A ‘non-aggression pact with Labour’ offers the best way back for Lib Dems, says former leader

PUBLISHED: 09:29 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 17 July 2020

Sir Vince Cable as Lib Dem leader. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)

Sir Vince Cable as Lib Dem leader. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)

2019 Ken Jack

Vince Cable has urged the Lib Dems to work with Labour, rather than against the party, as it considers a strategy for rebuilding the party.

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In understanding the party’s 2019 result, the former Lib Dem leader told Prospect that “a toxic mix of nastiness and wildly unrealistic utopian economics” from Labour leadership under Jeremy Corbyn was responsible for why “Conservative Remainers failed to deliver the expected harvest of Lib Dem victories in Remain seats”.

Cable admitted mistakes had been made when there was an “over-confidence in the Remain vote” by pushing for an early election and dropping the People’s Vote message for an “arrogant” unilateral revocation of Brexit.

But he said that Keir Starmer was turning around Labour’s fortunes with “style and substance”, despite having a long way to go to prove the party’s competence with the electorate.

The former party leader said that Labour’s new lease of life provided a challenge for the next Lib Dem leader to remain “relevant and visible”.


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“In this difficult period there may be a temptation to grab a bit of attention by making a bid for disillusioned Corbynistas abandoning a more moderate Labour Party,” he explained.

But in branding it a “wackier idea”, Cable said talk of a “left of Labour” outlook was reminiscent to the period after the Iraq war.

He said in encouraging anti-war and left-wing activists to the party it had adopted a “populist” approach, such as free tuition fees, which had “built up expectations” before disappointing members in the coalition years.

Instead he says that the Lib Dems must learn that in the 1990s under Paddy Ashdown “there was a road back from oblivion parallel to, and complementary with, the Labour Party”.

He urged both leadership contenders to recognise that the “Lib Dems have an excellent platform to be part of a centre-left comeback”.

He explained: “The Lib Dems had a strong base in local government and had the potential to win a few dozen, overwhelmingly Tory, parliamentary seats in areas where, for demographic and historical reasons, Labour had no hope. There was a tacit non-aggression pact. The Lib Dems targeted ruthlessly. A few years later, with Tony Blair leading Labour, the strategy worked.”

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