LibLink: Vince Cable: Politicians aren’t supposed to do it – but I’m marching on the Conservative conference. I have no choice

Writing in the Independent, Vince Cable explains why he’ll be marching on the Tory Party Conference in Manchester this weekend.

He certainly is bringing the anti Brexit fight directly to them.

I believe it would be a healthy exercise in democracy to participate in a peaceful, dignified protest on the big issue of the day by marching. And the issues don’t come any bigger than Brexit – which is why I will be addressing marchers protesting at the Conservative conference in Manchester this weekend.

Brexit changes most things, not least the quaint notion that governments always seek to increase the prosperity and opportunities of their citizens. It is vital ministers in the hall hear thousands of British people demanding an exit from their disastrous Brexit.

Whatever the arguments for or against EU membership in the referendum, the Government has clearly mismanaged the negotiations, and the situation is now so grave that parliamentary niceties suddenly look absurd. Some 15 months on from the original vote, the EU’s Michel Barnier suggests we are still “months” from substantive Brexit negotiations even beginning – because the Government has been so unclear about what it even wants.

And he slates the Government’s irresponsibility:

Ministers are effectively saying “we have absolutely no idea what future Brexit will bring – but we are going to force it upon you anyway.” It is the political equivalent of jumping off a diving board without checking if there is any water in the pool below.

There is a way out, though, as he outlines here:

If enough people protest against this extreme Conservative Brexit, we can still secure a referendum on the final deal, as Liberal Democrats have been fighting for. Only then can we hold the Government to account, giving the people the option to reject a potentially disastrous deal.

My only regret is that I didn’t also march on the Labour conference, where Jeremy Corbyn still refused to act like an opposition and oppose what many of his colleagues predict will be a ruinous Brexit.

That role of opposition falls to Liberal Democrats and thousands of like-minded people this Sunday. Make sure Theresa May hears Manchester’s voice, your voice, demanding the chance of an exit from Brexit.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Nigel Hunter 30th Sep '17 - 1:28pm

    Whilst we campaign against Brexit we must not be seen as a one party issue party. There are also other issues that need to be campaigned for.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th Sep '17 - 1:54pm

    UKIP have just elected someone who was only a few years ago a member of this party and is a former parliamentary candidate for us, ex serviceman, ex police , worked with the EU and UN, and has been scathing about the direction of his UKIP rival, turning it into an alt right party. He is going to try and turn UKIP into a mainstream party.

    This party needs to realise it has too many rivals for too much of the important agenda everyone is concerned about.

    That means more , much more than Brexit !!!

    Sir Vince a few months ago could grab much of the mainstream agenda Henry Bolton is getting his teeth into.

    He is going down the road of exit from Brexit , all well and good , but it is keeping this party on too few percentage of support.

    Most people are mainstream and concerned about much besides.

  • Arnold Kiel 30th Sep '17 - 3:56pm

    Sir Vince is right not to waste a minute. And anybody who believes any sensible policy on any other field could be formulated, campaigned-for and enacted while the Brexit-tragedy goes on is in denial of the monstrosity of this act of self-destruction.

    If nothing dramatic happens by March 2019, all of your well-intended ideas on education, NHS, housing, etc. will be baseless.

  • I no longer get the Lib Dems.

    Apparently the laws of supply and demand don’t operate in terms of labour and according to Maajid Naawaz people from overseas do jobs that are low level due to poor grasp of English which in a growing economy means that people who are settled here move up to other jobs. I’m not sure if he’s speaking for the majority of Lib Dems but in the experience of millions of people that is clearly not happening. Thus. on LBC, that’s how he disagreed with a caller who suggested the supply and demand argument.

    If that IS the model espoused why then is the whole state apparatus so crap at advancing the prospects of British aspiring job seekers and those on low incomes? Where is the Liberal Democrat plan for revolutionising the job centre plus – to pressure companies who abuse zero hours and crappy terms and conditions? To provide the training and loans for those at the bottom who might want to do an IT course rather than go to University. Nowhere – because Maajid said it exactly as you see it – EU first, UK second. To have such a scheme might mean you having to intervening in your own prejudices of syphoning off those that can from the JSA list ie British workers.

    What happens in the real world is that JSA recipients do seasonal work and then that work ends and there is literally no backup support with the Job centres who should be, in this world of `full employment` gearing up more jobs and opportunities by matching jobs with people at a personal level. Companies should be hanging round job centres begging people to take on work! The whole system needs root and branch reform and it’s something that would make the Lib Dems stand apart from others.

    The whole process takes too long – a process that the top 1% wouldn’t put up with in a million years. That’s one of the reasons why you are losing votes.

