Vince: I’m a proud saboteur

Vince Cable’s debut Conference speech as leader will be very different from Tim Farron’s. We won’t find him bouncing about the stage. His style is quieter but no less compelling and interesting to listen to.

Below we get a flavour of the thing he’ll be saying tomorrow, establishing us firmly as the Party of Remain.

On Brexit

“A disaster looms. Brexit. The product of a fraudulent and frivolous campaign led by two groups of silly public school boys living their dormitory pillow fights.

“And now, thanks to Boris Johnson, they have degenerated into a full-scale school riot with the head teacher hiding, barricaded in her office.

“In the real world, we have yet to experience the full impact of leaving Europe. But we have a taste of what is to come in the fall of the value of the pound.

“Foreign exchange dealers are not point scoring politicians. Their cold, hard, unsentimental judgement has been, quite simply, that Brexit Britain will be poorer and weaker after Brexit than if we had decided to stay in Europe.

“Brexit was described by the Brexit Secretary himself as an operation of such technical complexity that it makes the moon landing look simple.

“It is a pity that the Brexit landing is being managed by people who would struggle to get their heads around a toddlers’ Lego set. They live in a world of infantile fairy tales.

On Labour

“We might have expected better from Labour. Many people got behind them in June, expecting a better politics and a better future from him.  They are already being betrayed.

“Today’s Labour Party isn’t into problem solving; let alone governing. Jeremy Corbyn’s acolytes are focused on how to maximise the contradictions of capitalism.

“You don’t qualify for the Shadow Cabinet these days unless you have studied the Venezuelan guide on how to bankrupt a rich economy.

“No wonder they back Brexit. No wonder they lined up behind Theresa May, maximising the chance of chaos and disruption.

“Then a few weeks ago the moderates briefly penetrated the Corbyn bunker. They persuaded him that collaborating quite so closely with the class enemy didn’t look too good.

“So, they have a new policy: to stay in the Single market and Customs Union, possibly; or to leave, maybe. Or maybe to stay in for a bit, and then leave.

“I am trying to be kind here: I am trying to understand what they are trying to say. I think the current line is, we should transition to the transition gradually while we prepare for a post-transition world.

“This is what they mean by the smack of firm leadership on the biggest issue of the day.

“But if Jeremy Corbyn sits on the fence any longer, he is in danger of being sliced up the middle by the serrated edge.

“He would do better to get off the fence and refurbish his revolutionary credentials.  Jeremy – join us in the Anti Brexit People’s Liberation Front!”

Political adults

“What the people want. What the country now desperately needs is some political adults.

“That’s you. That’s us.

“Fortunately, we are not alone. There are sensible grown-ups in the Conservative party and the Labour Party and the Greens. And beyond them are millions of people deeply worried about what is happening.

“We have to put aside tribal differences and work alongside like-minded people to keep the Single Market and Customs Union, essential for trade and jobs;

“Europe’s high environmental and social standards; shared research; help for our poorer regions; cooperation over policing and terrorism.

“Europe, of course, needs reform but you don’t achieve reform by walking away.

“Our position is clear: the Liberal Democrats are the party of Remain.

“The government is now stuck in divorce negotiations for which it is hopelessly ill-prepared and internally divided.

“So I have some advice for Theresa May now. Take the issue of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in Europe out of these negotiations.

“Using them as bargaining chips is not merely morally wrong but utterly counter-productive. Put the lives of 4 million people first not the posturing internal politics of the Conservative Party. No ifs, no buts.

“The government should declare a Right to Remain – now.

A Referendum

“At the end of these tortuous divorce negotiations, the British public must be given a vote on the outcome.

“Let me be clear. This is not a call for a re-run – a second referendum – on Brexit.

“It is a call for a first referendum on the facts: when we know what Brexit means. We know that our call will, of course,  be resented by the Brexit fundamentalists.

“We will be denounced as traitors and saboteurs. I’m half prepared for a spell in a cell with Supreme Court judges, Gina Miller, Ken Clarke, and the governors of the BBC.

“But if the definition of sabotage is fighting to protect British jobs, public services, the environment and civil liberties, then I am a proud saboteur.

“Brexiteers will say: “we have already voted to leave.  How dare you flout democracy.”

“It is actually quite difficult to follow the argument. It seems to go that consulting the public – having a vote – is undemocratic.

