In full: Vince Cable’s speech to Conference



Here is Vince’s speech in full.

It’s good to be back in Southport.

I was last here in October.

It was pouring with rain.

The local party was licking its wounds after a difficult General Election…

…and there was a challenging council by-election to fight.

But a week later our candidate, and former MP, John Pugh, was swept on to Sefton Council with a big majority, and more than half of the votes cast.

Congratulations John!

Shortly after my trip here, I went to the North East.

I took in Newcastle, of course.

It’s a former council stronghold with a big Lib Dem tradition under John Shipley and others.

From there, my office had agreed I would go on to visit Sunderland.

Sunderland is a Labour one party state. Brexit Central.

On arrival, my car was surrounded by a group of young people…

…there were face tattoos and nose rings in abundance.

Some might have found it intimidating.

I emerged from the car clutching my mobile phone nervously.

I was greeted by Councillor Niall Hodson who told me this was the local Lib Dems!

They had captured two Labour strongholds, in as many years.

A few weeks ago, they did the same a third time.

They knocked on 2000 doors in a month, and were rewarded with a massive 46% swing from Labour.

Congratulations Sunderland Liberal Democrats!

These local successes are reflected across the country.

Teignbridge and Tyneside. Norfolk and Cornwall. Somerset and Sussex.

In Leave areas. In Remain areas.

Against the Tories. Against Labour.

They show us that there are opportunities to regain and rebuild our local government base which has always been the lifeblood of our party.

And we fight our campaigns at a time when normal politics has disappeared.

We have a Brexit obsessed Conservative Government: a single issue government in a single issue Parliament.

Brexit is sucking the life out of Westminster and Whitehall alike.

Urgent attention needs to be given to the NHS and social care, the housing crisis and homelessness, schools and policing, national defence and much else.

But the political appetite to grapple with these issues isn’t there.

The greedy Brexit machine devours all the political energy required to get the country moving forward.

People were told that Brexit would be simple, cheap and good natured.

Like real world divorce, it is proving complicated, expensive and bad tempered.

There is a temptation to blame everything on Theresa May. I don’t.

I have always rather admired her dogged determination.

But that determination means that she thinks…

‘When in a hole, keep digging…. you might eventually get to Australia… and when you get there there’ll be a shiny new trade deal and a cold beer waiting’.

She is one of a number of otherwise sensible people persisting in a course of action that they know to be foolish, damaging and wrong, saying ‘just let’s get on with it’.

I have myself been on a journey.

I confess that my own initial reaction to the referendum was to think there was little choice but to pursue Brexit: I thought ‘the public have voted to be poorer. That is their right.’

What changed my mind was the evidence that Brexit had overwhelmingly been the choice of the older generation.

75% of under 25s voted to Remain.

But 70% of over 65s voted for Brexit.

Too many were driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink.

Their votes on one wet day in June, crushing the hopes and aspiration of the young for years to come.

The excuse for this outrage – a vision of a Global Britain signing lots of new trade deals– is a fraud.

Far from opening our arms to the world, we will be tearing up preferential trade deals we already have with 27 countries in the EU and 74 outside it.

There is no more eloquent testimony to the government’s folly about trade, that at a time when the world is descending into Trade War, they put more faith in the Warmonger in Washington than they do in our friends and trade partners in Europe.

It was never a good idea to leave the EU. To leave it now borders on extreme recklessness.

And only our Liberal Democrat team, led by Tom Brake, are making that argument in Parliament.

Old wounds that were slowly healing within the European family are being re-opened.

Ireland. Gibraltar.

I went to Dublin before Christmas to meet business and political leaders.

They are afraid, very afraid, that the Good Friday Agreement and the close economic links with Britain will be trashed to accommodate Brexit hard liners.

The Gibraltarian Government is afraid that their people – our people, British citizens – will be sacrificial pawns in this needless rush for the EU exit door.

And while all these crucial questions are up in the air, we still don’t know which faction of the Conservative Party will win.

There are two totally different views of Brexit on offer. One is to stay as close as possible to the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union to minimise the damage. To be like Norway with a customs union attached. So called ‘soft Brexit’.

This is plainly more sensible economically than the alternative, but it raises the obvious question: why on earth bother to leave?

The other is to diverge as much as possible, causing maximum disruption to manufacturing industry, financial services and creative industries, all in the name of ‘sovereignty’.

What we are left with is incoherence. The doctrine of diverging convergence or converging divergence.

The one certain consequence is that with a divided, confused team of 1 facing a united, determined team of 27, the European negotiators will dictate the terms.

This will, in turn, create the sense of victimhood Brexiteers crave: being under the European yoke.

I would go so far as to say Britain is now mired in a protracted, non-violent civil war.

Allied to the poisonous rhetoric about ‘traitors’ and ‘saboteurs’, and what Theresa May calls ‘citizens of nowhere’…

….we have a toxic brew which fuels the populist right.

What a disgrace that the fools’ errand of Brexit…embarked on to paper over cracks in the Conservative Party has resulted in hate crime on our streets.

Our message is clear: Liberal Democrats will rebuild an open, tolerant, outward-looking Britain.

We want our country back.

And amid all this where is the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official and Loyal Opposition?

What does HE want?

These early days of 2018 have seen Labour has make a few tentative gestures in the direction of sanity. But very few. And very tentative.

To be a member of a customs union. Not the customs union.

And still strongly committed to working with Theresa May to make Brexit happen.

Make no mistake about it, Conference:

Jeremy Corbyn is letting down the very people he claims to defend…because:

You cannot speak up for the poor and be complicit in making the country poorer.

You cannot claim to love the NHS knowing that Brexit will starve it of cash.

You cannot be an advocate of strong rights at work, and stand by while your country walks away from the organisation which has most stood up for workers.

The Labour Party has imported into politics the principles of quantum physics where an object can be there and not there, at the same time.

They believe you can be for Brexit it and against it.

But politics is not physics.

Jeremy –

The time has come to decide.

There is no ‘jobs first’ Brexit.

But there is a new way to inspire those young supporters you won last year, and to make a real difference.

Join our campaign.

Together we can win an Exit from Brexit.

One likely consequence of the coming Brexit confrontation is some kind of political realignment.

