democracy .

  • Sue Sutherland 15th Mar '19 - 12:51pm

    Thank you Vince, especially for being a calm voice in the middle of Brexit mania. I hope you can carry on doing this for as long as the country needs.

  • Another plaudit for Vince: I don’t think any other of our MPs could have done nearly as well on Brexit as he has – do recall we have 11 MPs, 8% and a difficult message to retail.
    I hope he continues on in Twickenham for as long as he wishes.

  • Sandra Hammett 15th Mar '19 - 1:00pm

    If only Sir Vince in his last few weeks would attempt to rehabilitate the LibDems in the eyes of the public by making a grand announcement, an evaluation of the last decade for the party and make it crystal clear that lessons HAVE been learned from past failures but that we have great things to offer given a chance. Make as much noise as possible on the way to the exit, Sir Vince, please.

  • Yeovil Yokel 15th Mar '19 - 1:37pm

    Is Vince the best Chancellor we’ve never had?

    As Jodie Mitchell sang in Big Yellow Taxi (1970): “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”

    Very Best Wishes, Vince.

  • Vince has done the right thing to step down. He might have intellectual gravitas but was not cut out to be leader. During his time as leader the party made no appreciable progress to claw back as a credible third party. The obsession with all things Brexit left very little oxygen for anything else.

  • Richard Elliott 15th Mar '19 - 2:03pm

    Thanks Vince for your service, but time to move on you were increasingly looking a bit tired (it happens to us all!) and I think a GE in 2019 is highly likely which needs a new leader. As somebody who is not a Lib Dem member but wishes you well, the lib dems need a re-vamp under fresh leadership. There is a huge constituency out there given the state of the two main parties if you can distance yourself from the coalition and take opportunities as they arise with conviction politics. The core of the message is sound: pro-Europe, pro-responsible business, more local devolution, PR, properly funded public services, green, etc. And the position re TIG of cooperation rather than merger is right for now

  • Peter Watson 15th Mar '19 - 2:04pm

    @marcstevens “I mean ageism should be treated in the same light as …”
    Presumably ageist comments about those who voted for Brexit would continue to be an honourable exception around these parts?

  • Yeovil Yokel 15th Mar '19 - 2:07pm

    ……apologies to Ms. Mitchell, it was Joni of course, not Jodie (that’s what comes of trying to type whilst reversing a tractor).

  • Paul Holmes 15th Mar '19 - 2:15pm

    @Marc Stevens/Peter Watson. Then of course there is that sexist, racist and ageist phrase so freely used by some of the most ‘right on’ contributors to LDV over recent years. Apparently though it’s OK to use such denigrating phrases if your target is those who are ‘Male, Pale and Stale’.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar '19 - 4:07pm

    Presumably Leyla Moran will throw her hat into the ring?

    Genuine question: I know Ms Moran is of Palestinian heritage but is she a member of Lib Dem Friends of Palestine?

    I read they might be in some sort of hot water at the moment.

  • Peter Martin 15th Mar ’19 – 4:07pm…

    So calling a pro-Israel lobbyist a pro-Israel lobbyist is anti-semitic? The world has gone mad.

    *In 2013, Garrard hosted a visit to Israel by eleven Labour MPs, including shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy, shadow defence minister Gemma Doyle, Labour Friends of Israel chair Anne McGuire and vice-chair Louise Ellman. He also sponsored the 2014 Labour Friends of Israel annual lunch, which included a speech by Labour leader Ed Miliband.[16]

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Mar '19 - 10:49pm

    Peter Martin 15th Mar ’19 – 4:07pm
    “Genuine question: I know Ms Moran is of Palestinian heritage but is she a member of Lib Dem Friends of Palestine?”

    You’re raising a question about Layla Moran’s political stance based on knowing nothing but her ethnicity? Have you asked this question about any of the other potential candidates for leader?

  • Alex Macfie 16th Mar '19 - 9:00am

    Layla’s views on anti-semitism and Israel-Palestine have been discussed in the journal to which Peter Martin linked
    I suspect that the more fanatical pro-Palestine people (the ones whose language and actions often cross the boundary into anti-semitism) would regard Layla as a sell-out because of her moderate, nuanced position — the same as Corbyn denounced the SDLP as “sell-outs” for participating in the Northern Irish peace process while he was honouring Sinn Fein in the 1980s.

