There are worse things than a coronation for Vince

Early this morning, I got an email from Ed Davey. He asked if he could send us a post for publication late afternoon, early evening.

“Of course!” I replied. And then I went into a brief explanation of how we were going to be neutral in the leadership contest, and how we would be very even-handed between the candidates. I concluded, flippantly, that I was just randomly mentioning that for no apparent reason.

I knew that there was a pretty strong expectation that Ed would stand and that some serious work had been done on putting a campaign together.

I was really looking forward to a contest. For once, I was going  into a leadership election with no idea who I was going to support. It looked like it was going to be a contest between two liberal heavyweights. Instinctively, I’d veer towards Vince, but he’d been a bit too accepting of Brexit for my liking last Summer – a line he has significantly softened in recent months, even before the election was a twinkle in Theresa May’s eye.

So when Ed’s article arrived at lunchtime, I sat open-mouthed, reading it over and over to make sure I’d understood it right. And I blubbed a bit, because I’m way too soft, as he talked about his family and wanting to be there for them. I thought some of the ideas he had for the future of the party were bang on:

And to be a winning party of reform, we must start telling the British people who Liberal Democrats are, and what we stand for. And not simply what and who we are against.

We must also be super-ambitious – just like radical centrists in Canada, France and The Netherlands. If they can win from third place – or from “no place” like Macron – why can’t we?

And in answering that question, we need to be self-critical. While we’ve had some success in recent times – not least with the amazing rise in membership – our election defeats have been crushingly bad.

We need to reflect why – and then ensure our party is fit-for-purpose – able to provide the platforms for future winning campaigns.  We owe it to the huge number of amazing campaigners in our party, who have worked their socks off, and not yet seen us win.

So, I’m sad he’s not standing. But, do you know what? I’m bloody thrilled that he’s one of our MPs. We may only have a dozen, but they are a quality bunch. A Golden Dozen, you might say. We have real expertise on the economy, on equalities, on business, on science, on rural affairs, on climate change, on health in our little bit of the Commons. We probably punch above the Labour and Conservative Party’s weight as well as our own. 

I’d always thought that a coronation of a leader with no contest would be a bad idea. The members need a say. They need to feel that they have had a say.

However, there is one thing worse than a coronation. That would be if some unfortunate MP were dragooned into fighting just for the sake of it. Travelling the length of the country being grilled by us lot as only we know how is not something that should be inflicted on someone whose heart isn’t in it.

And it’s not as if Vince hasn’t been tested in the white heat of coalition for five years. We need to remember that this was a guy who was stung by the Telegraph and was found to be a proper liberal that we could all be proud of.  He’s been acting leader before. We know what he can do. Remember, this is the guy who came up with “Stalin to Mr Bean.

This guy is pure class. He’s credible, clever and capable. He’ll be a good leader.

Before his head gets too big, I also know that he’s going to annoy the hell out all of us at some point. That’s an inevitability of being the leader of a party that, as Willie Rennie said when he took over as Scottish leader, doesn’t want to be led. Even Tim managed to annoy me from time to time and he was probably my favourite of all of them.

I might be wrong. I was about Ed. But it doesn’t look as if anyone is going to stand. Layla, Christine, Ed, Alistair, Norman, Jo have ruled themselves out. Jamie and Wera are Newbies. I can’t really see Stephen Lloyd or Tom Brake standing and the only one left is Tim. I’d have him back in a heartbeat but I know that’s not to be.

So rather than a Summer of arguing on the internet about our candidates of choice, we should maybe have a passionate conversation about ideas, about how we can transform life for those people who need us to be on their side, those people who need someone to take on the Establishment and WIN. Let’s try and develop a message that is optimistic and joyful, that means something to those who think “politics” has nothing to offer them. It’s so much better than spending the Summer kicking lumps out of each other.

Our party faces huge challenges.  We are capable of rising above them. To do that, we need to have the same sort of collaborative approach with each other as we believe in with the rest of the world.  Our party and its values are very necessary and we have a chance to work with others to turn away from the politics of self towards the politics of community.  That fair, free and open society where no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity that we talk about in the Preamble to our Constitution is the dream we should concentrate on working towards.


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

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  • There are better things, as well. And rather more of them.

  • Richard renaut 27th Jun '17 - 10:09pm

    If a coronation, how about showing how Liberals share power, and actually act as a co-leader with Jo Swinson? The visual diversity (male/female, younger/mature, London/Scottish seats etc) but both experienced and Liberal. A good double act.

    It would need to be more than superficial, as the public would see through that, but might show we can do politics differently (And a hat doff to the Greens of course!)

  • Absolutely disagree.
    If it takes some other bugger standing for Vince to be dragged around the country and subjected to examination which he will not get with just a coronation, then some other bugger must stand. I’d do it myself if I qualified.

    And starting the hagiography now about how great Vince is does not help.

  • David Becket 27th Jun '17 - 10:36pm

    In May this year Vince was on TV supporting the single market and stating we were better off in the EU. He also made the obvious comment that some countries in the EU have managed to have some control over immigration. This does not look like an anti Single Market MP.

  • Nick Plowright 27th Jun '17 - 10:37pm

    If this is a coup coronation it’s as big a mistake as May’s election call. Apart from anything else where will the opportunity have gone to use the leadership election to raise our profile, be distinctive and show people what we stand for.

    We love Vince, Vince is a class act of course, but for the party to fill the gaping hole in centralist thinking with someone to rally round he’s a backwards step in my view. Same old same old Lib Dems will be the cry. His annointing will not ignite enthusiasm or interest from the youth. The voters see the Lib dems as irrelevant at the moment, some thing distinctive and drastic is required to jolt people into engaging with our message. They are desperate for someone to rally round, a Trudeau or Macron, all waiting in the ranks of Labour and Tory to come rushing to us if the message is strong and delivered with style and panache. I agree the choice is limited, and I completely respect Ed’s reasoning for not standing, although he too would have been too safe a choice for me. Layla is the only one, with Vince Jo and Ed at her shoulder.