  • This government claimed to be strong and stable yet after years/decades of supporting Brexit then arranging the referendum they still have no idea what they want out of it: “the EU’s Michel Barnier suggests we are still “months” from substantive Brexit negotiations even beginning – because the Government has been so unclear about what it even wants”. The course set out by Boris and Rees-Mogg is far more about taking back control for people like them rather than for the UK as a whole, but how to best oppose and not lose voters who care more about issues they can see than what might be considered a historical debate and all a divisive anyway? Over to you Vince.

  • The fact that the fourth leader of UKIP in less than twelve months stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate in 2005 against Philip Hammond tells me a great deal about some sloppy selection procedures in the Lib Dems.

  • paul barker 30th Sep '17 - 5:50pm

    This is a great idea, it takes publicity away from The Tories & gives it to us & they cant respond in kind without giving us even more.
    Next Year we should demonstrate at Labour Conference as well, unless they have come round to at least demanding a Referendum or staying in The Single Market. Both changes are quite possible.
    On UKIP, the only interesting thing to come out of their Leadership Election is the voting numbers. Less than 13,000 took part. Even if we assume a turn-out of 60%, that implies a Membership of 22,000, less than half the Green Party & less than a quarter of ours.

  • Peter Watson 30th Sep '17 - 6:26pm

    @paul barker “the only interesting thing to come out of their Leadership Election is the voting numbers. Less than 13,000 took part.”
    So almost 13000 more than took part in the Lib Dem leadership election. 😉

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Sep '17 - 8:18pm

    This is curious:

    ‘Ministers are effectively saying “we have absolutely no idea what future Brexit will bring – but we are going to force it upon you anyway.” It is the political equivalent of jumping off a diving board without checking if there is any water in the pool below.’

    We don’t actually know what the future IN the EU would bring. The open-ended nature of this is one of the better arguments against it. If in the year 2000 I had said that the EU would bring about the migrant/refugee debacle, TTIP, a hopelessly botched enlargement and ultra-austerity what would people have said? Did anyone in the year 2000 think that this is the EU we’d have?

    None of this is to say that all will or will not be well and good OUT. However this idea that we know what the EU would have been about is very short-sighted.

    Plainly the best option, at least for now, is the Norway model.

  • Arnold Kiel 30th Sep '17 - 8:57pm

    Little Jackie Paper,

    the EU brought about a migrant/refugee debacle? How so? It was the UK that took a leading role in destroying unpleasant but much more stable situations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lybia, and, thereby indirectly, Syria.

    I understand you are against migrants. Most are still from outside the EU. Freedom of movement of people a “debacle”? Therefore, single-market-membership a debacle? Enjoy the good times coming.

    TTIP was (unfortunately) cancelled by the UK’s special relationship (in arms). Isn’t that the US-trade-deal you so desperately want?

    The UK was (fortunately) the prime promotor of enlargement.

    And the EU surely also forced American banks to excessive sub-prime lending and securitization. It is also responsible for UK banks buying the paper and the following the drying-up of UK lending in 2008.

    Maybe you can shorten your contributions by just listing the world’s evils the EU is NOT responsible for.

  • The Lib Dems seem to have become about Brexit to the exclusion of everything else. The vote had produced a majority in favour of Brexit. We must honour this vote and leave the EU. Free movement must end. We must leave the single market and customs union. Why are we in denial ? Are we not democrats ?
    We risk becoming a fringe party if this fetish with Brexit does not stop. Please fellow Lib Dems we only have 8% in the opinion polls. Do my fellow Lib Dems want our Party to become extinct ?
    I fear the only March Vince is leading us to is Political oblivion.

  • nvelope2003 30th Sep '17 - 9:47pm

    David Raw: Some people do move on, change their mind etc. Sadly some people do not even when the facts change. Having said that he does not seem likely to attract much support but life is full of surprises. I think he is Nigel Farage’s stooge who will step down when asked to do so. We shall see.

  • nvelope2003 30th Sep '17 - 9:51pm

    LibDemer: I fear you may be right. The party is looking back not forward and those who seek to lead it or are in leading roles are content to muddle on, happy in their positions as big fish in an ever smaller pond. Time to move on.

  • @LJP “We don’t actually know what the future IN the EU would bring. The open-ended nature of this is one of the better arguments against it.”

    I don’t know what the future IN my relationship would bring, do you advise I should end it now?