We must be open to working with people in other parties, and with other parties.

In my own borough I have encouraged an electoral understanding with the Greens for national and local elections.

This approach may not be feasible everywhere in the UK. But it signals the value of an inclusive and collaborative approach to politics.

I am determined that we Liberal Democrats should lead a new groundswell for political renewal.

Our sister Liberal Party in Canada, under Justin Trudeau, leapt from third to first in a ‘first past the post’ system every bit as unforgiving as ours.

I have turned to them for advice on modernisation on how we can apply their successful model here.

The Canadian liberals engaged all their registered supporters – their voters – as well as their members in leadership elections and candidate selection.

They became a new party; a movement.

Building on our own traditions, we must address how we in the Liberal Democrats can become a movement for those who are alienated by the Conservatives and Labour.

I want to see a movement fizzing with ideas…

…and the vehicle for a practical programme for government …

…driven by the need to drive down inequality between the generations,

…facing up to the challenge of climate change by investing in renewable energy and green transport

…and preparing our country for a future when technology be harnessed to the optimism of opportunity rather than the pessimism of job destruction.

So as a party I want us to think big.

To be as radical and forward-looking with our ambitions for the party as we are with our ideas and our policies.

Central to that must be an effort to reflect better the society we want to serve.

We celebrated the centenary of women’s suffrage this year, and International Women’s Day last week, with a better proportion of female MPs in our House of Commons group than we have ever had before.

We are, still, very male but…

… thanks to the work of Jo Swinson and Sal Brinton, along with our other women parliamentarians, councillors, and others…much less so than we were.

But to be frank, we have an even bigger challenge to address.

Looking around the auditorium, we are very, very white.

We must prioritise making our party more ethnically diverse.

John Alderdice has shown us the way in his recent report.

I raised a mixed family in Britain.

I have seen prejudice first-hand.

Where it is outright or outspoken, it is easy to call out. And I know everyone in this room would do so right away.

It is subtle, unseen prejudice which is harder to counter.

It exists in every organisation, but I want us as Liberal Democrat to commit at this conference to rooting it out.

Theresa May once said of the Conservatives that they were a ‘nasty party’.

We are not a nasty party.

But sometimes we have been a complacent party.

Under my leadership, that complacency ends.

Progress in building a big, modern, diverse party requires help from every one of you…

….so I ask each of you to leave Southport today thinking about what you can do to make our party a welcoming home to people of every age, ethnicity, gender identity and sexuality.

And in making that effort, I want to arm you with our vision of a new, Liberal Democrat Britain.

We must answer the question: if not Brexit, then what?

We have to start with an economic model which works, delivering good jobs, freedom from want and economic security for everyone.

For many British people the collapse of the banking system a decade ago

…and the austerity and inequality which followed in its wake destroyed their faith in the system of free-wheeling finance and light-touch government.

To build a fair society, we need an economy which harnesses the energy and innovation of the private sector but where government is not afraid to intervene to deal market failure, or the arrogance of monopoly.

A Liberal Democrat economy would be one which welcomes entrepreneurs…

…which rewards profitable, risk-taking companies…

…which embraces new technology….

…and which sees active government.

We would tax pollution and unearned wealth, while promoting work, innovation and environmental protection.

And on tax we are the party, unlike Labour, which will be honest with the public that spending on our priorities – the NHS, schools, policing – has to be paid for:

A penny in the pound on income tax for the NHS; reversing the tax cuts for the rich of the last two years.

And government borrowing would be for investment not for day-to-day spending.

We would build a Britain where finance serves the real economy not the other way round.

And we do need competition authorities to be strong and tough enough to withstand bullying and tax dodging by giant global monopolies like Amazon and Google….and if necessary, to break up concentrations of economic power.

At present the European Commission does just that.

In contrast to the feeble British competition authorities, Europe helps us ‘take back control’ for citizens in the modern, digital world.

There is a huge risk that Brexit Britain will lose that control, surrendering real sovereignty for fake sovereignty.

The technological revolution also poses a different kind of challenge.

We do not yet fully understand the impact on jobs of Artificial Intelligence and the spread of automation from manufacturing to professional and other services.

I believe we should welcome the advent of new technologies and the opportunities they bring.

But we must anticipate that those without adaptable skills could be badly hurt.

The answer – the only answer – is massive investment in education, skill training and retraining: schools, FE colleges, universities, lifelong learning, remote and college based.

The Tories will not do it because they do not believe in public investment.

Labour will not do it because they are still fighting the old political battles and their main education policy is to provide a large subsidy to highly paid university graduates.

We must not forget that 60% of young people do not go to University, and 80% of the British population never went.

These are – mostly – the people least prepared for the disruption of technological change…

…and who have been left behind by Britain’s scandalous neglect of vocational education and skill training.

I know about the value of life long learning from my own experience, growing up in York, as my parents strived to climb the economic and social ladder through further and adult education.

And I was one of the first generation of Open University tutors.

Then, in my two years of exile from Parliament, I worked with the President of the National Union of Students on a project all about giving students in FE parity with universities.

To build on that work, I want to develop further the idea of individual learning accounts – a cash fund to spend on training and career changes through your life.

I have asked Rajay Naik, an education entrepreneur with long experience at the Open University, to lead a Commission on Life Long Learning.

Because these coming years will be more than important than ever for giving adult education the priority it deserves.

We need to educate people for the jobs of tomorrow.

Jobs which will build a confident Britain, complete with new infrastructure including…

…a 5G superhighway;

…and fast rail links across the north of England, Wales and the South West.

…new tidal lagoons for low carbon energy;

…big advances in carbon capture and storage;

…and all the opportunities offered by offshore wind, which Ed Davey promoted in Government, and which today is reaping great rewards for our country.

This forward looking vision of Britain stands in stark contrast to what both big parties offers.

We are used to thinking of Labour and the Conservatives as polar opposite. They are actually very similar.

What they share is nostalgia.

In the case of the Tories, the seriousness with which a Rees-Mogg premiership is now being taken says it all.

A man steeped in the values of Downton Abbey… a world where the working class consist of servants and nannies;

…where women have babies but no vote;

…and charities suffice to meet the needs of the deserving poor.

Corbyn’s nostalgia is a different one.

But it is just as backward looking.