  • Moran is more charismatic . Swinson would be sound, would probably increase our female voting support and could help us get votes back in Scotland, although she voted for Tuition Fees!. I simply do not know.

  • OnceALibDem 16th Mar '19 - 9:52am
  • Peter Martin 16th Mar '19 - 11:20am

    @ Malcolm Todd,

    So I take it she isn’t a member of the Lib Dems ‘Friends of Palestine’?

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Mar '19 - 1:53pm

    @ Pater Martin,

    You just don’t get it do you?

    When people of a particular ethnic background go into politics, they have to withstand passive/ aggressive comments like yours. It is classic ‘othering’

    Can’t you just get it into your noggin that politicians whatever their background might just be able to exercise freedom of conscience and judgment that are unrelated to their ‘ethnicity’ ?

  • Malcolm Todd 16th Mar '19 - 2:15pm

    Peter Martin

    Spectacular missing of the point there, Peter. Has Jayne’s explanation made it clearer for you?

  • Peter Martin 16th Mar '19 - 3:10pm

    @ Malcolm and @ Jayne,

    Expats has made the point:

    “So calling a pro-Israel lobbyist a pro-Israel lobbyist is anti-semitic? The world has gone mad.”

    So presumably expats would be guilty of anti-semitism too just by his comment? Any denial of anti-semitism has to be anti-semitic or why would they be denying it?

    Layla Moran, if I remember rightly, said, on BBC’s QT, it was quite possible to be pro Palestinian without being anti-Semitic. So can I ask how Layla Moran has been ever been pro-Palestinian?

    I know the answer to that. I can’t even ask the question without it being considered an anti-semitic remark.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Mar '19 - 3:58pm

    Peter Martin you and expats seem obsessed with this idea that any of those who take a view that antisemitism has grown, that we now see different variations on a very ancient old theme, are somehow doing something exagerated or seeing that which is not there, when you are the people doing that.

    Layla Moran gets criticised by the far left, in general and on the issues of Israel Palestine, debate, because she is , her words, a rational moderate.

    She staunchly condemned the statement in posters , Israel is a racist endeavour, because she can see, and said it, that a whole nation, a people, are not and should not be called, and insulted, as racist, a government can be and often is.

    She is aware there is , her words, a gentler antisemitism, that is insideous and convinces those leftward and rightward extremists, that it is not antisemitism, because it is so utterly obsessed with that misunderstood and in no way racist movement and philosophy, called, Zionism.

    Layla is not a member of the organisation mentioned, as she has such a sensible and non partisan attitude to such things, and should be the next leader because she is the best of the bunch.

  • Peter Martin 16th Mar '19 - 5:58pm

    @ Lorenzo Cherin,

    Layla Moran has been quoted as saying:

    ‘she rarely intervened in the Israel/Palestine debate because it was “so emotive””

    In other words, and by her own admission she does very little, if anything, to promote the Palestinian cause.

    Yet, she is critical of others who do speak up because this inevitably can be misinterpreted as being ‘anti-semitic’. She further criticises by saying:

    “It does nothing for the Palestinian cause.”

    But she’s just told us that she herself doesn’t do anything either!

    And it’s just so easy to never be accused of being anti-semitic by simply saying nothing at all! Especially not asking any awkward questions!

  • Tom Brake is one of the most outspoken and most consistent on civil liberties. I thought that was the whole purpose of the Lib Dems?

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Mar '19 - 7:29pm

    @ Peter Martin,

    No, in my opinion, expats is not being antisemitic. On the basis of facts, it seems that a comment was made which was factual. The problem with the sort of over-reaction that makes people feel that they can no longer state facts does no favours to those who suffer prejudice.

    You are just being obtuse. What I am saying , is that you automatically assume that Layla Moran’s opinions are related to the fact that she has Palestinian heritage. Peter, may I assume that your values, opinions and politics are the consequence of you being, for example, white British?

