LibLink: Vince Cable: We are heading towards a dangerous one party state and only a Liberal Democrat fightback can prevent it

Vince Cable writes in today’s Independent of the dangers of the Tories being given carte blanche to do what they like as Labour disintegrates:

The Prime Minister wants an opposition-free parliament in which to pursue the extreme version of Brexit she has chosen. Her cruder – or more honest – supporters talk about “crushing the saboteurs”. Those of a more squeamish disposition talk about letting Theresa May (known by her activists as “mummy”) get on with her task without distraction.

In normal circumstances, the Labour Party would rally opposition to her plan. But they are compromised by the Brexit vote of many of their constituencies, and by the voting record of their MPs. And the leadership is a crippling liability, far worse than in 1983. Michael Foot was, at least, a fine orator and writer, a stalwart party loyalist. The latest episode in this tragic farce was the endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn by the more Stalinist of the two factions of the almost-defunct Communist Party of Great Britain.

But what difference could a strong contingent of Lib Dems make?

If a bullying, dominant, Conservative majority is able to indulge all its pet prejudices – scrapping species conservation and climate change measures; removing labour market protections; jettisoning human rights – it would then become extremely difficult to reach a free trade agreement with the EU based on the Single Market, since the Europeans are insisting that we subscribe to common regulatory standards. A powerful group of Liberal Democrats in the Commons, working with like-minded people in other parties and our strong contingent in the Lords, could stop serious damage being done.

That leads to the second, crucial, role for an effective opposition: if (or, more likely, when) the Government fails to achieve a satisfactory settlement with the EU and is faced with the choice of signing up on bad terms or “crashing out” of the union without agreement, there has to be a mechanism for the public to say “we voted to leave, but not on these terms”. When the Government finds itself in a deep hole it has to stop digging. That is why we insist that there should be a public vote on the outcome of the negotiations.

I am not a fan of referendums which offer binary choices for complex problems, but since we got to where we are through that route it is now the only way to call a halt, should that prove to be necessary. The European Union would itself undoubtedly welcome a rethink of this messy and nasty divorce.

You can read the whole article here.

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7 Comments

  • The Liberal Democrats need to flesh out some clear policies on health, transport, crime, the environment, the economy and employment for this campaign as well as the anti brexit (much as I hate that word) message and its impact on jobs, trade and inward investment. That is the best way for them to compete against the other parties, move on from the sinners and anti-Semitism issues which have been dealt with and attract voters from the other parties. This is what Tim Farron and other MPs now need to be clearly doing.

  • In addition to Jason’s comments and in view of the unfortunate circumstances of and suspect process for removal of David Ward as candidate in Bradford East I think it would be helpful to have clarification that we are committed to restoring the human rights of the Palestinians and to opposing the ceaseless acts of aggression perpetrated by the various agents of the Israeli government that have continued over many decades.
    Without clarification others may well conclude that we are tacitly supporting the Israeli government’s attempt to gag all criticism.

  • If the Lib Dems were to gain as the SNP did following Labour’s failings then you would have two relatively small groups of opposition and a Labour party in (further) disarray while the Tories pushed through with a hard Brexit and one party nation that they have always wanted.

  • Mick Taylor 27th Apr '17 - 9:45pm

    DJ. It depends on how much the Lib Dems gain at Labour’s expense. Your thesis also depends on the Lib Dems making no gains from the Tories. I suspect both may happen and we could end up with a much larger LD party in the Commons than we have ever had. It depends on getting out the message, rather than talking about it. As I can’t help from half way round the world (except via social media and voting by proxy), it’s up to others to get out and campaign. You never know we may amaze ourselves!

  • David Pocock 28th Apr '17 - 12:14am

    I am not sure labour will lose as hard as everyone thinks. Ultimately the question to the labour voter is do you want 5 years of Tory autocracy or to remove corbyn. In the end I think labour will get out much of their vote and will end up with around 200 seats.

    UK voters know enough about tactical voting to ensure fptp will keep the status quo.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Apr '17 - 1:21pm

    At the moment I don’t see how Labour can avoid losing some of their marginal seats to the Tories if the polls are correct. Some Labour MPs who voted against article 50 may be helped by tactical voting if the 48% do what they say they will do. However, Labour may still be unable to remove Jeremy Corbyn because the membership support him, so a split looks inevitable, which may result in a group of MPs with whom we have more in common so that we can both provide greater opposition to May.
    I think Vince is right because May isn’t just behaving like a Tory: I think she’s personally unable to deal with opposition. Surely I’m not the only one who can hear the strangulation of her vocal cords when she has to deal with awkward questions. She is promoting herself as strong and stable but she can personally only manage this when everything’s going her way. We will have to point our her weaknesses and lack of strength in our literature because at the moment the media are adopting her line. We must, in particular, hammer home the weakness of someone who is frightened to enter a debate on TV.

  • Richard Underhill 30th Apr '17 - 7:49pm

    Labour may lose their moderate MPs while the hard left survive.

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