A world where the Health Minister decides how much cod liver oil each five year old should enjoy or endure each day.

Where the Minister for Prices sets the price of a loaf of bread.

And the Royal Mail was the envy of the world, before those modern contraptions – internet and email – destroyed its business model.

If Britain still had a stagecoach industry, John McDonnell would be demanding that it be saved by taking it into public ownership.

Neither of these rose-tinted visions of the future make any kind of sense.

The Liberal Democrat vision of Britain is built on a commitment to properly funded public services, consumer and citizen choice, and honesty about taxation.

For example, as we ask people to contribute a little more to the health service, with a penny in the pound on income tax, we promise a better, more flexible service in return.

The principles of the NHS are as strong today as they were when the service was inspired by a great liberal, William Beveridge.

But if Beveridge were alive today, he would see a service whose ambition of universal free health care, free at the point of use, is in danger of foundering as costs inexorably rise.

So just as we’d protect that service for the long term with a dedicated NHS and social care tax.

Liberal Democrats will also work with nurses and doctors to develop ideas that could save billions and improve the patient experience too.

Let me give you some examples.

Isn’t it time that when you need to be referred to a consultant, their calendar is shared electronically with the GP, so you can arrange a convenient slot right-away without a lengthy exchange of letters?

And social prescribing – which I saw in action campaigning with Lisa Smart in Stockport – can divert people from medication to exercise and other healthy activity, as part of a ‘prevention’ approach to healthcare.

And we need to revisit the principles around sharing patient information, as in the blockchain experiments in Leeds, where new technology provides enhanced security for data sharing.

Crucially, we need to build on the work Norman Lamb did in government giving priority and enforcing firm targets for mental health treatment.

Liberal Democrats insisted on targets in coalition, but now those targets are being missed.

The human effect is shocking.

It is simply not good enough that children suffering severe psychosis – sometimes suicidal thoughts – is left languishing on a waiting list.

There is a growing crisis in child mental health with as many as 20% of teenagers in my local schools needing help.

In a Liberal Democrat NHS mental and physical health will be put on an equal footing so that every taxpayer – every citizen – gets the care they need.

When I won back my seat last June, the number one issue on the doorsteps wasn’t Brexit, as it happens, but school funding – or the lack of it.

We would reverse Conservative cuts to schools.

Under the excellent stewardship of Layla Moran, Lib Dems would democratise education once again, by returning control to local authorities over places planning, exclusions and special needs.

Locally, many of us see the chaotic and wasteful consequences of having free schools and academies engaged in dog-eat-dog competition.

And we see wasted time too, as teachers are forced to keep a look out for the traffic wardens of the education system – Ofsted – waiting around the corner ready to slap a ticket on those who haven’t ticked the right boxes.

Liberal Democrats will bring in a new independent inspection regime, which values the overall wellbeing of individual children and the culture of learning in the school.

We want a wider curriculum reversing the current exclusion of performing arts and languages, and introducing life skills like first aid and personal finance.

A Liberal Democrat education system will prepare our children for the future, and consign tickbox testing to the past.

By making ourselves, once again, the party of education we commit to redressing the imbalance between generations…

Nowhere is the sharp generational divide in Britain greater – and more bitterly felt – than in the housing market .

My generation, or at least those of us who own property, have been enriched by house price inflation.

It is that same house price inflation which has priced the majority of younger people out of owner occupation and created Generation Rent.

For the last two decades, under successive governments, housing supply has been allowed to fall well behind demand…

This scarcity of supply, together with lax credit for the already well-off, and subsidies like Help to Buy, has caused prices to spiral to dangerous and socially divisive levels.

Like Brexit, this shortage is not inevitable.

House building isn’t rocket science. Even the Babylonians knew how to do it.

I am confident that Britain under the Liberal Democrats would do it.

I recently revisited my old haunts in Glasgow, where I served as a city councillor in the early 1970s in one of the most deprived wards in the City.

We built houses, houses, and more houses.

Quantity sometimes triumphed over quality and amenity.

But the lesson was clear: that a determined, ambitious, public authority, using compulsory purchase powers or publicly owned land can get houses built at scale.

The Government needs to do that now.

I know the Conservative Party finds it difficult.

But if Donald Trump can meet Kim Jong Un, surely the Tories can deal with the psychological shock of having councils build…. council housing!

Private housing, social housing, self-build and shared ownership are all part of the mix Britain needs.

And as we build that stock Liberal Democrats would say ‘goodbye’ to ‘Right to Buy’.

I have spent some time in recent months, engaging with charities who work with rough sleepers.

Those at the bottom of the pile – the homeless street sleepers, hostel dwellers, and sofa hoppers; the young families being pushed from one short let to another – are not just homeless.

They are largely voiceless.

Many do not vote.

They are at the sharp end of disengagement with our failing democracy.

A broken democracy which gives too much power to the privileged and too little voice to the people.

…an unelected second chamber;

…a funding regime desperately in need of cleaning up;

…a system of local government often run as one party statelets.

…an unfair voting system, where so many votes don’t even count.

And now the next big extension of the franchise, to 16 and 17 year olds, is being resisted by Conservatives whose power base is in old folks’ homes.

So how do we secure a new forward-looking country for the next generation.?

Our recent election successes show us something.

Not that winning is easy, but that winning is possible.

I know many of the longer-standing members in this room got pretty fed up with hearing a particular slogan during the Coalition years.

‘Where we work we win’, was a mantra. But in truth for many years too many Liberal Democrats did work – very hard – and still didn’t win.

I know, I was one of them! I know the pain of losing. And I know the satisfaction of fighting and winning again.

It can now be done.

Those local successes in Sunderland and elsewhere were not coincidences, and though our party is building its social media capacity, it wasn’t about new technology either.

It was about talking to people, on their doorsteps – just as it always has been.

Friends, we have celebrating our thirtieth birthday.

And we do so at a time when the old forces in British politics are so distracted by settling scores on Europe and on socialism, that they have forgotten about the country.

We have a big task ahead of us.

I want us to be able to look back in another thirty years (or, I want you to be able to, anyway) and see 2018 as a turning point.