  • Mighty be a silly question, but do you have to be an MP to stand as leader? Or could any member run?

  • Jayne: under the constitution you have to be an MP to stand

  • I was angry about the way Tim was pushed out, I wanted a proper contest, I have never “Got” the adulation of Vince but we cant make people stand. If none of the others want to stand then they should say so soon & Vince should be announced as The New Leader.
    We have 12 MPs & the last two Polls have us at 6%, we simply cant afford disunity or infighting or even sulking – they are luxuries for the Big Parties.
    Certainly we should run a Collective Leadership & we should use all the talent we have, certainly we should have the Debate about the way forward but, above all, we need to hang together.

  • There could be another GE within a few months – minority governments and longevity don’t go together. So we need a new leader, one who can’t be ridiculed for the part he or she played in the coalition, one who is dynamic and will face down May (or her successor) and Corbyn, one who has been totally upfront in rejecting Brexit, one who is a tub-thumping speaker, one who the young and the disaffected will identify with – in short, one who is not Vince Cable.

    PS – the Tories crowned May, and look where that’s got them!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 27th Jun '17 - 10:59pm

    Jennie would be joined by others if the rules were not as they are,

    Most parties have structures for their usual scenario being precisely that , as things have ever been.

    Small parties , those without many or any mps , tend to allow any member securing a certain number and spread of nominations to stand as a leader. So the Greens , UKIP, etc., why not this party ?

    The talent would be seen that was unknown, or less so, if the nominations were obliged to be wide , the shortlist could be too.

    Of course we could limit at least to an elected member, of an assembly or council or the Lords too.

    The party could do far worse than Sir Vince ,who , despite reservations based on public perception not private opinion , of one I consider highly but think lacks the media youth and vigour we need, and I shall back him with respect and enthusiasm.

    But what about Tom Brake as our version of a Gary Cooper or James Stewart character, the reluctant leader, Mr. Deeds goes to town, Mr. Smith goes to Washingtn , ?!

  • I don’t have a problem as once he declared I’d decided I would vote for Vince regardless of who was prepared to stand in contest. The reason I reached this conclusion is that whether we like it or not The next few years are going to be dominated by the impact of Brexit on our UK economy and there is no other present LibDem MP with a better grasp of economics that VC. In that respect what he says on our behalf will be taken SERIOUSLY and right now we need to begingbthe process of being taken seriously again. So hail the conquering hero and let’s get on with the serious business of opposing Brexit.

  • James Baillie 27th Jun '17 - 11:03pm

    I’m with Jennie and Andrew on this – Vince is a loose cannon on so many issues and he hasn’t seemed to be in a hurry to reassure liberals like myself on the wide range of concerns we have about him and his leadership. All leaders should be subjected to some level of examination within the party if we are to remain a democratic political party and a strong political force. If we can’t get a contest amongst the MPs, now may very well be the time to widen the scope for who can stand to become leader of the Liberal Democrats.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Jun '17 - 11:11pm

    @Jennie and @Andrew and everyone else who mentioned Vince and freedom of movement – what do you think of this Guardian article last week where he makes more sense. Not as far as I’d like him to go but definitely back from the New Statesman nadir of earlier this year which certainly concerned me.

  • Vince may well be great, but a coronation is certainly not great.

    I agree with what Layla Moran said in her recent LDV article: “I do know one thing. I am clear there must be a contest and that the membership should in the end have the final say.”

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jun '17 - 11:42pm

    It’s to be hoped that the party will indeed declare for a society ‘not enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity’, but some leading party figures appeared to forget about opposing conformity when advising Tim to resign before he had intended to. For myself I want to be in a party which faithfully upholds liberal values of tolerance and freedom, including freedom of thought and of expression, so contributing to the fair, free and open society which is the ideal.
    I trust and expect Vince will be a true Liberal, I like what he has written lately, and I think that he is sufficiently well-known and respected in the country to have some hope of raising us again in public opinion.

  • @Nick Plowright ‘where will the opportunity have gone to use the leadership election to raise our profile, be distinctive and show people what we stand for.’

    The contest between Tim and Norman did enable members to attend interesting hustings, but I fear we delude ourselves if we think anyone outside the party noticed that we had raised our profile. And a large chunk of our membership was insufficiently engaged to return a postal ballot.

  • Chris Stobart 28th Jun '17 - 12:03am

    Jamie’s not a complete newbie – he was an MSP for twelve years and I think he could be a viable contender.

  • I would like to see a Lib Dem leader who is VERY ANGRY about Brexit, and not afraid to say so at every opportunity. Someone like AC Grayling, who can get across that Brexit is the most outrageous crime and most serious miscarriage of justice that Britain’s ever faced. Not someone who equivocates, or fudges, who speaks with forked tongue like Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone sounded Richard Dawkins out?

  • Vince is exactly what the party needs right now to restore confidence and steady the ship. A leader with the experience, credibility and gravitas to deal on equal terms with Theresa May (60) and Jeremy Corbyn (68).

    He is probably the only of our MPs that can credibly pull together a sufficient parliamentary block of Tory, Labour and SNP MPs (supported in the Lords) to force a rethink of the Brexit negotiations.

    He is listened to on the economy and crucially will not be so distant from Philip Hammond that his views and opinions will be dismissed out of hand; and can even find common ground with John McDonald on the need for investment in economic infrastructure.

    We have a good crop of talented MPs to be developed for the future but that is for the next decade. What is needed now is to stop the slide to obscurity and get back into the debate on the great issue of the day – Brexit and the economic future of the UK.

  • Elaine Woodard 28th Jun '17 - 12:19am

    I am sick of the obsession of Brexit from many in the Party. Of course it’s of real importance but it’s not everything. If it was we’d have won the election.

  • Matt (Bristol) 28th Jun '17 - 12:37am

    I seriously could vote for Vince. After a Lib Dem leader has burned out from media over-scrutiny, and a Tory leader who was appointed in a coronation-style process has proved toxic on more prolonger contact with the public, I would prefer to vote for Vince in a contested election.

