This is Vince Cable’s Election

Yesterday we were privileged to welcome Vince Cable to Liverpool. It will be one of his last visits as Leader as he intends to step down to allow a contest for a new Leader to take place in June.

I want to put on record just how much I think the Lib Dems owe to this man as we face what is probably the most amazing electoral turnaround (in a positive sense) in our history.

In 2015 we came close to becoming irrelevant. Under Tim Farron we weathered that storm and that was no mean feat. We got our membership base up and steadied the ship. Instead of facing the loss of even more councillors and activist we dug in and strengthened our position in local elections. We did marginally but surprisingly well in the General Election of 2017 increasing our number of MPs from 9 to 12 and crucially getting back into Parliament three heavyweights: Vince himself and the probable contenders for his job next month, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson. Tim did us well despite a General Election stumble over one aspect of his beliefs. We should continue to thank him for that.

Then Vince stepped in. He knew he was a caretaker and we knew that he knew! We were content with that because the Lib Dems needed settling down before a leadership election not least because the two probable contenders needed time to re-establish themselves.

Vince brought five things to us:

Gravitas. Frankly when Vince speaks people listen. He is experienced, knowledgeable and hugely articulate. As a Secretary of State for five years he could talk about his experiences in that position.

Calmness. The Party and the public were reassured by the way he behaved especially in comparison with the frenzied behaviour and actions of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

Principles. Vince said immediately after his election that many people, including many Lib Dems, thought he was pursuing a dream that had little chance of being delivered. He believed that internationalism, as expressed through the prism of the EU in this case, was a ‘sacred’ part of being a liberal and should not be ignored. People liked that. Even those that disagreed with the principle welcomed that fact that he (and therefore we) had one!

Purpose. The continuing turmoil of the EU negotiations gave as an opportunity to hone in on that principle clearly and without equivocation and to pull behind us the people of other Parties and of none who were beginning to despair of their own Party.

Luck. There was the calm strong man of British politics and who was he confronting? Dippy Theresa and Dopey Jeremy. There could not have been a greater contrast between leadership styles and that was a gift to us from the Tory and Labour parties.

I told Vince a little of this yesterday. We stormed forth in the locals and will, without a doubt, have replicated that experience when the Euro votes are counted on Sunday. We should all say, “Thanks, Vince – your achievements have been remarkable. You have caused the biggest upset in British politics since the founding of the SDP. We will always be in your debt for this tremendous work.”

* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE is the Leader of the Liverpool Liberal Democrats.

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Mick Taylor 22nd May '19 - 1:57pm

    Hear Hear.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd May '19 - 2:53pm

    We should add to the above Vince Cable’s consistent and principled opposition to the expansion of Heathrow airport in agreement with Green MP Caroline Lucas.
    This enabled the electors of Richmond to rid themselves of the services of a Tory MP whose campaign to be Mayor of Greater London demonstrated a willingness to leave them and an unhealthy and disgraceful attitude to large numbers of the population of the UK. It is a pity he returned in 2017.
    Vince Cable will continue to be an MP and will hopefully continue to provide the benefit of his experience/s as an economist at a very senior level and of responsibility in Cabinet.
    Internationally it is not necessary for the Prime Minister to be a member of the largest party, but rather to have the confidence of the elected house. The Head of State should be advised accordingly in good time before others attempt to advise her about precedents from different times in the past.

  • Being a Westminster Lib Dem Leader brings that person hard up against the fixation of the UK media on numbers in the House of Commons – which has held sway with a vengeance since 2015. Vince’s near invisibility at times was not self-inflicted. However, in spite of all that, the attributes that Richard identifies have clearly contributed to something new that many will have picked up in The May local election campaign. There are a swathe of voters out there who have got past their coalition concerns and past treating leave/remain as the sole factor in deciding who they are for or against. In this they are ahead of many of the Westminster politicians. If this can happen in wards like mine which voted 66% remain this is no mean achievement. Vince has arrived in a good place and we have to be very sure footed to make sure we don’t slip backwards.