The year, when from a low base of support and against the political odds, we showed Britain a new and different path…

…the promise of a new government acting and speaking for the vast majority of decent, tolerant, hardworking people, whom the other parties had forgotten…

…A beacon of real hope, in a political sea of fantasists and dogmatists.

The Liberal Democrats:

A modern, diverse party – winning again …

Winning an Exit from Brexit.

Protecting our public services.

And giving young people the start, the voice and the hope they deserve.

There’s no time to lose.

Let’s get out there together and win.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Richard Underhill 11th Mar '18 - 1:29pm

    Those who make promises should be numerate as well as literate. Vince Cable is both.
    In general the future is uncertain, which should be accepted by those who offer competing forecasts.

  • Yeovil Yokel 11th Mar '18 - 2:00pm

    You never know, Vince, you might live until 2048!
    Vince will never have the passion and panache of Tim Farron, but it’s excellent solid stuff.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Mar '18 - 2:05pm

    Those who criticise Vince for attacking Labour, are being unfair to a man who, like me , was in that party and is as much social democrat as Liberal.

    He is advocating a cross party approach, but the criticism of anyone should be acceptable at the point it is right.

    Read Dan Hodges in the Mail on Sunday today and you find ex Labour people appalled at aspects of that party, it gives me no joy to say it as an advocate of progressive alliance between those of us who agree on much,but there is much rotten in the left ,antisemitism so linked to anti Israel , that the two are inseparable amongst a nasty minority. Those issues are even more important than Brexit, although that is key also,we should say it whatever the issue.

    Vince is tame compared to what he could be on criticism of Labour, so it is unfair to criticise him when he rightly sees them as wrong.We know the government is incompetent and saying it often does not malign the excellent people like Sir John Major, and criticism of Labour when wrong in their attitude does not undermine the many good people in that party.

  • I liked a lot of the content of the speech, and thankfully the livestream was working for this bit of the conference. Vince is a very solid public speaker, and I like that he prefers to explain things properly than speak in sound-bites, but I do wonder how much attention the speech will get beyond existing supporters.

    Like Lorenzo, I’m an advocate, in theory at least, of a progressive alliance, and it is because I have a great deal of respect for many individuals within the Labour movement (and Green party), that I find the attitudes of some particularly troublesome and genuinely want them to sort themselves out. If we ever are to work together, then I want it to work well, so we need to be clear that we don’t agree with everything they do and say and that we are a separate party for a reason.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Mar '18 - 3:23pm

    Sensible from Fiona.

    We need to show unlike other parties and as in coalition and beyond, there is a reason we are not as tribal, yes that meant disadvantage to the party, but going off in a hullabaloo or huff is not the thing to do, Christian Lindner in Germany missed this, we see that our party is a combination of the free and social democrats in that country, Labour a combination of the social democrats and Left party. We are , like sensible EU and other parties, for cooperation where that is realistic and pragmatic. This country needs it.

  • How dispiriting to see that Sir Vince persists in his belief that the Brexit vote was driven by nostalgia and racism.

    If you are 65, you were born in the ’50s, when nearly all the former pink parts of the globe had already gained their independence. By the time you reached 16 or 18, it was the ’70s and things had moved on. This caricature of Brexit voters is a mirage. I have never heard a Leave voter express the slightest interest in the former empire. Thr only comments I have ever heard about it come from Remainers! The colour and shape of passports is one thing, colonialism and racism quite another.
    I have certainly heard Leave voters be racist, sadly. But, also sadly, I have heard many a Remain voter express distaste for higher immigration from outside the EU as a reason in itself to remain. Some Remainers are clearly only in favour of immigration from Europe, not elsewhere. I think the racist problem lurks equally beneath both camps, frankly.

    If the Lib Dems could move on from slagging off Leave voters, they might start to do a bit better, but if they persist in this inaccurate stereotyping, they’ll get nowhere.

  • William Fowler 11th Mar '18 - 4:12pm

    Apart from the Brexit stuff – which has failed to gain many voters but possibly led to an increase in membership (me, anyway) – nothing in the speech that is going to break through to the general populace, a lot of it sounds like Labour with extra taxes (fair enough to be realistic, I guess).

    Not sure where he is going with taxation, one moment it is 1p on income tax (which would cover a half decent pay rise for frontline staff but not much else) for the NHS, the next it is a special tax for the NHS, which if fully funded would work out as 20-25p in the pound depending on how much you want to spend. On the other hand he grinds out the usual stuff about multi-nationals avoiding tax and going after them but does not then use this money instead of increasing general taxation, probably because he knows company’s know how to do disappearing act. Meanwhile, no mention that decreasing taxation can actually increase the amount of the tax take, not to mention stimulate the economy (rather than inefficient and wasteful government spending). No mention of the massive debt the country has been saddled with and how little room it gives for manoeuvre unless you want to solve the debt problem by ending up with a worthless currency and hyper inflation that will create a new level of poverty for many more people.

    Should be coming at if from a different angle, the govn has a huge pot of money to spend and should be showing how this pot can be divided up in a much fairer way. That needs to be done before any tax rises, which then probably would not be needed anyway. A good starting point would be to cap MP’s salaries at 26k!

    On housing, I do not know his personal record on this but it is very important that the huge housing estates created by councils that have been an ongoing disaster are not repeated, very many, very small developments separated by as big a distance as possible is the way to go. Modern, super-insulated pre-fab eco houses might be a solution, the downside for the cost to work they would have to be much smaller than normal houses (but good design should help the inhabitants and their relative smallness would also put them in low council tax bands or perhaps exempt if they met certain criteria as the govn would be saving loads on housing benefit).

  • Good speech by a good leader. Detailed stuff. We can use it. Who watches Spring Conference speeches of any parties apart from us anyway ?

  • Capping MPs salaries at £26k is not the way forward. MPs should be paid a rate that is commensurate with the role they have. Senior management. £26k will mean MPs will be the preserve of the already wealthy.

  • Given that females aged between 50 and 65 voted Leave by 60% to 40% – it’s interesting to speculate what would have happened at Conference if Sir Vincent had highlighted that particular fact…….. Gasps and whoops of dissent and a few nerves touched no doubt…… But, fact : if that tranche of persons (female 50 to 65) had voted 50-50 then Brexit would have lost and remain would have won.