“Why?  What are they afraid of? Are they afraid that the claims of £350m a week for the NHS won’t wash any more?

“That claim has rightly been dismissed by the UK Statistics Authority. No wonder Boris and the Brexiteers are so afraid of the people, and the facts.

“They now believe in the slogan of dictators everywhere: “one person, one vote, once.”

“We believe the public have a right to change their mind.”


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

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Dave Orbison 19th Sep '17 - 7:54am

    More if the same. A specific section attacking Labour with ludicrous nonsense – no paragraph on the Tories. Reliving the battles of the SDP perhaps? But accurate, relevant, I doubt it.

    Or perhaps he’s trying to mimic Tim Fallin with a joke here or there.

    Yes of course there’s the usual stuff on Europe but what of other policies. Where’s the hope? What about students, the NHS? Negative same old, same old.

  • Europe, of course, needs reform but you don’t achieve reform by walking away

    You can’t just say ‘reform’ without saying what you’d reform it to. Macron says the EU needs reform, but the kinds of reforms he has in mind, ‘more Europe’ on everything, budget oversights, etc, would end up making the EU even less appealing to the UK, not more.

    The reforms the EU needed in order to make it more palatable to the UK were to reverse the direction of integration, but — as Cameron found out — that wasn’t on offer.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Sep '17 - 9:33am

    Dave, no , your,e so biased you cannot see it, Sir Vince is scathing about the Tory Brexit here, and only adds Corbyn for the balance necessary because he is so hard to fathom one minute after the other on that !

    I am fed up with Brexit and glad Vince, Jo and many see we are not a UKIP reverse, and indeed we as a party need to reveal more radical and needed responses to issues, and radical means moderate often as the very different response to the extremes today !

    I feel if those so pro Corbyn cannot see that in a week when he specifically , as often, added the name of the Liberal Democrats to his tirade at Prime Minisers Questions, for attack, and when Labourlist this week has a scathing piece on Vince regarding the Royal Mail, no real enthusism from posters there who greeted it with a yawn, we as a party cannot but be fair and that means praise and criticism in equal measure, as necessary.

    We here are not a fanclub even of this party we are members of, particularly not of others.

    Suggest you see the constructive work of George Kendall at conference in the meeting organised as ever, to liase with Labour .

  • How would Vince answer The Clegg Question: ‘What do you see the EU as being like in ten years’ time?’

  • OnceALibDem 19th Sep '17 - 2:41pm

    Will this be another “best Leader’s speech I’ve ever heard” (which was all of Tim’s and Nick’s last two leader’s speeches). I hope not given that those make zero impact on the party’s standing.

  • OnceALibDem 19th Sep '17 - 2:51pm
  • Dave Orbison 19th Sep '17 - 3:37pm

    Lorenzo – bias yes I am. Aren’t you?

    So let’s be objective. LibDems are bumping along at 7%, Labour now at 43% and over half a million members.

    So do you think Vince Cable really has the pulse of the nation? You think attacking Labour, as always enabling the Tories, is a good strategy? I don’t and that’s simply my opinion.

  • Dave
    That’s the conundrum. A two-party system that will never deliver.
    It seems most people don’t remember what British Rail was really like. In the years of nationalization a lot of the network got closed. True reform is what Britain needs unless British people want to be overtaken by Asian countries in the next thirty years .

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Sep '17 - 4:15pm

    Dve ,We are in a sense back to the two party system of allegiance , but with a multi party activism of members. This party on what it has is more than UKIP and several times more than the Greens, more than Plaid and SNP in numbers of votes and per centage if you do it as a national figure . I was Labour and would be again if in alliance , but not being as popular does not make this excellent party wrong or a waste of space. Linder in Gremany is on less in polls and heading up a boyant resurgance. Bernie Sanders lost in the US and is leading a drive for universal healthcare in the Senate, Macron came from nowhere and is president and a centrist.

    The Liberal Democrats have made mistakes. As have all parties.

    I am biased on a Liberal Democrat site in favour of the Liberal Democrats. You would be in a similar position on Labourlist but you like us more deep down !!!

  • Laurence Cox 19th Sep '17 - 4:59pm

    @Dave Orbison
    Harold Wilson once wisely said “a week is a long time in politics”. We are still eighteen months away from leaving the EU, and some time between now and then Jeremy Corbyn will have to come off the fence over it and annoy either the Leavers or the Remainers who voted Labour this year.

