Cable will step down as Lib Dem leader ‘after Brexit is resolved or stopped’

- Advertisement -

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has announced plans to step down after Brexit is “resolved or stopped”.

Sir Vince, 75, said reports of his imminent departure were “very wide of the mark” and insisted he would stay on to steer the party through any Brexit-related turmoil, including any possible general election.

However, in a London speech he said the time would be right for a leadership election after that under new rules he unveiled to widen participation in the party.

A graphic on leaders' ages
(PA Graphics)

He told the audience at the Liberal Club he had already made it clear he did not want to follow in the footsteps of Liberal prime minister William Gladstone, who served into his 80s – or fellow octogenarian leader Robert Mugabe.

Sir Vince said: “Reports I have read of my imminent departure are very wide of the mark.

“Now is not the time for an internal election, there is serious work for me and the party to do.

“Once Brexit is resolved or stopped, that will be the time to conduct a leadership election under the new rules.”

Voters who are “liberal-minded” will be allowed to sign up for free under plans to bolster membership, the former Cabinet minister announced.

Sir Vince Cable
Sir Vince is seeking a ‘movement of the moderates’ in the UK (Yui Mok/PA)

Sir Vince said he wanted to create a “movement of the moderates” that would bring together voters who loosely identify with the party.

Appealing to moderates from other parties to join the Lib Dems, he said there was a risk of emulating the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front from Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian – two almost identical forces competing in the same ground.

He added: “I make the case that it is much easier under our electoral system to work within existing party structures and with people who have shared values, rather than trying to compete.

“As the old adage has it: we hang together, or we hang separately.”

Sir Vince lost his Twickenham seat in the mass defenestration of Lib Dem MPs at the 2015 General Election following their years of coalition with the Conservatives, but he regained the seat in 2017.

He replaced Tim Farron as party leader in July 2017, who himself had replaced Nick Clegg two years earlier.

If Sir Vince does trigger a leadership election in 2019 it would leave the Lib Dems searching for their fourth leader in four years.

He declined to give a timescale for the election being held, saying he “cannot clear away the current uncertainty” over Brexit.

(PA Graphics)

The speech come ahead of the party’s annual autumn conference, which begins on September 15.

Sir Vince insisted all of the party’s 11 other current MPs could lead it. But he outlined a vision for a mass movement with similar impact – if different politics – to Labour’s grassroots organisation Momentum.

Labelling it a “Movement for Moderates” he said: “We should widen membership with a new class of supporters who pay nothing to sign up to the party’s values.

“They should enjoy a range of entitlements, including the right to vote for the leadership and to shape the party’s campaigning online.”

Ladbrokes made Jo Swinson, the party’s deputy leader, the early favourite to replace him at evens, but said early betting was heaviest on education spokeswoman Layla Moran, who was cut from 5/2 to 2/1 behind her.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.