    Instead we get the suggestion against persons of both genders over 65 of wanting pink on the world map and a whited faced Britain.

    Sorry, Vince, that’s more likely to offend rather than to persuade – and it’s divisive politics. If you really want to woo people to somehow reject Brexit at this late stage then I strongly recommend you cut out the divisive stuff. It would be much better to make the positive case for the EU even at this late stage.

    PS. I’m white, was born in WW2, played marbles, collected Empire & Commonwealth postage stamps as a child, joined the Liberal Party in 1961, support Yorkshire County Cricket Club – usually end up on the radical side of posts on LDV….. and voted REMAIN.

    I haven’t lost my marbles – but I sometimes think the Party has.

  • Driven by nostalgia and racism. At last, a leader has come out and said the absolute unmitigated truth.

  • Philip Rolle 11th Mar '18 - 10:58pm

    It doesn’t matter what Vince Cable said in this speech. There is only a bit of it going receive attention. Did the party want that?

  • Still the easy attack on leave voters as being old,racist and longing for an Britain that never actually existed.

    If you want to get people to change their minds and join the campaign for an exit from brexit offer a more positive narrative. The reasons people voted leave are wide and varied as are the reasons people voted to stay. Address those issues and offer a vision of reforming the faults of the EU as well as its positive achievements. Its what the remain campaign failed to do in the referendum. In my case it was purely issues of democratic accountability and the perceived move to ever closer union and possible future US of E.

    Apart from that a good speech with positive points and policies on issues affecting us all. The economy,jobs,housing,education, and the NHS etc. If people actually got to look at them they may actually like the idea of voting LibDem. I probably will still vote LibDem. Unfortunately the may only get to hear the white racist line.

  • David Becket 12th Mar '18 - 12:51am

    We have just had an example of how to wreck a conference with one sentence in the leaders speech. He has made the headlines we do not need. This is not fair on the foot soldiers.

  • Philip Rolle 12th Mar '18 - 7:34am

    The interesting question is whether he meant to sow division with that statement or whether it was just a massive mess up. Vince Cable’s too nice a guy for the former, but too wise for the latter. I’ve said this once before but he reminds me of Roy Jenkins, a fine politician, whose best days were before he became leader of a party.

  • Peter Martin 12th Mar '18 - 7:36am

    “Too many (of the over 65s -PM) were driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink. Their votes on one wet day in June, crushing the hopes and aspiration of the young for years to come.”

    Vince has blown it in just a couple of sentences. You’d have to be a lot older that 65 to remember such as world. If there is any nostalgia it is for a world where we didn’t condemn the young to such things as zero hour contracts or a lifetime of personal debt to pay for an education which isn’t, any longer, even likely to lead to a job which requires that level of education. Even those who do find such jobs are still often priced out of the housing market because the older generation have come up with this great idea (not) of floating what remains of our productive economy on a sea of personal debt.

    It’s not bad to have a nostalgia to remember the time that Government had a policy of full employment and wasn’t afraid to use those two words. Now the Bank of England looks at employment levels, considers that unemployment levels can be too low, and tightens monetary policy in response!

  • One of of the baleful effects of the EU Referendum and its aftermath is the way its binary focus seems to have eaten away at our understanding of dissent in a democratic society. I do not “slag people off” but I am content to disagree, sometimes robustly. It is depressing to think that at this stage of our history in many respects we have to re-learn the difference for the sake of the common good and productive debate.

  • Peter Martin 12th Mar '18 - 7:50am

    PS The over 65s in 2016 were the over 24s in 1975. Many of us were rather idealistic at the prospect of joining the then EEC and voted overwhelmingly for it. Not me I have to say! But nevertheless I, like most others, accepted that the 75 result hadn’t gone our way. In the early 90’s, before the EU came into being, I felt I’d been quite wrong to have opposed the idea of EEC membership. I think many of us felt the same way too. The support on the left for leaving the the EEC/EC had largely fallen away to a tiny minority.
    The problems that have arisen since are largely of the EU’s own making. There was no need for it to want to change what had been a successful formula.

    The present day over 24’s are no different to us. If we do end up staying in the EU, they too will become increasingly cynical about it as time passes.

  • I’m amazed by the people commenting who think that Vince finally getting us news coverage is a bad idea

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Mar '18 - 8:19am

    I thought his speech was average for a party leader, some good and very good bits in it but I would have changed some other parts.

    I didn’t realise at the time how controversial his statement on older voters, leave voters and white nostalgia was, but now I think it’s clear it would have been better not to have said it like this. I hope moving on from attacking leave leaders to leave voters isn’t part of the “core vote strategy”.

    I had a great time at my first conference anyway! It’s good to try to have it at different resorts so everyone has an opportunity to have it nearby.

  • Martin Pierce 12th Mar '18 - 8:30am

    To Jennie’s point – getting news coverage of our leader by making a sweeping generalisation about the undoubtedly disparate motives of 17 million voters IS a bad idea

  • Mick Taylor 12th Mar '18 - 8:31am

    As a baby boomer who voted remain, I can say that I had conversations with many people who were just as Vince described. They were nostalgic for a Britain they thought had once existed, where we were ‘in control’, where there was not – as they saw it – widespread (black) immigration and where the dreadful EU did not dictate all to our emasculated parliament.
    I don’t think for a moment that we are going to convince those people to change their minds.
    I agree with Geoff Reid. Far too many people regard disagreement with their views as ‘slagging off’. We really ought to be grown up enough to engage in robust debate without denigrating those with whom we disagree.
    I also agree with Jennie. How can we object to publicity when for ages we have complained at the lack of it.
    There seems to be a continuing view by some that the EU is a vote loser. The Lib Dems are at 7% in the polls. 48% voted to remain. How can it not be a vote winner to stand up firmly for our pro EU position? There are 3 parties dedicated to Brexit, Tories, Labour and UKIP. What possible gain is there in being seen to do the same?
    I am delighted that at last Vince Cable has nailed our pro EU colours to the mast. The party has vacillated far too long and only 25% of the electorate actually know where we stand. Go for it Vince. The only way for us is up!