  • Mark Petterson 22nd May '19 - 3:15pm

    Strong and Cable ….. in complete contrast to the alternatives. A good and accurate article. We Lib Dems, and the Country, owe a huge amount to Vince for all of his time in politics, but especially the last two years.

  • Barry Lofty 22nd May '19 - 3:30pm

    It has been a pleasure to listen to Vince Cable’s experienced and knowledgeable views on Brexit, the economy and many other subjects since he took over as Lib Dem leader lets hope the EU elections give him and us the results we deserve. He has helped to put the Liberal Democrats back in the news in a good way, no mean feat given the bias in the news media!

  • William Fowler 22nd May '19 - 4:10pm

    A LibDem/Greens/Change coalition with Caroline Lucas as leader and Sir Vince as chancellor would be a winning combination with voters, I’d wager…

  • Yeovil Yokel 22nd May '19 - 4:21pm

    I’ve just managed to watch a few clips from Vince’s head-to-head debate with Nigel Farage hosted by the Daily Telegraph this morning. I was half-expecting Farage to outmanoeuvre Vince with his salesman-style gift-of-the-gab but I needn’t have worried: Vince was his usual measured, calm, knowledgeable and highly rational self and actually answered the questions put to him. On the other hand Farage’s performance was all over the place, like a turkey on steroids.
    Vince was also highly witty: when asked what he expected his new MEPs to do in the European Parliament he answered: “I’d expect them to turn up” – before elaborating upon the jobs they were expected to do and how they were expected to conduct themselves (clearly a sideswipe at Farage’s appalling attendance record). When the two leaders were discussing Farage’s notorious immigration poster Vince said: “I welcome people with dark faces, after all I was married to one.”
    He seems to have peaked for us at just the right moment. Let’s have more of this!

  • The top pollster from the 2014 Euros now has LAB in third place six points behind the LDs
    May 22nd, 2019

    “Bollocks to Brexit” not harming the LDs
    Throughout the Euros campaign one pollster has been producing very different numbers from just about everybody else. That is YouGov which in its survey for the Times this morning finds that the Brexit party is on 37% with the Lib Dems on 19 and labour six points behind that on 13.

    Almost all the other firms have LAB maintaining a second place position and lower numbers for TBP. It is highly likely we will see the finals polls today from other firms and these might indicate a level of clustering.

    As I pointed out a couple of days ago at the 2014 euros the pollster that got it most right then was YouGov.

    Now you cannot assume that just because a firm did well last time that they are likely to be the most accurate this time. ComRes did very well at GE2015 but was one of the worst at GE2017.

    Because this is likely to be a low turnout election compared to the referendum or general elections then that adds to the challenge facing those carrying out polling surveys. The critical thing is to ensure that those you can identify as being voters are given greater weight than those who from past experience are less likely to participate.

    In his excellent analysis on Monday Sunil showed how turnout at Euro elections has been relatively constant in the 30s region except at 1999 when the closed regiinoal party list came in and it dropped to 24%. Those were the last Euro elections, however, to be held without local elections taking place on the same day.

    The problem for both LAB and CON tomorrow is that neither is seen as the lead party for or against Brexit. TBP has well established itself amongst the supporters while the LDs have used their success in the local three weeks ago to reinforce their pitch the be the strongest party for Remain.

    We’ll have to wait till Sunday from 2200 BST to find out what’s actually happened.
    Mike Smithson

  • Roy Pounsford 22nd May '19 - 6:45pm

    A 2019 general election moves up in the betting as the pressure mounts on TMay
    May 22nd, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

    One of the big political betting movements this afternoon has been on the timing of the next general election as can been from the chart. As far as I can see the reasoning is that TMay’s time at Number 10 is moving to a conclusion with much talk of a leadership contest before the summer break.

    The only problem is that a new PM and leader would face exactly the same challenges that Mrs. May has struggled with over getting Commons agreement on an exit deal. It might be that her successor would seek to break the parliamentary deadlock by going to the country.