    I apologise to Layla Moran for this painful exchange. I will say no more on the matter.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Mar '19 - 7:41pm

    Peter you misunderstand me, Layla, and even expats, who often does but here I am not sure, as before, if he has the research .

    The group was suspended because they posted an article and comments , all , which did what Jayne, here in excellent postings, rightly criticised, othering. Not a word, like a lot in this modern rewriting of language, I like much, but it serves well here. The comment implied that Sir David Gerard , is , as a donater to TIG, to be labelled, judged, singled out for show and spotlight, not as the man or professional or father or brother etc he is, but a Jew, a supporter of , you guessed, Israel. It is wrong.

    As a boy, half Italian and a quarter or a bit less, Irish, I detested it when people made jokes about Italy in the war , twenty five years before I was born, or Ireland in any way, because they did it as if because I was connected thus. It helped make me the staunch patriotic British flag waver, I am, who identifies as only British, though of, happily, for variety, some varied, origins of lineage. Woe to they who label, and even the identitarianism today irritates me. I dislike it in our spokespeople. I prefer Jordan Peterson to AOC on several issues.

    Layla Moran does what she chooses to do based on her own judgement. It is a disgrace to say she does nothing for the Palestinian cause. By condemning Hamas and antisemitism she does more than armies of leftist holier than though extreme campaigners.

  • Layla Moran is not ready for leadership. In any event her seat will be tough to defend – the popularity of Corbyn amongst students means the college vote (admittedly much smaller than in Oxford East) is small for the Lib Dems, housing development in the constituency is most substantial in the more Conservative voting areas and she will not have the benefit of having an unpopular opponent with some fairly wacky views again. That’s before we even get to the proposed new boundaries.

    A majority of 816 requires constant hard work to hold on. Nobody can do that and effectively lead a party.

  • Alex Macfie 17th Mar '19 - 7:29am

    But is Corbyn still popular among students, and will he still be so by the time of the next election? He has already lost a lot of popularity over Brexit and anti-semitism. And he has made likely undeliverable promises on student fees that would come back to bite him if he ever got into No 10. This is familiar territory. I don’t think it’s helpful to assume the student vote will automatically go to Jeremy Corbyn.
    Also, we were successful in keeping the Labour vote down in OxWAb at the 2017 election, the Labour vote remaining unchanged at 12.1%. This was at the peak of the Jezmania bubble.

  • @Michael, Corbyn’s popularity among students was a 2017 phenomenon. That bubble has burst. But I tend to agree with you about Layla – she needs to concentrate on holding her seat. I believe she would be a good leader, but she can’t do it while fighting a marginal seat. So, my heart says Layla but my head is increasingly saying Jo. I hope Ed doesn’t stand, because I fear he will be humiliated. We all like him but the mood is clearly for a woman/new generation.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Mar ’19 – 3:58pm…………….Peter Martin you and expats seem obsessed with this idea that any of those who take a view that antisemitism has grown, that we now see different variations on a very ancient old theme, are somehow doing something exagerated or seeing that which is not there, when you are the people doing that………………….

    Sadly, it is you who misunderstand me!

    Anti-semitism is, like every other such ‘ism,’ distasteful and abhorrent. However, consistently equating criticism of Israel’s discriminatory policies to anti-semitism is,in itself a denial of facts.
    When the majority of a county’s government passes racially discriminatory laws, that nation should be called to account.There are many Jews, within and without Israel, who criticise her actions; are they anti-semitic? When this country took part in the invasion of Iraq the majority of our government voted for that war, I and many others (not just in this party), felt absolutely justified in criticising our nation’s actions without feeling it was anti-British.
    As for Garrard..Why, when he takes an active and monetary part in politics, is it anti-semitic to point out his pro-Israel lobbying? When Aaron Banks applied to join the Conservative Party was it wrong to point out his suggestion that ‘Leave EU supporters’ should also join and try to affect that party’s policies?

  • To the one who was sayining Layla had done nothing to support the Palestinians, here’s something she’s doing now:
    So you see, she does do stuff in support of Palestime. It’s just that she manages to do this without engaging in needlessly confrontational polemicism and without being anti-semitic. Unlike some people who claim to support the cause.

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