  • John Marriott 12th Mar '18 - 9:33am

    BBC News managed to refer to ‘the speech’ near the end of its late evening bulletin. All it mentioned, as I expected, was the bit about slagging off the 60plus empire loving whites who voted Leave! Not a good way to win over those people, some of whose support the Lib Dems may need to change public opinion, let alone pick up a few percentage points in the opinion polls and win a few more council seats in May.

    I’ve had a quick look in my daily papers (Guardian and Times) and I can’t find any reference to the conference let alone the speech. If this IS the case elsewhere, it’s going to take a mighty amount of FOCUS leaflets and ‘Action Days’ to get the message across.

  • David Becket 12th Mar '18 - 9:38am

    @ Jennie Rigg

    Sorry Jennie, mistakes of this nature do us no good at all. The comment followed the negative comments of the Remain Campaign which got us into this mess, and the campaign is still at it.

    It was right to remind us of the difference in voting between the young and old, but he should then have gone on to highlight the positive reasons why the young voted remain. That gives a reason to Remain rather than upset the majority of leavers, who we need to convince to change their minds. In this respect Vince blew it.

    This is not just Vince, who should have known better, but those advising him. He must have cleared that speech with others. It is all part of the way this party is run, from our process of making policy to the archaic boring presentation of our conference motions.

  • Neil Sandison 12th Mar '18 - 9:53am

    John Marriott Even the Sunday political shows went out of their way to ignore us .
    We are going to have to find new ways to cut through the media group think so that they cant do that so easily .
    Direct Action via protests or challenges, lets take a leaf out of Greenpeace /Freinds of the Earth and Client Earth books and get noticed .Wheres them young liberals !

  • David Becket 12th Mar ’18 – 12:51am
    We have just had an example of how to wreck a conference with one sentence in the leaders speech. He has made the headlines we do not need. This is not fair on the foot soldiers.

    Little I can add to this. We cannot win our ward in May without persuading elderly Brexit-inclined voters to support us locally. And sadly the only coverage to make it outside the walls of the conference hall will make this harder not easier.

  • John Marriott 12th Mar '18 - 10:30am

    @Neil Sandison
    The trouble with Greenpeace and Freinds (sic) of the Earth is that they can lose as many friends as they make by their actions.

    In my relatively long political ‘experience’ (I won’t call it career and it’s obviously not as long as David Raw’s) which ended voluntarily last May, I always tried to put myself in the shoes of ordinary people, whose interest in what I was peddling was tenuous at best. Most people get their ‘political fix’ from the media, which has become increasingly social rather than printed. If the media, in whatever form you prefer, is prepared to ignore the bulk of what the Lib Dems currently have to say and, if it reports it at all, concentrates what is basically tittle tattle, is it at all surprising that the party is not taken seriously, despite all those earnest well meaning ‘activists, queuing up to offer their unique definition of what a ‘Liberal’ is or religiously attending conference.

  • David Evershed 12th Mar '18 - 10:31am

    I am a big supporter of Vince cable but his logic is flawed when he says older voters voted Brexir because: “Too many were driven by a nostalgia for a world where …………..faces were white.”

    The majority of immigration to the Uk from the EU has been from Eastern Europe where the people have white faces. The EU immigration issue has been about white immigrants.

    In fact the EU discriminates against inward immigration from Africa, Asia and North & South America, where the majority do not have white faces.

  • William Fowler 12th Mar '18 - 11:05am

    Oh dear, some clever chaps have decided to do electronic bill-board campaign with posters tittled SWINDLED (re being taken out of the EU) – THEY are on the news! I assumed it was the LibDems getting their act together until further into the interview.

  • The “are you saying that 17,4 million voters…” attack is primitive and was predictable. Many of them cannot be convinced, and therefore don’t matter. What matters is stabilizing remainers, and addressing still evaluating leave-voters. It is a fact that without racism, nostalgia, or economic indifference/complacency (the triple lock) remain would have won. Each of these erroneous motives alone swung the vote. It is not wrong to make it clear to those leavers still open to cost/benefit considerations that their business-case does not stack up, and that their “win” was achieved in association with disagreeable motives.

  • Even I know as a British minority ethnic (BME) that you don’t rattle the thin skinned with issues over race. Just don’t mention it.

    Just like many comments on this thread many people will hear is ‘he said all old people are all racists’ even though you said no such thing – people looking for offence will certainly interpret it that way.

    Identity is still a touchy issue in this country and the biggest issue during the Brexit refferendum was immigration. And linked to immigration; Identity (culture and race).

    Comments like Vince, although nuanced in my opinion, only rallies hatred against BMEs. It’s a point many in his position, who have the best of intentions, do not understand.

    Racist or not, people of this country do not want to hear it. And talk of race this and race that – will only deepen hatred and disdain towards those who are BME.

    You are not helping Sir Vince. There are other ways. This kind of grandstanding, however will only hurt those you seek to help.

  • Unfortunately Vince has got publicity but only for that comment. I have yet to see any mention in the media for any of the good policies from the conference.

  • @ Arnold Kiel There is something chill about your comment that 17.4 million voters “don’t matter”. It’s even more chill than Sir Vincent’s comments about the over 65’s and the glee some folk express in commenting about mortality profiles.

    It looks like the more extreme Remainers (and I’m a Remainer) have lost the plot. Whether they have, or whether they haven’t, it’s high time Arnold (and Sir Vincent) realised that unnecessarily antagonising 17.4 million voters with negative and offensive remarks is the opposite of making a positive case for remain and not the most persuasive thing they could do – and it’s not what I understand to be liberal values.

  • Neil Sandison 12th Mar '18 - 12:11pm

    John Marriott We can either roll over and play dead or we challenge the status quo represented by this media closed shop .Your comment reminds me of the old hands new activists argument .The old hands say we have done it all before and the new activist feel deflated that your not listening to what they see as their fresh ideas. The truth lies somewhere in between they may have new ways of campaigning to get our message across on key social liberal policy but we will not deliver that using old tools like the press release or the leaders conference speech.

  • @Mick Taylor. ‘…surely opposing Brexit is a vote winner for the Lib Dems….’.

    So the theory has it. Yet the single issue anti Brexit stance of the Party from June 2016 to June 2017 was matched by a fall in our already appalling GE vote of the 2015 General election vote and an increase in our already appalling record level of Lost Deposits from the 2015 GE.