    I recognise Lib Dem MPs do not exist to do my bidding, like pieces in some horrendous board game.

    But – particularly if everyone really is terrified about standing out of fear of losing their seat – why do we persist with a leadership structure designed for a large party with a stable parliamentary contingent, when we are (at least right now) a small party with a highly changeable parliamentary group?

  • Firstly, Tim was not’pushed’he chose God after a wrestle with his conscience, Ed Davey’s track record in Government was toxic, the Green deal was a terrible flop and Hinckley a shocking waste of money. As far as Vince appealing to younger voters in concerned, I witnessed a young crowd shouting for the 68 year old leader of another party at Glastonbury over the weekend – So age may not be the issue it was for Ming (which I felt was cruel and unjustified). Like others I would have liked a contest – but due to the Party’s current electoral fortunes, that is the reality we have to contend with. The public like Vince and he comes across well on the media, which is going to be a real asset for us going forward. Lets hope he can help us lay the foundations for a bigger Parliamentary Party so we can have a wider choice next time.

  • If , as many now seem to expect, Theresa May goes in the summer recess who will be the next Conservative party leader to be opposed – Philip Hammond or David Davis?

  • Diane Reddell 28th Jun '17 - 1:34am

    Personally, I think everyone should run for the leadership and give the membership a choice but I still don’t think Tim should have stood down. It needs to be someone who has the foresight to build a strategy to get votes in areas which are not traditional lib dem seats and make the party visible by holding community events and working with 3rd parties.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Jun '17 - 1:50am

    Good article referenced by Caron in the comments. Vince supports the single market but isn’t against enforcing existing restrictions on free movement, such as Germany does. This to me is eminently sensible: good for votes and seems good policy too.

    I want a high degree of free movement but it doesn’t have to be absolute. We are the Liberal Democrats, not the Libertarian Democrats. But I respect those with different views.

  • Mark Goodrich 28th Jun '17 - 1:59am

    Logically, Layla Moran should stand after her article the other week. I don’t think that would be a bad thing. She would be very unlikely to win but I would much rather a real contest than Vince traipsing around campaigning against RON. It would also get Layla better known which can only be a good thing….

  • Mark Goodrich 28th Jun '17 - 2:03am

    I see from Duncan Brack’s comment on the previous thread that we would be spared the prospect of Vince running against RON (Re-Open Nominations) which can only be a good thing.

  • Lauren Smith 28th Jun '17 - 6:21am

    If Vince Cable is leader the Lib Dems lose my support. He is not pro EU. I want the Lib Dems to clearly state they are against Brexit and will block brexit at every opportunity. No fudge and waffle about stopping hard brexit or ending FoM. Just be clear and unambiguous no Brexit. It is a vote winner being Labour lite is not

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 28th Jun '17 - 6:25am

    I very much hope that Stephen Lloyd or Tom Brake – or preferably both of them – will decide to stand. (we obviously cannot expect one of the MPs who have just been elected for the first time to do so). I expect Vince Cable would make a perfectly good leader, but it is essential that we have a contest. The hustings around the country would give the opportunity for discussion about more than just who would be leader. It would be the opportunity to discuss the mistakes the party may have made recently, and our vision for the future.

  • Graham Evans 28th Jun '17 - 7:40am

    Catherine Jane Crosland: You are deluding yourself if you think that hustings will “be an opportunity for to discuss the mistakes the party may have made recently”. What it would be is a chance for political geeks to say in person precisely the same things they currently write on blogs like this. The format of a husting is totally wrong for serious and considered debate. It might test candidates on how good they are at thinking on their feet, but the days of open public meetings at which Harold Wilson was such a great performer are long gone. Even Corbyn meetings were nothing more than gatherings of the faithful, though done with much more aplomb than May’s.

  • Colin Paine 28th Jun '17 - 7:44am

    The last two uncontested leadership elections gave us Theresa May and Arlene Foster. Doesn’t put us in great company. Somebody else stand please!

  • Dissapointed we are giving Vince the crown as frankly he will suffer the same fate as Ming Campbell in being seen as too old. If he must be leader then I’d urge him to focus on the economy. This is his clear strength and is now a Tory weakness. On a second referendum he should pledge a wait and see policy, but retain the option of Brexit is a disaster. We should commit to a soft Brexit in the meantime.

  • John Barrett 28th Jun '17 - 8:55am

    With no sign of any other MP in the race, it would make sense for the Parliamentary Party to meet up quickly and confirm if there is going to be any challenge Vince.

    If not, they should then ask him to take over as acting leader until whatever process we have to go through is carried out.

    At least this would allow someone to participate as leader in the national debate that is currently unfolding; on Brexit, the DUP bribe and deal, the Queens Speech debate, the dangers of fires in tower blocks, the economy and much more, without any Liberal Democrat input or comment.

    I appreciate there are risks with a “coronation” but if the Parliamentary Party confirms there is only one candidate, we are going to have one sooner or later and if it happens during the 12 week summer recess, with little or no media interest, we might be the only ones that notice.

    Having a sham process with a token candidate standing in order to give members a chance to quiz Vince and ask all the same questions again is the worst of all worlds. If anyone does not know what he is like and what he stands for, a summer long leadership process is not going to enlighten those still in the dark.

    Despite things going wrong for the Conservatives during and after the election. when they were reduced to one leadership candidate, things went well for them for a while – how times have changed since then.

  • Stephen Shephard 28th Jun '17 - 9:10am

    I do wish we were having a contest but all the MPs who’ve ruled themselves out have given good reasons, none more so than Ed. It could easily have been worse though, if Vince had not been re-elected, if we had lost seats as many of the polls predicted, then we may have struggled to find anyone in the parliamentary party willing to stand. I agree with everyone who’s said we need to open up the leadership beyond MPs. That is related to a bigger debate on whether or not we contest elections as a possible alternative government (and therefore whether our leader is an alternative PM) – but let the members debate that when they vote for a leader.

