The Liberal Democrats need a spark. And Sir Vince Cable can provide it.
Vince Cable, if he plays his cards right, has a chance to take his still shell-shocked party and make it the natural political home for all who believe Brexit is set to be an unmitigated disaster.
To do so he’ll have to leave some of the semi-public concerns he’s raised, in the voter-enforced political exile he was in between the 2015 and 2017 general elections, about a second referendum on EU membership and free movement of people, in the dustbin of history.
There can be room for no such doubts now.
He needs to be the parliamentary leader of not just a party, but a movement.
The Liberal Democrats, whose heart is finally beating normally again after being on life-support following the near-death experience that was the failed Clegg experiment between 2010 and 2015, must be the heart and the voice not only of those who voted Remain last year but also of the Brexit-voters who believed the lies peddled by the Leave campaign and now feel betrayed and abandoned.
He has the opportunity to be the adult in a political world whose so-called leaders appear, almost universally, to be grown-up babies.
Theresa May who, weak and powerless following the career suicide that was calling this year’s nationwide poll, has left the fate of our nation, our prosperity, the future of our people and generations yet to come, to three unruly schoolboys; Davis, Fox and Johnson, who, reports suggest, are more concerned with plotting their own routes to the top job than worrying about the jobs of millions who will lose out if we leave the single market and the customs union.
And by a Labour leader who promises jam and lollies for all… one day … but, on the dominating issue of our times, is at one with May and her Brexit Brigade.
How betrayed the young voters, who placed their trust in Comrade Corbyn, must feel.
Heavily led to believe, before the June vote, that Corbyn and his far-Left gaggle of supporters that run the Labour Party were for a soft-Brexit, now find that they too believe we have to leave the single market.
That’s before we get on to Corbyn’s ‘promise’ to ‘sort’ past debt racked up in fees by millions of students which, we now learn, was merely an ‘ambition.’
The Liberal Democrats and indeed Vince Cable, who found himself during the Coalition years in the unfortunate position of heading the department that had to oversee the Cameron-Clegg policy of tripling fees, know all too well the cold political revenge that can be enacted by students scorned. I believe Corbyn will long live to regret making a pseudo-promise to our nation’s young which he had no intention of keeping.
Whilst the two major political tribes scrabble at the extremes, Vince Cable has a chance – following on from the hard work of former leader Tim Farron – to place the Lib Dems where most British voters still remain…in the political centre.
Now, that doesn’t mean being ‘centrist.’
I’ve never quite understood what being ‘centrist’ is all about, other than a kind of beige, dry, management of the affairs of the state. No, Vince, as a Social Democrat, has the opportunity to plant my party’s flag firmly in the soil as a liberal, centre-left, internationalist, green, pro-European movement.
A movement our nation has been crying out for these last few wild years.
He’s made a good start and coined a pithy soundbite, ‘exit from Brexit.’
On freedom of movement, about which – in the political wilderness of the last two years – he made the occasional not always helpful statement, he’s made clear that in the Lib Dems the members make the policy and our party’s policy is clear…freedom of movement is non-negotiable.
Vince, as party leader, must use every possible chance he has, in Parliament, in the press, and on the stump, to trumpet that the Liberal Democrats are the only Britain-wide party who believes the UK’s place is firmly at the heart of the European Union and who believe the people-not the politicians-must get the final say on any proposed deal the Government finally manages to strike.
Brexit isn’t inevitable, it never has been. It can and must be stopped. Vince Cable must and will lead that fight!
Mathew Hulbert is a former Lib Dem councillor in Leicestershire. He tweets at @HulbertMathew