    Since the GE of June 2017 we have started to push/develop a better spread of policies but still our public output is dominated by opposing Brexit. Have we seen any increase in our polling position as a result? No.

    Vince’s speech yesterday contained an enormous amount of good material. But the only bit to get media coverage was the negative ‘attack’ on elderly people who voted Leave.

    Speaking as a fairly elderly person (61 years old) who voted Remain in 1975 when I was 18 and Remain in 2016 when I was 59, I think that our obsession with opposing Brexit, after the event, is in fact losing us voters and making us seem irrelevant. Most voters simply do not decide their normal voting pattern on the basis of one single issue. Coupled with the legacy of the huge self inflicted damage of 2010-2015 this is a ‘problem’ for us to say the least and I would urge those deciding national strategy to pay a bit more attention to reality and a bit less to wishful thinking about how voters ‘should behave’.

  • David Raw
    I wouldn’t include Vince Cable. I think he’s simply falling back on an ineffective rhetorical strategy.

  • @ Glenn Include him in what ?

  • Peter Martin 12th Mar '18 - 12:53pm

    @ Arnold Kiel,

    It is a fact that without racism, nostalgia, or economic indifference/complacency (the triple lock) remain would have won.

    Unless you have access to a parallel universe where you can conduct experiments, it can only be your opinion.

    No-one can deny that immigration was an issue in the EU referendum. But the immigration in question was overwhelmingly European immigration. There aren’t too many people from Poland or Romania who have other than white faces. So if there is any racism, it can only be from UK’s ethnic minorities. Not that I would agree there is!

    Free movement is a fine ideal but it can only work if the movement isn’t too asymmetrical. The EU imposes austerity economics through mainland Europe, unemployed people start to migrate in search of work, and then the PTB wonder why there’s a problem with the rise of the far right, generally in the EU, and a vote for Brexit in the UK.

    How stupid can they possibly be?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Mar '18 - 1:10pm

    Great to see Mark Wright get to this with humour.

    I think all the comments are onto why this was nonsense, even those who think any publicity better than none.

    This was not statesmanlike from a figure whose usp that should come across as.

    David Raw talks sense here, but was wrong in backing Vince and J rather than my choice of Norman and Layla.

    I admire like and support Vince, but constant publicity for Brexit and identity politics means we stay on the 7 per cent.

    Norman Lamb for leader is still possible and would help. Or Christine Jardine. We need to keep Vince and have more common sense everyday substance waiting, not modernist trendy headline grabbing…

  • David Raw
    As amongst those losing the plot.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 12th Mar '18 - 1:33pm

    Glenn, is correct, Vince has never lost the plot, it is the plot that is correct, it is the play that is offered, it is the script that needs adapting and the performances and performers need new directors and actors too…

  • The only bad publicity is no publicity.
    But yes perhaps we ought to let others worry about Brexit, whilst we concentrate on social issues.

  • paul barker 12th Mar '18 - 2:09pm

    There are some very odd comments on this thread. This was a Speech by The Leader of “A Third Party” at a Spring Conference. Generally, Spring Conferences are treated as private affairs & get little or no coverage in The Media. We should be pleased that anything Vince said gained some notice. We have brought to the attention of some Voters, first, that We still exist & second, that not everyone accepts Brexit as a done thing. Both will be useful.

  • Robert (Somerset) 12th Mar '18 - 3:07pm

    Theresa May once said of the Conservatives that they were a ‘nasty party’.

    To be fair she didn’t. She said that the Conservative Party was sometimes seen by SOME as the nasty party.

  • David Westaby 12th Mar '18 - 3:30pm

    Vince should be congratulated on making comment upon what is an undeniable fact. His point is nostalgia not racism. There are many in the more elderly population ( perhaps > 75 than 65 ) who have felt increasingly uncomfortable with the demographic changes , either real or manifest in the right wing press, that have occurred in their lifetime. It is a natural tendency to be feel more comfortable with like than different. Most would not consider this as racism and would never be manifest by comment or action. It is however, a stimulus to look back rather than forward.
    A slightly different point. To those who now cry foul that Vince is somehow suggesting racism as a factor ,could they explain what was the appeal of posters showing lines of Syrian refugees and suggesting Turkey would soon join the EU?

  • David Westaby
    The poster did not appeal to me and millions of Leave voters. It may have appealed to millions of other Leave voters, I don’t know. I understand it did put a lot of people off voting Leave – such as Janice Turner of The Times, and almost me. The Vote Leave campaign said the opinion polls for Leave slumped on the poster’s revelation.
    I think the danger is assuming all Leave voters thought the same thing. We didn’t – as you’d expect of 17.4m people.

  • Mick Taylor 12th Mar '18 - 5:02pm

    @Paul holmes. The reality is not as you paint it. If only 25% of voters know we are anti Brexit then our projection of that position must have been pretty poor. The party has spent till now fudging its position over Brexit and talking almost exclusively about a further referendum, not actively and openly saying we must stop Brexit.
    Those who voted leave are very unlikely to support the Lib Dems. So why should we tone down our anti Brexit message? No, it makes absolute sense to openly and proudly declare our wish to remain in the EU. The 48% have nowhere else to go if they want to stop Brexit. If we only get 1/3 of them voting for us in May we’d be up 16% on our appalling position. What’s not to like?

  • Sean Hyland 12th Mar '18 - 5:31pm

    @Mick Taylor
    I vote Lib Dem and voted Leave. I also believe a significant number of Lib Dem voted leave as well. I stand willing to be corrected by anybody with links or accurate figures etc but believe Lord Aschroft polls / YouGov had Lib Dem voters at approx 70% remain 30% leave.

    I hated the poster and know it persuaded or confirmed some friends to vote Remain. For some Leave voters immigration was never the issue and it was more about the political direction of the EU.

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Mar '18 - 6:04pm

    “How dispiriting to see that Sir Vince persists in his belief that the Brexit vote was driven by nostalgia and racism.

    If you are 65, you were born in the ’50s, when nearly all the former pink parts of the globe had already gained their independence. ”

    And you only have to be a few years older than 65 to remember when it was EXACTLY as Vince described – in many parts of the country unusual to see a black or Asian person, in school geography lessons – the world atlas with large areas covered in pink, the colonised occupants of the pink bits described as ‘natives’ if not something worse….