    As it does look likely that Vince will be our leader, I’m disappointed by the comments that he isn’t pro-EU enough. Norman Lamb ruled himself out for that reason, but we can’t afford such divisions now. We need to keep our election promise to vote for a referendum on the Brexit deal (even if for no other reason than “we need to keep our election promise”) but if the next election is after we leave, then we’re going to need to review that policy and perhaps become the party of Rejoin.

    It isn’t all about Brexit though and on that issue of regaining trust and keeping promises, Vince needs to come up with an answer to tuition fees urgently, particularly as he was the minister in charge at the time. Difficult as conference makes policy not the leader, but I’d support raising the repayment threshold. If it had been high enough from the start then more students could have been better off under the new system, which would have kept the spirit of the promise if not the letter of it. Raising the threshold now would go some way to being an apology and would be targeted towards the lower earning graduates.

  • Recent leaders who assumed office without an election. Douglas-Home, Brown, May.

    Let’s be honest. That’s not an auspicious list.

  • “Did you not No fudge and waffle about stopping hard brexit or ending FoM. Just be clear and unambiguous no Brexit. It is a vote winner being Labour lite is not”

    Really ?

    Did you not notice the election results 2 weeks ago ?

  • Gareth Hartwell 28th Jun '17 - 9:27am

    Vince has huge respect from large parts of the Labour and Conservative party, in business and in the media – he is the one person who will not be ‘ridiculed’ about his part in coalition.

    I’m not concerned about Vince becoming leader and having a fairly easy ride to get there. And I do trust him a great deal – ever since the 1997 election when we got to know each other standing in neighbouring constituencies (albeit mine was unwinnable).

    I am more concerned that if there is not a contest we will lose the opportunity of a large amount of publicity for the party during the campaign which is desperately hard to come by for the 4th biggest party in Parliament.

  • As a liberal party, we should accept the decisions of its members, whether or not they happen to be MPs. The worst thing possible would be to co-erce somebody into standing as Leader who did not feel that they could put their whole energy into the role, just so that the members have the opportunity to participate in an election, If Vince is the only candidate, then we should look positively, and decribe this as an acclamation (rather than a coronation).

  • Caron mentions Cable’s Guardian article and his New Statesman contribution in the same few lines as if that is a positive…
    What it shows is that, yet again, Vince says one thing and then another..After the ‘coronation’ these articles will be used against him…

    Vince’s time has passed….

  • A Nonny Mouse 28th Jun '17 - 10:05am

    Because I care about accountability, and wished to see the democratic defeat of those in the party who seem to be hoping to use the leader’s election to revisit many of the advances in policy and narrative under Tim, and since there is clearly not an early party consensus on who should be leader, I was hoping for a field of 3 or 4, with the AV system working as its designed to, to build that consensus through the ballot.

    I guess we just have to wait out the nominations deadline …. arrgghh.

    If no-one changes their mind, I guess I would hope that Stephen Lloyd stood, and then a new MP puts their hat in the ring after, as any newbie going one-on-one with Vince is going to come into a lot of criticism (unfairly) but at the same time going to pick up a lot of ‘you’re not the other one’ votes (also unfairly).

    But Stephen Llloyd’s reputation is built on Eastbourne, and his role as a champion for that constituency. Not sure he wants national leadership.

  • Sheesh. Liberals don’t twist arms. If all 10 other eligible candidates explicitly state they don’t want to stand (which I know not all have) then close the nominations immediately, declare Vince leader, and get to work. You can’t force individuals into doing something they don’t want to simply to make a wider point.

    We need a leader who’ll get noticed, which Vince will. Anything else is pretty irrelevant right now – including whether that leader’s policies are exactly what we’d like them to be in every nuance.

    Personally, my ideal scenario would have been if one of the new MPs had turned out to have the one-in-ten-thousand appeal of a Macron or an Obama. Failing that, Norman. Then Jo. I’ll take Vince, though. We can’t afford anonymity.

  • “Vince has huge respect from large parts of the Labour and Conservative party, in business and in the media – he is the one person who will not be ‘ridiculed’ about his part in coalition.”

    I disagree. The media will play, continuously, the recording of Vince bragging about how he could exercise ” the nuclear option” and how he had ” declared war on Rupert Murdoch”.

  • David Becket 28th Jun '17 - 11:42am

    If we are not going to have an election there must be a connection between the leadership and members. Members meetings in each Region should be arranged with the Leader and Deputy Leader to give members a chance to exchange views with the leadership team. There should be a similar on line debate.
    Finally the Conference Committee needs to move away from its structured format. The Conference should include an extended debate with the Leader and Deputy Leader, an extended session discussing the future of the party and a session led by Liberal Youth on the needs of younger people and how we can meet them.

  • Andrew Hickey: hear hear.

    “the Conference Committee needs to move away from its structured format. The Conference should include an extended debate with the Leader and Deputy Leader, an extended session discussing the future of the party and a session led by Liberal Youth on the needs of younger people and how we can meet them.”

    As a member of conference committee, I would politely suggest that you come and sit in on a conference committee meeting, and see the complexity and level of commitment it already deals with, and think upon exactly what you are asking it to do here.

    And then if you still want a unicorn that farts rainbows immediately and with no cost attached you can suggest a way of obtaining one?

  • “Cable’s Guardian article and his New Statesman contribution … shows that…. Vince says one thing and then another.”

    No it doesn’t.

    Vince wrote his New Statesman article at a time when Theresa May had an ample majority to push through her preferred form of Brexit. He noted that staying in the single market would be impossible if the Government was determined to prioritise immigration control. He pointed out that we could still stay in the customs union. That was fair comment. Saying you don’t want Brexit doesn’t preclude you from adding that some kinds of Brexit would be worse than others.

    Vince wrote his Guardian article after the 2017 GE had weakened the Tories and made it much more plausible that Brexit could be radically softened or avoided altogether. So he changed his focus to point out that even if we stay in the single market or in the EU itself, there are things we can still do to manage migration.