  • Who is listening or worse who is interested in us. Very, very few. We are failing in our task whatever that is. You have to be relavent, we simply appear not to be so, a process which seems set for the indefinate future. 5% in the latest poll. We could just give up or just paddle along and hope that some lucky break occurs. BUT I cannot see Brexit or Exit from Brexit being that luck. Trouble is Labour has stolen our protest role and much of a potential agends we could have used. The next 8 months look like the Gobi desert of politics for us. Perhaps things will look a little bit better in a year.
    I just think we coluld perhaps learn from the Free Democrats in Germany who still seem to be holding onto their recovery based on the old “Western” section of the country.

  • Sadie Smith 19th Sep '17 - 5:57pm

    It was an adult, wide-ranging speech with a lot of meat in it. And that was very welcome. I hope the whole speech gets discussed, not just the Brexit bit. One can hope for objectivity!

  • Dave Orbison 19th Sep '17 - 7:56pm

    Lorenzo – I don’t think the LibDems are a waste of time, or rather I hope they would not be as I don’t think a two party system is healthy.

    But, and it’s a big but for me, if the LibDems decide to adopt a strategy based not on policy but opportunism and focuses on attacking Labour, then this can only result in a decade or so of Tory rule.

    That does not appeal to me and I will not cease in criticising any such moves.

  • Dave Orbison 19th Sep '17 - 9:43pm

    Mark – fair point then, I will.

  • @ Dave Orbison

    You are wrong to suggest Vince was delivering “negative same old” or that he was not offering hope. Look at this section, if you don’t believe me:

    “The attraction of the Labour campaign, however, was that it offered hope.
    Hope counters despair.
    Hope can inspire.
    Hope can achieve change.
    But what hope cannot do is make 2+2=7.
    What the country needs is hope AND realism.
    In a Britain increasingly dominated by extremists and ideologues, I want us to fill the huge gap in the centre of British politics. “

  • Dave Orbison 20th Sep '17 - 7:30am

    Allan Brame – yes Vince Cable referenced ‘hope’ but indirectly and only then by pouring water over the prospect of hope that had proved so successful for Corbyn.

    So how do the LibDems intend to create hope? He infers that Labour’s hope is based on unrealistic promises. So which part of improving education, housing, job creation, progressive taxation will the LibDems turn their backs on? He can’t have it both ways.

    Then the killer “he wants the LibDems to be a centre party”. A party defined by what other parties say they will do. Abandoning the prospect of radical politics in favour of appealing both to Labour and Tory voters simultaneously.

    Well that worked so well in the last two General Elections didn’t it. So contrary to what you think Allan, I see the LibDems offering very little hope of anything.

  • I’m not saying we ignore polls, either positive or negative, but the idea that we shouldn’t point out flaws in what Labour is doing because they are polling ahead of us is a remarkable one. And we continue to criticise the Tories for their flaws too, even if the Labour party cheerleaders are deaf and blind to it. And we shouldn’t let those cheerleaders distract us.

    We know that our policies resonate with a larger share of the population than are voting for us, so the answer is not to ditch policies, it’s about improving how we present ourselves and communicate them. Of course, there will be hard-core supporters of Labour and the Tories who make a lot of noise with the specific intention of not hearing, and trying to prevent others from hearing, but we have to stay strong. They don’t care for the future of the LibDems – they actively want us to do badly, and should treat their ‘advice’ accordingly.

    We had similar conversations just six months ago about our position in Scotland regarding independence. Scots on here were sure that independence would be terrible for Scotland, and we had to fend off insults from members from other parts of the UK that we needed to do something radical. The past six months have proven that we were right to stick to our guns, and when you know your policies are sound, you need to stick to them. And if I’m honest, I strongly suspect that some of those suggesting we support nationalism were never LibDems, but long-term nationalists who wanted to use this forum to influence LibDem policy to further their personal goal of independence.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t improve our policies or how they are communicated, and sometimes we need to focus on other areas that interest the public more, and of course if there is sufficient evidence to completely change policy, it should be changed.

    We have a lot of work to do, but with record membership, and record attendance at conference, we’ve got an opportunity to move things forward.

  • There is plenty of hope the Liberal Democrats can offer. The greatest one is an end to class based politics.

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