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Mar ’18 – 6:04pm…………..And you only have to be a few years older than 65 to remember when it was EXACTLY as Vince described…………

    So Vince was only insulting those, like me, in their 70’s…Well that’s OK then; after all, as has been posted on LDV, when we die off the problem of ‘Brexit’ will go away!

  • @ expats Glad to know you’re an old grumpy radical like me.

    However, I’m determined not to die off just yet because I’m on a mission to educate the Yoof Pale Blue Lib Dems out of their neo-liberalism, I’ve got five lovely grand kids, my footy team is in the top league for the first time in 46 years, and I’m too busy just now to go anywhere else.

    As JFK once said, quoting Robert Frost :

    The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep

    So stuff it Sir Vince !!

  • @Mick Taylor – like Sean Hyland, I was a LibDem Leaver. I too understood around 1/3rd voted to leave.
    The party having previously voted overwhelmingly in Parliament to hold the referendum and to respect the outcome regardless, the party’s current stance means it has lost that 1/3rd. It has not, however, gained many others, because many Remain voters have honourably accepted the democratic vote and want to move on now.
    I anticipated soon after the vote the party would recognise the reality that, whatever the rights/wrongs of it, the overt democratic support needed for EU governance within the UK was no longer there, and probably had not been for some time. I thought the party would accept that reality and move quickly to offer an alternative liberal brand of Brexit. I am sure this would’ve garnered huge support from both sides and might have lent a wholly different tone to negotiations. But it’s too late. As it is, the party simply cannot move on from criticising those who voted. This is pointless dead-horse flogging. It misses the real point, which is why the EU has not come up to snuff as an organisation, in our minds.
    I’d like to vote LD again as your other policies are excellent. I really think the LDs must accept the result and focus on making Britain as libdem as poss outside the EU – you need to win the peace. You can’t do that if you are fighting the last battle.

  • Jayne mansfield 12th Mar '18 - 10:14pm

    @ David Westerby,

    It is a natural tendency to feel more comfortable with like than different’.
    I would argue that, If so , it must be a learnt response and those who argue that it is a ‘natural ‘tendency’ are part of the problem.

    Human beings have mixed from time immemorial , and as a seventy two year old, I experienced within my own lifetime the refusal of human beings to be dictated to, on matters of whom they should befriend and love. Even the strict laws in apartheid South Africa could not prevent ‘inter-racial friendships, the most intimate of relationships and so called miscegenation.

    Please note my age. I almost feel that if there were there to be a second referendum I would change my vote from ‘remain’ to ‘leave’ just to spite the rather unpleasant people who seem gleeful at the fact that some leave supporters have already , or soon will, leave, ‘this veil of tears’.

    I would also ask, what incentive do the EU negotiators have to give Britain a reasonable deal when they are offered hope that there will be another referendum on the deal?

    My own view is that one should have waited to see what was on offer rather than jumping in immediately after a democratic vote to ‘leave’, thus opening the party up to the deserved criticism of being undemocratic. Any groundswell to overturn the
    referendum should have been ‘bottom up’.

  • @Mick Taylor “Those who voted Leave are unlikely to vote Lib Dem”.

    Well certainly not while ‘we’ are constantly insulting them. But neither has our campaign against the Referendum result won over Remain voters.

    Meanwhile as several people have pointed out 30% of Leave voters were LD supporters. In 2016 I was helping in a (Tory facing) Constituency with a Council by election. Early canvassing was combined with Referendum campaigning and we certainly found Remainers who were not voting for us and Leavers who were. The same pattern was there after the Referendum result. That constituency voted Leave but only a little while after that we gained the Council seat from the Conservatives. I could quote you lots more examples based on extensive campaigning over the last 2 years. I would also note that 2 of our 2017 MP’s were elected in Leave areas; Vince told the Qand A on Saturday that in Twickenham they focussed on Education underfunding in the 2017 election; Layla Moran told the last East Midlands Conference that our Brexit policy was damaging to us in her constituency in 2017 and they campaigned hard on issues such as the NHS and Education to counter that.

    We have to be more than a single issue Party and neither will a narrow and insular Core Vote strategy do any more for us than did the Socialist Core Vote strategy of Foot and Benn in Labour’s disastrous 1983 election campaign.

  • Zzzzzzzz. It was a good speech. Should we really pander to those who voted Leave ? No. We shouldn’t. We should take them on.

  • Jayne mansfield 13th Mar '18 - 9:09am

    @ Tim Hill,
    ‘Zzzzzzzz’ . if you are that tired, you should get a good night’s sleep.

    The problem is not that you are failing to persuade to your view those who are racists, you are failing to persuade those who aren’t.

    “Taking them on’ Liberal Democrat style, hasn’t been very successful so far. I was of the opinion that politics was about the power of persuasion. I have never found that insulting people was the best way to do that.

  • I’m amazed – or not – that a post and comments, on a site named Lib Dem Voice and regarding a democratic vote, seem completely devoid of the word ‘democracy’.

  • Laurence Cox 13th Mar '18 - 3:24pm

    @William Fowler

    It is not necessary to pay for the whole increase in cost of the NHS through up-front extra taxation. The IMF (who are hardly left-wing radicals) consider that we could increase our debt level by over 130% of GDP before we hit the limits that countries like Greece, Italy and Cyprus are at. So a small increase in debt level could provide the pump-priming that would bring increased revenues back to the Government through more people paying tax, without the massive increases in tax that you think are necessary.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Michael BG
    Steve Trevethan, Cut VAT should be added to your list. Jenny Barnes, If inflation is caused by the economy overheating because there is too much demand...
  • William Francis
    @Brad Burrow's I don't think Putin's Anschluss of Crimea should be seen as evidence of Crimean independence....
  • Michael BG
    Jenny Barnes, Resources are finite so logically economic growth should be finite too. However, this does not seem to be true, because of our ingenuity. I do ...
  • Jeff
    Let them eat cake! Time for Carrie Antoinette to throw another party. On a previous occasion she celebrated with Abba’s Winner Takes It All. This time, I woul...
  • TonyH
    The Met has given substantial help to the PM three times during his partygate crisis. 1. First they said they wouldn't investigate - which was a media 'dead c...