    I suggest your logic is fatally flawed…

  • To those who say we are obsessed with Brexit and should campaign on other ‘bread and butter’ issues: As Vince sets out in this article, Brexit is not an isolated issue. It affects everything. It will destroy our economy, which means people will lose jobs, prices will rise, the pound will plummet, governments will be unable to invest properly in public services. The health service in particular will suffer from loss of staff, but so too will the service industries. And then there’s the fact that it diminishes our clout in the world, there’s how it has damaged community relations, and I haven’t even started on the Northern Ireland border issue…
    Vince IS campaigning on all of these fronts when he marches against Brexit. We should back him 100%. I personally think that in time the voters will come to us on this, but even if they don’t, I still think it’s the right thing to do. If Brexit has happens I want us to be able to say that we did everything we could.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Oct '17 - 12:46am

    David Raw

    I would have thought that was an understandable response to this election, until I read the background of Henry Bolton, his career , and views historically, in fact his interviews from 2005 when selected. He was and I reckon at some level is , in the mainstream of thinking on some issues or much. Why UKIP?! Why are we the Exit from Brexit party after electing , sorry , accepting , a leader some of us thought more moderate on that and more keen on much else for this party !!!


    One of the most eloquent and important pieces in a good while , from you herein. I do not feel it as strongly or as think it in me on this to be as heartfelt , yet I share your feeling for the almost desparate desire to do more than talk about the need for an alternative not merely to Brexit, no, more , to the far left and right, and long for it to be this party and fear at times it will not.

  • While I agree with David Raw that the new leader of UKIP’s past as a LibDem parliamentary candidate in 2005 gives rise to concerns about our selection procedures, it should be noted that the runner up in UKIP’s contest, who ran on an anti-Muslim platform, was shortlisted for Brighton Pavilion for Labour in 2013. As a more general point, there is always a proportion of people who join a political party, and who get a taste for politics once they have taken that step, who decide that, for whatever reason, they are in the wrong party. That was true of people who joined during the SDP/Liberal Alliance years, and it will be true of people who have joined us and Labour in the past two years.
    On the point of UKIP’s membership, a post on VoteUK Forum suggested that the turnout might have been 46%, which would give them a membership of around 28,000.

  • Lorenzo, it says nothing for Bolton’s judgement that he joined that nasty flaky collective known as UKIP – and it says nothing for the sophistication of this party’s selection process that he was selected to fight Weybridge.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st Oct '17 - 9:37am

    I’d like to return to the question raised by this article. Should politicians take part in protests at the conferences of other parties, and specifically, should Vince be taking part in this particular march in Manchester?
    Vince points out that politicians do not usually take part in such protests, but says that he feels that he must.
    My feeling is that, on the whole, it would not seem appropriate for the leader of another party to organise or lead a protest at another party’s conference, but it is not necessarily wrong for Vince or any other leader just to take part in such a protest. But whether Vince should be taking part in this particular March is another issue.
    A protest at the conference of the party in government surely ought to be protesting about something that the government has chosen to do, or chosen not to do. The “Stop Brexit” march does not really fit this criteria. Brexit is not something the government is imposing on the country. The government did not “choose” Brexit. Brexit was chosen by the public in a referendum, and the government is carrying out the instructions of the public.
    Vince and everyone else who takes part in this march, seems to be trying to put pressure on the government to ignore the referendum result. Of course everyone has a right to protest about any issue they like, but it would be so wrong if the government were to listen to the few thousand who take part in this march, rather than the more than seventeen million people who voted to leave the EU.
    Some marches that, as far as I know, are not taking place in Manchester today, but which Vince would be quite justified in taking part in if they were :
    A march to urge the government to accept – and welcome – child refugees.
    A march protesting about the plight of people who are forced to resort to food banks.
    A march calling on the government to increase spending on the NHS.
    A march protesting about the appalling state of social care.
    I’m sure Vince does care about these issues, as do many, perhaps most, Lib Dems. But sadly, the party is not making these issues a priority any more

  • You make good points Catherine.

    I suspect one of the reasons for Vince getting involved with this is to get some coverage. The media coverage of our own party conference was woeful, and all of the brilliant and nuanced policies in the world won’t do us any good if they are ignored.

    At present, the LibDems risk being the homework party for the larger parties. We think about policy and put the effort into making them workable, and the media and general public ignore them (and us), and if we persist, they mock them (and us), until someone from a larger party realises it’s a good idea, at which point their supporters (and press) praise them for it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted when a good idea is adopted by the government of the day, but it is frustrating when our role is ignored.

    It will be interesting to see how the media react to Vince’s presence. There is a danger it could backfire, but I’m sure those involved in making the decision considered the risks, and decided it was worth it.

  • @ Catherine Jane Crosland

    “A march to urge the government to accept – and welcome – child refugees.
    A march protesting about the plight of people who are forced to resort to food banks.
    A march calling on the government to increase spending on the NHS.
    A march protesting about the appalling state of social care.”