    The problem with this is that calling a general election is exactly what the incumbent did in 2017 and ended up with fewer cON MPs and no overall majority. Would a new leader be prepared to gamble his or her new job?

    Also would the next CON leader go to the country in the aftermath of Farage’s likely success in tomorrow’s Euros?

    Whatever everything is deadlocked and something has to give.

    Mike Smithson

  • Independent Minds is featuring an article today from Vince Cable’s recent booklet, ‘Beyond Brexit: Liberal Politics for the Age of Identity’, with the title “How can Britain stage an economic recovery after the Brexit crisis?”

    “Without an effectively functioning economy, such objectives as “fairness” cannot be realised, and political extremes flourish. What Britain needs to prosper socially and financially in the 2020s is a longer-term strategy for sustainable growth which addresses the country’s deep failings in respect of skills, short-term financial horizons and housing. And, now, those of us who oppose Brexit and economic nationalism generally face the challenge to say how we would improve the functioning of an economy damaged by the financial crisis and then, again, by Brexit. Good economic management will be more critical than ever.”
    “Economic competence is not a message that stirs the soul, but without it rising living standards are not possible.”

  • Richard O'Neill 22nd May '19 - 8:29pm

    When talking of leadership, the implosion of Change UK is astonishing. Heidi Allen has shown herself to have been a poor leader. Effectively telling people (at the last moment) that they should vote for other parties outside London and the SE. It’s a shoddy way to treat their activists and people who have given money to them.

    Vince Cable, the occasional “exotic spresm” aside, has shown a dignity and resilience that shows why Change UK have so spectacularly failed to devour the Lib Dems as they’d hoped.

  • Sue Sutherland 23rd May '19 - 1:28pm

    I agree with Yeovil Yokel. It turns out that we didn’t need a new leader after all, what we needed was clarity, a good slogan and a bit of feistiness. I’m holding my breath and have everything crossed until the results, but, our most important force of all is our members and activists, many of them new. They have worked so hard in the last few weeks and have produced a groundswell towards us in many areas. We have always tried to be a “bottom up” party and now it really seems to be happening.
    They produced the good result in the locals which has enabled us to be a prominent party in the Euros while many of us were bemoaning a lack of publicity. Here’s to our hidden army !

  • John Marriott 23rd May '19 - 8:19pm

    I managed to watch the Farage v Cable ‘debate’ hosted by the Telegraph yesterday. What a pleasant change from those excruciating set pieces that preceded the 2016 Referendum, in which Farage ran rings round Nick Clegg. Vince played a straight bat, was generally calm and quite witty and Farage was all over the place. What I particularly liked was the Cable exposé of the myth about “trading under WTO rules”, which Farage, Tice and most of the Brexiteers continue to give as the solution to a No Deal Brexit. It’s a pity also that more people don’t question the statement that “ the British people voted to leave the EU in June 2016”. What, all of them? Granted that around 38% of the electorate did; but what about the other 62%?

  • Belatedly realized I should have said 66% leave not 66% remain. Election fatigue!

  • Here is that Cable/Farage debate, for those who missed it. I agree Vince was on fine form.
    (There’s about 20 minutes of silence before it starts, but you can drag the cursor)

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.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

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

  • Barry Lofty
    Very informative Peter!...
  • Peter
    I am by no means knowledgeable about this subject but I would have thought that certain things are rather obvious. The petroleum industry has evolved into a gig...
  • Brad Barrows
    @Phil Beesley I’m afraid your comment suggests a lack of understanding of the legal responsibilities of schools with regard to pupil safety and, in particula...
  • Peter Martin
    If the new plan B doesn't include vaccine passports it will be Plan B MINUS! Passports will encourage the take up of available vaccines. Compulsory mask wear...
  • John Marriott
    Don’t get me wrong. In the 1950s I grew up on Canterbury lamb and large tins of Australian quince jam! Most of that stuff largely disappeared when we joined t...