    Yes, Vince believes in listening to Leave voters, not dismissing them all as racist bigots in the way Gordon Brown dismissed Mrs Duffy all those years ago, and accepting that unrestricted free movement does have its downsides. So should we all.

    We would like to see that Yougov poll, which asks “did we get it right about Brexit”, to change from its current 50/50 to a 60% plus “No!”. We would like that, because it would pressurise parliament to chuck Brexit out before it happens. Now, what is the most likely sales pitch we can use to achieve that? Is it “Capitulate, you stupid leavers, you are dupes, boneheads and racists”? Or is it “Let’s rethink, friends, you guys have really got a point about imported cheap labour driving down wages, let’s see if we can’t solve that from inside the EU, given that it’s obviously going to cost us an arm and a leg if we go ahead with Brexit”?

  • Hywel: They were all in government at the time. Not really a comparable situation. A mid-term change of PM does not generally augur well for the party in power.

  • @ Caron
    “we need to have the same sort of collaborative approach with each other as we believe in with the rest of the world.”

    Really excellent post Caron. I particularly like the line above.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Jun '17 - 12:11pm

    OK people if we have only one candidate then instead of worrying about it let’s get on with it. I’ve found that when options close down and there’s only one choice there’s a reason for that which is just not obvious at the time.
    I don’t think it’s a coup or the result of somebody’s master plan, it’s just what is. As several people have said it gives us the chance to use the summer to discuss our beliefs and values together with Vince and Jo too, hopefully, and the possibility that autumn conference can decide what we should be aiming for in our policy development.
    I’m not someone who thinks Vince is the answer to all our prayers. Indeed because I want a leader who believes in bottom up politics I think Vince is probably too autocratic, though he is a ‘ big beast’ and maybe that is what we need now if he is willing to follow the party and the movement started with Our Liberal Britain.
    We have the time to throw off the shackles of timidity and develop truly Liberal policies, not ones that accept the status quo and put a bit of Liberal thought in. We have ,as someone has said, all these marvellous speeches and letters about resigning or not standing to inspire us and our policy groups. Let’s be as innovative as Keynes and Beveridge were in their time and give everyone hope for a better life.

  • Tom Brake.
    LibDems put Brake on Brexit.

    Seriously though, why not a joint leadership. One woman, one man. Each could hold different briefs, each would have some ‘family respite’, each would appeal to a different constituency. Think outside the 200 year old box!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jun '17 - 12:51pm

    The most absurd element here is the view that Sir Vince is no good because he is a moderate on immigration and freedom of movement.

    No leader before Tim and in no era pre referendum on Brexit, was this issue or this party extreme, on this subject.

    I read nonsense that equates the Labour position to , pandering, on Brexit, or , caving in on immigration.

    The Labour party in 2015 had, lower immigration on mugs ! Under Starmer they are mainstream on this whether some here are obsessed or not .

    Sir Vince has had two immigrant wives.

    His beloved, late , first wife , actually was from India. His second, who has revitalised him, from New Zealand.

    How awful he did not pick wives from other EU countries to prove his “liberal ” credentials.

    At least those who think he is pandering to racism and all the other absurd baselessness levelled towards his views, can feel glad he never married , a British wife, after all, then , we of course would really be suspicious of him , eh , ?!

  • paul barker 28th Jun '17 - 2:01pm

    There were only ever 11 Candidates for the Job of Leader, it looks increasingly like 10 of those dont want the Job, now. So lets get on with cancelling the Election process & declaring Vince as Leader. I would like to see Vince running a Collective Leadership with Jo & Sal. We need to get on with this, we dont know how much time we have. I dont think a Snap Election is likely soon but what do I know ?
    Can I ask those who mutter about scissors & membership cards to stop, for a Party in out condition its self-indulgence we cant afford.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jun '17 - 2:25pm

    Joebourke: “If , as many now seem to expect, Theresa May goes in the summer recess who will be the next Conservative party leader to be opposed – Philip Hammond or David Davis?”
    The Tories’ troubles need to be analysed carefully, which they are having difficulty doing.
    Journalists who ask “How long has Theresa May got as PM?” are measuring time in days, hours and minutes as they are used to doing in their own work. Politicians’ time is often measured in events. So a vote in the Commons could unseat her at any time, and maybe the government as well. A challenge from a modern equivalent of Michael Heseltine could happen at any time, although there seems to be a shortage of candidates in a party which has more MPs than we do. Heseltine has recently commented on his experience as Deputy Prime Minister to John Major and the by-elections that happened. An overall majority of 21 seats in the Commons fell to zero within 5 years, lost to several different parties and caused by a bizarre mix of financial scandal, sexual scandal and political disagreement.
    Off the record comments by Tory MPs are universally negative about Theresa May’s ability at electioneering, which she should not be allowed to do again. That is different from complaining about her actions in reshuffles, legislation or negotiations with the EU27. Boris Johnson might be better at electioneering, but would he be any good in government? Philip Hammond is doing his job in government, but would he be any good at leading a general election campaign? David Davis has been given an impossible job, as more and more people are realising, but is still trying to do it. Make him PM as well? Surely not. Chris Patten to resign his peerage and stand for the Commons? but he has a heart condition.

  • “Small parties , those without many or any mps , tend to allow any member securing a certain number and spread of nominations to stand as a leader. So the Greens , UKIP, etc., why not this party ?”

    Because until recently we weren’t a ‘small party’.

    To the people suggesting a joint leadership – How’s that supposed to work when we currently can’t find a second person…. Personally, I find the concept be little more than a gimmick anyway. Absolutely nobody knows who the Green party’s other leader is.

    To whoever suggested Stephen Lloyd or Tom Brake should stand. Whilst both are fantastic local MPs, I just don’t see them as effective leaders.

    Excluding Layla Moran who has already said she doesn’t want to do it – if we want a contest, then 1 of our other 3 new MPs is the only option – a shame really.

