By all accounts, Sir Vince Cable is a nice man and a good dancer. Although, unlike the nicer man and better dancer, Ed Balls, Sir Vince does not have a day of the year named after him. I suspect he never will. Sad.
What is the point of the Lib Dems now? If it is to offer to overturn Brexit by fair means or foul, then the value of that approach was ruthlessly exposed by the party’s miserly election performance last month. Perhaps there is a clue in the fact that Sir Vince comes from the Lib Dems’ ‘Orange Book’ faction, which means that he is socially liberal and fiscally conservative.
Someone once summed up socially liberal fiscal conservatism as not wanting a gay homeless person to die because they were gay, but because they were homeless. Perhaps this is a bit cruel and, I stress, Sir Vince is regarded by people from across the political spectrum as a decent, honest man. But he did take a leading role in ushering in Tory austerity, so again I’m left wondering – what is the point of him?
In fairness, Sir Vince is an upgrade on his predecessor as Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron MP, who spent the two years of his ill-starred spell at the helm proving that he was neither a liberal nor a democrat. In announcing his decision to stand down, Farron said he could not reconcile his Christianity with leading a “progressive party.” The Lib Dems really do confuse me sometimes.
I am being sassy and I apologise. There is value in the Lib Dems holding our awful government’s feet to the fire over Brexit, and Labour might do well to adopt some of the same chutzpah. That’s not to say we should copy the Lib Dems and tell ‘Leave’ voters to go and stick it, but it is to say we probably need a better-defined position on how we would be handling the negotiations. Perhaps Sir Vince’s appointment will force Labour into action on that front.
I may be wrong (I certainly have been a few times recently about politics), but I can’t see Sir Vince’s coronation as Lib Dem leader as anything other than the death rattle of this strange little party. There will almost certainly always be a ‘Liberal’ party in British politics – much to my regret – but it seems unlikely that one will emerge from the rubble of what was a party of government but six years ago, and what is now a pointless, plotless, platitudinous party of ideological nomads.
Nothing seems certain in politics anymore, so perhaps Sir Vince will be prime minister by the year’s end and Brexit will have been cancelled. What seems more likely is that the Lib Dems will continue to promise the earth while in opposition, sure in the knowledge they will never have power. Just as they so ably accomplished when they accidentally ended up in power in 2010, whereupon they trebled tuition fees and helped the Tories throw the working class to the wolves.
I wish Sir Vince well. Really, I do. I hope that he will be the first Lib Dem leader since Charles Kennedy to offer something of which the Tories would disapprove. I hope that he keeps Labour honest and that we no longer have the luxury of offering endless apple pie and mother love to the urban liberals the Lib Dems have forgotten about.
British politics needs a third party that forces the two serious parties to raise their game. If Sir Vince can’t provide that, then the Lib Dems better make way for some other rabble of virtue-signallers, and in short order, too.