‘Nobody wants Vince Cable’ so says a vast twitter echo chamber. Oh to be sure that you and your friends speak for everyone. I wish I had that type of certainty in life. Yet still Vince Cable is all but assured of being the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. No doubt some will decide that is it for them and they will leave the party. That happens whenever a new leader takes over in any party. The thing is even you are aren’t exactly sucking at the teat of the former Business Secretary, you have to at least admire the fact he wants to be the leader.
We all expected Jo Swinson to be on her way to assuming the mantle of the top Lib Dem in the country. The returning MP for Dunbartonshire East was the red hot favourite and in all likelihood was set to cruise to victory if there was going to be a contest. She ticked far more boxes than anyone else who would potentially have put themselves forward. Sadly though for many, one small issue emerged. One teeny-tiny problem. She didn’t want the job. At that point everything changed in the contest.
Of the remaining candidates, one said he was ready to lead. The other two decided that they were not. What would have happened if Sir Vince had decided he didn’t want it? Would we be in a position where literally no-one out of the parliamentary party wanted the gig? Where would we be then?
Unlike a great deal of others, I’m not ready to tear up my membership card just yet if Vince is the next leader. I’m not exactly going to be full of the joys of spring either but sometimes you aren’t going to be totally in tune with the leader of your party. I am sure many Blairite Labour folk are struggling on under Jeremy Corbyn because they still see their party as the best hope for the country despite their disagreements with the person leading them. I am in a similar boat.
For me, my politics starts at Nick Clegg. Regular readers will know all about this as I’ve waxed lyrical about the man on numerous occasions. Many disagree and see Clegg as a villain for even entertaining the notion going into a coalition government with the sworn enemy. When Nick resigned after the catastrophe that was the 2015 General Election, my heart and my hope for the future broke a little bit. It has yet to recover due to what the country (and the party has seen in the two years since).
Yet when Tim Farron became leader I wasn’t ready to walk because sometimes in life you are not going to always agree with other people, yet you can still work for the perceived greater good. How many people disagree with their bosses but still are able to work for them? I once worked for a pretty strong-minded UKIPper and even though we disagreed on politics, we could still work together and bring success to our part of the business.
Vince may not be your cup of tea (he certainly isn’t mine) but he isn’t the devil either. I think it is fair to at least pose the question as to whether the party would have done better in the General Election earlier this month if Sir Vince was leader. Of course he wasn’t an MP and therefore couldn’t be but Vince wasn’t as harmed by the tuition fees issue as a lot of the twitterati want to make us believe.
Indeed multiple polls commissioned in 2012 suggested that Cable would have put the Lib Dems 3% higher in the polls and would have helped several key MPs hold their seats (most notably I suspect – his!). This all happened after the tuition fees vote and as for Royal Mail – if that is in the top 25 things voters are looking for when they go and cast their ballot I would be stunned.
His stance on free movement is clearly not in sync with the vast majority of the party. That is an issue and his political manoeuvring sticks in the throat but here we are, a fortnight or so after Tim Farron was knifed in the back/was persuaded to fall on to his sword (it is up to you which interpretation you believe) and only one person wants to do the job. When you are in this position outside of parliament you would reopen nominations. When your constitution says one of only 12 people can do the job and the other 11 say they don’t want it then what choice do we have? Do you attempt to force someone to do a job they don’t want or do you just back the person that does?
I’d go for the latter. Trying to coerce someone into running who doesn’t want it is selfish in the extreme. As liberals surely we all agree in individuality and being allowed to make our own choices in life? That includes if Jo Swinson or Ed Davey decide they don’t want to run to be leader of the party for whatever reason they like.
I have seen a few members say they would run because their needs to be a contest. I am pretty sure that if the constitution dictated that you didn’t have to be an MP to be the leader, a certain former Deputy Prime Minister would get a whole lot of love from many in the party. That might piss off even more of the membership but if we are being realistic, a straight Cable v Clegg battle would result in only one winner and it isn’t the sitting MP for Twickenham.
So for those who don’t want Cable, it could be worse, much worse. If no-one else emerges and he takes over then as members we will face a choice. Sit on our butts and sulk that the person we want leading the party isn’t or we can carry on at local level working for our communities and bringing forth motions to conference for the membership to vote on. Remember the members have far more power in the Lib Dems than in any other party, so if you have issues with the leader, you can control them policy wise pretty well. We should use that power wisely.
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