  • J George SMID 28th Jun '17 - 3:07pm

    What you need from a leader are three things:
    1) Gravitas
    2) Charisma
    3) Message which would resonate with voters.

    (Not necessarily in that order. You can do your own evaluation of all possible candidates.)

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jun ’17 – 12:51pm…………..Sir Vince has had two immigrant wives……

    And that proves?

    BTW…So has Nigel Farage…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jun '17 - 3:46pm


    It is not proof we need it is Liberal values. It is not a very good example of such to denigrate a man fr views based on experience , thinking, wisdom.

    Some can disagree but his opinions on immigration are in the progressive mainstream as are the policies of this party.

    A few think to follow a completely one dimensional economic liberalism , libertarianism,is good, most social or economic Liberals , social democrats and progressives, concerned for individuals and communities traditionally don’t.

    They tend to view such as a free for all.

    Some seem to want that.

    It gets very odd when they question a man who has a track record of values completely within the traditional broad territory of our party and all it stands for , as if he is prejudiced.

    As for Farage. That you mention him in the same context shows how daft is the charge of pandering to racism.

    Sir Vince had an Indian wife, has two mixed race sons.

    I do not like the criticisms of a man who is no more pandering to racism, than any in this party , however, right on, feel good , off the wall their take on this is.

  • A Social Liberal 28th Jun '17 - 4:24pm

    Well, it’s looking like I’m not going to be able to spoil my ballot paper.

    I wouldn’t have voted for any of those who might have stood, nor for Vince. The Afternoon of the Long Knives had me deciding that I was going to add an extra box with Farrons name next to it and put my tick in there.

    Coups aren’t liberal even if Lib Dems like playing with them. We are getting a reputation almost as bad as the Tories

  • What is this nonsense I read in the comments about Tim being extreme on immigration? Every party was for Freedom of Movement before the referendum. Now it has happened, we are the only UK-wide party to have stuck to our principles and kept our position after it.

    The party is in favour of immigration. Party policy -set by members at Federal Conference – is in favour of Freedom of Movement. The party constitution even commits in its preamble to supporting European integration. It behoves us to have a leader who captures the settled will of the party.

    I strongly urge Vince (and those close to him reading this) to make a strong statement about how he is pro-EU, how he agrees with policy made at Federal Conference, and how he embraces Freedom of Movement as a force for good.

    If he does not then it would appear the party will have a leader foisted on it by the parliamentary party who is in direct contradiction with our constitution and with settled policy. If this is indeed the case then we should consider whether the leader need be drawn from the parliamentary party, or whether embracing the wider pool of liberal talent might be advantageous.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jun ’17 – 3:46pm..

    Lorenzo, I don’t care a hoot if Vince married a ‘Martian’ and neither should you!

  • Richard Underhill 28th Jun '17 - 6:32pm

    At PMQ today Theresa May was asked whether the DUP is getting SHORT money. She did not answer. She did describe DUP MPs as “friends”, which is parliamentary language for MPs in the same party. Nigel Dodds MP was sitting on the opposition benches and spoke up passionately for people who have suffered mental health problems as a consequence of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, therefore more money for the health service in Northern Ireland, but does that issue absorb the entire billion pounds? Our friends in the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland have commented.

  • David Allen 28th Jun '17 - 8:39pm

    Andrew Hickey: “Vince… didn’t talk about “if the Government was determined to prioritise immigration control”, he talked about (his own views)”.

    Vince wrote, last January, when we had a government which was clearly determined on a hard Brexit and which had all the power it needed to be able to achieve it. Yes, he talked about his own response to that situation, but, he understands better than most politicians that politics is the art of the possible. Advocating a compromise solution which those in power might actually be willing to listen to is the art of the possible. Sounding off about the strength and rigidity of your fundamental principles may feel much better, but it may not get you anywhere.

    “I do not want a leader who has (talked favourably about soft Brexit).”

    Well, I want a leader who will continue to make it clear that hard Brexit would be a massive national disaster, and that soft Brexit (e.g. Norway) would be a pretty poor choice. So I want a leader who takes a very much stronger line than, say, a Philip Hammond or a Keir Starmer. But I also want a leader who can be flexible if (s)he has to be. Maybe we can reverse Brexit, but maybe we can’t. If we can’t, then I’d rather be floating in a cramped and uncomfortable Norway lifeboat, than foundering gloriously in an anti-Brexit Titanic.

  • I joined the Lib Dems to oppose Brexit, having almost no interest in politics before that. From what I know, I imagine the Cable-Swinson team could be a good partnership. And Vince’s age would probably be a point in his favour, since older people can have their own special charisma.

    My reservation – from the comments of Caron Lindsay, Andrew Hickey, Lauren Smith and others – is his lack of pro-European passion and previously expressed fatalistic view that “we should just get on with Brexit”. I would prefer an “over my dead body” approach! Therefore if real anti-Brexit firebrand were to step forward, I might well vote for them.

    Whoever takes the lead, the Lib Dems have a lot going for them. Not least this great website, giving us a sense of involvement. The party should patent it.

  • George Potter 28th Jun '17 - 10:08pm

    No one is accusing Vince Cable of being racist.

    However, it’s very telling how quick some anti-immigration people in this thread have been to pre-emptively refute the non-existent accusations of racism. It’s almost like they have a guilty conscience or something…

  • I’ve just searched this entire thread for the word “racism”. The only people who have mentioned it are people who are defending Vince on opposing freedom of movement – a principle that, I remind you, is in the preamble to the constitution of our party (“we are committed … to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.”)

    No-one has said Vince is a racist, or is pandering to racism. They’ve said that he has opposed freedom of movement and they’re not happy about that.

    So how about addressing what people say?

  • @Jayne, hate to butt in to a private argument, but I think that Lorenzo brought up Vince’s wives – and he did so to support Vince.

  • Robert (Somerset) 28th Jun '17 - 11:21pm

    There’s a fair amount of guff on here bemoaning the fact that only one of our 12 MPs wants to put themselves forward as leader. Whilst this might not be ideal could the moaners please explain how they propose to force a second candidate to stand?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jun '17 - 11:30pm

    The people above who pick a fight thinking those of us who are defending Sir Vince are doing that, are wrong, completely !