    Yes, Yes, a thousand times, yes………… but will the general public believe that the Lib Dems have had a genuine Damascene conversion from the events of 2010-15 when the conditions leading to all those situations were laid down ?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Oct '17 - 2:10pm

    David , I really do think you underestimate how broad the spectrum of parties , all have extremes, but the extremes of a more extreme party are , yes awful as you say. It means that despite an obvious change in attitude on certain issues, Henry Bolton may well be fairly sensible on certain things going way back as even, now, and his precise stance twelve years ago may well have been seemingly within the main thrust of more liberal and moderate politics.

    Catherine , as ever, a terrific level of respect for democracy. My view is your points for demo subjects are just what are real priorities of most members, but the argument is that the EU is the most significant or that which gets our party noticed. These are different reasons and neither should exclude the real priorities, this minute the NHS is going down the tubes , poverty a worry to many, terror a threat !

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st Oct '17 - 6:28pm

    Fiona, David and Lorenzo, thank you.
    Fiona, you suggest that Vince is taking part in the march mainly for the publicity. Well perhaps, but he could also get publicity by campaigning on the issues I suggested. And in fact the media are not likely to see anything all that newsworthy about the Lib Dem leader taking part in a “Stop Brexit” protest.
    Actually, it seems to me that Vince is more likely to be taking part in order to prove his pro EU credentials to the most fervently anti Brexit element in his own party. At the time that he became leader, some within the party questioned his position on the EU. As a reaction to this, he began to speak in a way that made Tim Farron look Eurosceptic! Ever since, he has seemed to talk about little apart from “Exit from Brexit”.
    David, yes it may be difficult to convince the public that the party have changed since the coalition. It would help if Vince could focus on the party’s core belief, expressed in the preamble to the constitution, that none should be enslaved by poverty. And it would be good if he could actually make a heartfelt apology for the mistakes that were made in the coalition years.
    And the party as a whole could remember that the preamble to the constitution states that “sovereignty rests with the people, and … authority in a democracy derives from the people”, rather than sneering at any mention of the will of the people.

  • Arnold Kiel 1st Oct '17 - 7:52pm

    Catherine Jane Crosland,

    this frivolous and fraudulent exercise called referendum a valid instruction? It was non-binding, and PMs and Governments must exercise their conscience in the national interest. At least they should carry out such “instruction” professionally, and with the country’s interest in mind. None of that is happening. So shall we all sit tight when this instructed Government completely messes things up? How long, btw., is such an “instruction” valid? 5 years, irrespective of new facts and views surfacing?

    There is no point in marching for all the good (and expensive) things you suggest, if your Kingdom is first bankrupted by Brexit, and its worst-possible execution.

    Sir Vince wants to exit from Brexit by asking for a new, better informed “instruction”. And it must happen fast.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Oct '17 - 8:20pm

    The Tory membership may already be lower than ours.
    Ours are based on a central membership list, the Tories probably not.
    See interview with Damian Green (first secretary of state and minister at the cabinet office, effectively deputy prime minister and old friend of Theresa May).

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Oct '17 - 11:05am

    As I see it if the Government is carrying out the will of the people, it would have like any decent solicitor gone back to its client, requesting more information. An instruction only takes you as far as the limits of that instruction. To extrapolate that to fit in with your own personal ideology would result in disciplinary hearings and perhaps being struck off. The interpretation of the referendum result by this Government is worthy of a request of arbitration to an international court of justice. I’m surprised no legal body has taken this up. With no codified constitution legal argument would suggest that the Government is acting far beyond its remit.

  • Peter Hirst 2nd Oct ’17 – 11:05am

    There wasn’t a single ‘Brexit Client’ and there is not a single solicitor. We already know that there were almost as many reasons why people voted ‘out’ as there were voters….Given that long list, any competent chamber of solicitors would, instead of asking the same question again, sort the priorities and try get the best result possible…..
    Sadly, the government has no idea of the case it wants to make. The ‘head of chambers’ is too busy trying to keep her practice together, and protect her own position, than act in the interest of her clients…

    As for the final outcome, I believe that Labour will, in the end, revert to its 2016 conference decision to, “Recognise that many of those who voted to leave the EU were expressing dissatisfaction with EU or national policy and were voting for change, but believes that unless the final settlement proves to be acceptable then the option of retaining EU membership should be retained,”…“The final settlement should therefore be subject to approval, through Parliament and potentially through a general election or a referendum.”
    Hoovering up the remain voters and disillusioned leavers…Shooting our fox…

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