    That is Richard , George, William.

    This very sensible and reasonable article from Caron is defending a man who just a couple or more days ago was the subject of a long , very long indeed, thread .

    In that , it contained scathing criticism of Sir Vince on the subject of freedom of movement and immigration.

    In it one or more of the posts was vitriolic, in particular claiming he was pandering to racism. I do not make things up and have myself criticised Sir Vince on the grounds he needs to warm up and smile a bit more , hardly the same as questioning his very politics and values !

    Those above have turned a very Liberal defence of another into a very petty diatribe against other posters. Childish, pointless, the sort of political nonsense this party does at it’s peril , when reducing the debate to such , when a member is defending the excellent record personally and politically, and both are important, of the leader in waiting.

    I never said freedom of movement was wrong, merely it is obviously not the same as the complete right to settle, and was not until the 1990s. George Potter ,as I say inumerable threads, I am the son and husband of immigrants. Kindly desist from your absurd characitures !

    I never said Tim was or is extreme but the issue has become extreme in it’s divisiveness , and this party is mirroring UKIP in reverse if it is to shut the door to debate.

    Labour are more reasonable on this , can you believe?

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Jun '17 - 1:34am

    Agreed, Clive, Vince is the pragmatic solution to our requirement for a new leader, so long as he is now agreeing with party policy, as seems to be the case. For the moment and until July 19, Tim is still our leader, and will I hope lead in moving the amendment to the Queen’s Speech today about staying in the single market and customs union. It will be interesting to observe how our twelve MPs organise their parliamentary work after Tim formally lays down the baton. In any such group, presuming they meet together regularly, natural leaders emerge, and alliances form. I hope the most collegiate will also drive forward inter-party co-operation on progressive policies.

  • It seem to be some very different views here.
    Are these differences real?
    What’s the common ground here that most can agree on?

  • Apologies, should say:
    There seem to be some very different views here.

    My point is, there seem to be some very passionate opinions been voiced, that are quite polarising?
    However, just reading through some of the exchanges above, are assumptions been made that may actually not be true?
    There seems to be a lack of trust due to perceived inconsistencies?

    I guess the first step in getting to a position where people aren’t lobbing insults at each other, is to agree where the common ground is and work from there.
    That’s what I was getting at really.

  • Spotted on Twitter re VC. It shows the hazard of putting VC in charge – needing to explain away the past before being allowed to talk about the future.

    “Oh dear. The Tory Austerity enabler speaks. We only had brexit because you empowered them.”

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 29th Jun '17 - 8:38am

    Repeated from connected thread:

    Dear Sisters, Brothers, Friends and Supporters,

    In order to rebuild the Party of ‘Equality, Fairness and Justice’ we need an election and not a coronation.

    The current and potential future membership need to hear what a future leader of the Party is genuinely thinking and the direction that the they would take the Party!

    As Chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) I am naturally interested in how a future leader will build upon the work that people such as Baroness Brinton has done and further remove the barriers to the recruitment, retention and progression of underrepresented groups?

    I am sadly only too aware that during the recent General Election amazing candidates that represented the wealth of diversity that exists in society stood in utterly hopeless seats, or were simply not provided with the support to achieve success. Other amazing candidates were blatantly thwarted by a cabal who wish to retain the status quo by making sure that only their ‘mates’ are constantly selected.

    We have a serious problem with regard to representation within our Party and things are not getting any better as far as I am aware.

    Along with many others I wish our principles of ‘equality, fairness and justice’ to become our raison d’être and not merely laudable rhetoric for only then will we become a Party of relevance. Merely espousing ‘tolerance’ as if this is some how a positive is not going to set an visionary agenda that will inspire future generation to join. I for one do not wish to be merely tolerated.

    Please fellow Liberal Democrats let us not settle for mediocrity, but let us set goals that will inspire.

    How about for starters 50/50 gender balance at the next Local and General Elections and genuine support for other underrepresented groups to reach success through positive action initiatives?

    Yours sincerely and fraternally,


    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

  • Catherine Royce 29th Jun '17 - 11:10am

    I’d like to see Tim stand again, alternatively we could think outside the box and go for a Leader who is not currently an MP , ie an ex-MP or MEP or even a Peer, not one of the grace and favour ones, although there may be good candidates amongst them, but someone who has been an elected representative of the people before.

  • Andrew Hickey, you demand I apologise to you for misrepresentation. I think you should apologise to Vince.

    That New Statesman article is seriously out of date, because it referred to a world in which our best hope was to have a marginal influence on the behaviour of an all-powerful Tory Brexiteer government. You summarise it with ” What (Vince) advocated was leaving the Single Market in order to cut immigration.” Well, let’s actually read the article. It opens:

    “All my instincts are to defend the freedom to work, study and retire anywhere within the EU. I was (and am) a Remainer.”

    Doesn’t really sound like Farage, does he? Vince continues:

    “But I have serious doubts that EU free movement is tenable or even desirable.”

    “Tenable” obviously refers to the political reality at the time, the dominance of hard Brexiteers in government. “Desirable” is of course more contentious, but Vince here points out that free movement within the EU does not apply to Britain’s ethnic minorities, who “face complex and often harsh visa restrictions. … (hence) the large Brexit vote among British Asians, many of whom resented the contrast between the restrictions they face and the welcome mat laid out for Poles and Romanians.” Fair point, yes?

    Finally Vince sums up:

    “The argument for free movement has become tactical: it is part of a package that also contains the wider economic benefits of the single market. Those benefits are real, which is why the government must prioritise single market access and shared regulation. Yet that may not be possible to reconcile with restrictions on movement. The second-best option is customs union status, essential for supply chain industries.”

    All that makes sense in the (outdated) context of trying to influence an all-powerful hard-Brexit government. More recently Vince wrote something far less pessimistic, given the changed balance of Parliament, pointing out that we could make better use of existing provisions to manage migration while remaining inside the EU.

    Now you don’t have to agree that this would be a good option. You may think the best way to avoid Brexit is to force Brexiteers to confess they were wrong. But you do have to address what the guy actually said, not just knock down a straw-man misrepresentation.

  • Joseph Bourke 29th Jun '17 - 1:15pm

    Vince Cable won back his constituency with a handsome majority by taking a pragmatic approach to the issue of Brexit, The Libdem policy on Europe is clearly published for all to see “We acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the government a mandate to start negotiations to leave – but we believe the final decision should be made by the British people, not by politicians.”

    Since the Libdem policy was developed we have had a general election in which our former leader and Chief spokesman on Brexit, Nick Clegg, lost his seat, Tim Farron held on with a slim majority and Richmond Park (one of the highest remain voting areas in the country) was lost, albeit by a small number of votes.

    There is only one more chance on Europe and that is Parliamentary approval of the deal on our continuing relationship to be negotiated. Vince Cable is probably the only Libdem with the capacity to influence other parliamentarians – Conservatives, Labour, and SNP. To develop a cross-party consensus will require pragmatism, flexibility and political skill in resolving the contentious issue of freedom of movement. Shouting from the sidelines about party policy will have no impact on the outcome.

    To change the direction of the country you have to have MPs elected. To get elected you need have a basic understanding that the voter is always right. That is why we accept the result of the referendum and are focused on the issue of our future relationship with Europe.

    Parliament may accept the deal negotiated by the Conservative government, if it satisfies public concern over mass migration. If it does not then the UK may either leave without a deal or, perhaps more likely, continue negotiating during an extended transitional phase.

    To remain in the EU would almost certainly require a referendum to reverse last years decision. That is unlikely to be achieved until Parliament has rejected the proposed new deal and the only alternative is stay or go without a deal. When that point is reached, Libdems will need a leader in place, who can rally cross-party consensus for a referendum.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 29th Jun '17 - 1:48pm

    Richard , you are correct , it was me , not expats, who brought up Sir Vince having two immigrant wives, yes, very much to support him. Where you are wrong , and Jayne very right, is in thinking there is a private argument , on this or another topic. It is not an argument of my making, actually, foolishly, I raised things in response to a tone on our apparently, leader in waiting, about him, that I found bothered me a lot, people making absurd accusations , not able to see wood or even trees !

    Joseph Bourke regularly has the needed tone and correctly shows the approach of our new ,soon to be , leader is a mainstream, decent one , and a winning one . Sorry, as much as my affection for Tim grew and continues, his majority was shattered , that of Vince massively better in it’s direction! Ditto, Norman. It is ironic, that my choice of leader, withdrew not for any of the reasons of younger candidates, children, families younger , but as we could see from his rather caustic article, what must have been awful for him, that he was considered not to be in the mainstream of party opinion, criticised for a policy that united our party, his triggering in a Commons vote, the relevant article, in keeping with the official line, to not scupper the process.

    He thus could lead and do so terrifically in his let us call it ,rather more youthful middle age , than Sir Vince.

    I move on. I rate , admire and like our leader in waiting, even as I am aware of aspects of vigour , telegenic oomph, needed and lacking, his vales and views are nearer mine , than others.

    I brought up his wives , to support him, amounts of goodwill , by the way necessary, personal understanding especially, his marital history and present, indicates , and he has shown it , a wider view.

    That means, favour the EU immigration automatically, those with , as yet no connection here, bar geography, and you inevitably discriminate against those from other countries or continents.

    The government should not have had a spousal income threshold.

    Labour, grudgingly accepting limits on freedom of movement now, committed to abolishing that threshold limit.

    Good for them.

  • @ Andrew Hickey

    “He (Vince) is not “a moderate” on this issue. He called, in January, for an end to freedom of movement and leaving the single market. Before June last year, that was a policy so extreme that only UKIP advocated it.”

    Calling for the end of the freedom of movement before June 2016 was not an extreme policy that only the UKIP advocated it. In fact I don’t recall any political party in the UK every having as its policy the freedom of movement for everyone in the world to come to the UK to live and work. Before 1979 when the UK had full employment we encouraged immigrants to come here from the Commonwealth and many of them worked in the transport industry.

    The Liberal Democrats in the coalition government supported restricting immigration to this country and I remember being send a booklet from the party claiming the increases in restrictions were an achievement of the party in the coalition.

    @ William

    “Party policy -set by members at Federal Conference – is in favour of Freedom of Movement.”

    Please can you point out a Federal Conference motion or Liberal Democrat manifesto before 2015 which has us supporting everyone in the world having the unrestricted freedom to live and work in the UK?

  • @ Richard Gadsden

    The freedom of movement as defined by the UN is:
    “(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
    “(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

    It should be remembered that when originally suggested as part of the preamble it was in a section which started with a sentence that included “an acceptance of world citizenship” and included talk of the “vast imbalances within the world” and “fight(ing) to dispel … poverty”. What was agreed was “we are committed to fight poverty … promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services”.

    Therefore our support for the freedom of movement is linked to dealing with inequalities of poverty. This makes sense once the economic pull factors are removed by the relief of poverty and there is more economic equality across the world then everyone in the world should be able to live in any country they wish to live in.

  • Neil Sandison 1st Jul '17 - 11:55am

    What Vince needs to demonstrate to the membership is that he knows how to lead a collective leadership that represents the diverse party the Liberal Democrats are. A coalition between ,Vince ,Sal and Jo that remains open ,tolerant and united gives a strong message to the electors .We must also challenge the status quo that we have drifted back to a two party system the media seem to want to promote i have heard little from the leadership recently on promoting PR , It would work very well in a reformed local government making every vote count. Lastly we need to promote a new liberal enlightenment that recognises our society is changing beyond all recognition and hanging onto the late 20th century model will not equip Great Britain for the challenges ahead.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Jul '17 - 7:26pm

    See today’s Observer.

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