- Vince Cable announces that he will resign as Liberal Democrat leader once Brexit “is resolved”.
- His announcement confirms a story first reported by Business Insider in August.
- Cable plans to change Lib Dem leadership rules to allow his successor to be a non-MP.
- Non-party members will also be allowed to take part in the upcoming leadership election.
LONDON – Vince Cable has announced that he will stand down as Liberal Democrat leader once Brexit “is resolved” confirming a story first reported by Business Insider last month.
Cable used a speech in central London to announce that he will make way for a successor, after changes to Lib Dem rules that will allow his successor to be a non-MP, expected to take place next year.
“Once Brexit is resolved or stopped and if the new rules are agreed, that will be the time to conduct a leadership contest under the new rules,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to “outlast Robert Mugabe” as leader.
Non-party members will be allowed to take part in the election in a bid to transform the party into what Cable called a “movement for moderates.”
He said the party shouldn’t be worried about entryism from political extremists, adding that “you can’t be scared of opening the window lest a few flies get in.”
However, he refused to set an “artificial timeline” for his departure.
“I am doing what I think is professional in setting out a series of tasks for the party to be dealt with,” he said.
“They may be dealt with sooner and quickly or a longer period. I can’t control that. It’s the right thing to set out a specific set of tasks and objectives [but] I don’t want to create an artificial timeline.”
The former Business Secretary took over from Tim Farron as Lib Dem leader in July 2017 with a promise to rebuild the party’s fortunes following the collapse in their support after joining in coalition with the Conservatives.
However, despite some improved performance in local elections this year and despite the party’s distinctive strong pro-EU position, Cable has failed to trigger a significant bump in the opinion polls for the party.
Sources close to Cable initially dismissed suggestions that he planned to resign when first put to them by Business Insider at the start of August.
However, multiple Lib Dem sources confirmed to BI that he planned to make a major announcement on the future of his leadership at the start of September.
Reaching across the divide
Cable’s also confirmed that that he sees the party’s future as stretching beyond the boundaries of traditional party politics.
As BI reported this week, Cable and other senior Lib Dems have been in discussions with pro-EU MPs in both the Conservative and Labour parties in an attempt to form a new centrist alliance inside parliament.
One leading party grandee told BI that they expected the new alliance to form within “the next six months.”
Cable acknowledged that “the Lib Dems might not be the only centrist force in UK politics” and admitted that he had “met with a few people” trying to set up new parties. He predicted that Labour and Tory MPs will quit their party and said the Lib Dems are “open to working together with people from other parties.”
“We do collaborate in the anti-Brexit group and there are very good working relations there with quite a lot of Labour people and some Tories,” Cable told BI.
“I don’t see why that process can’t extend much more widely.,”
A senior Lib Dem source told BI this week that they are actively involved in discussions with MPs from other parties, and said they expected this process to take place in early 2019 and coincide with either another Brexit referendum or a general election.
“The most likely outcome is that we have a parliamentary stalemate, in that there’s no majority for any sort of Brexit. Parliament will turn around to the people and ask them for help,” they said.
“You have a referendum or a general election and in the case of the former, you’d have people arguing to remain in the EU standing together on platforms. But the latter, an election, would bring about that moment even faster.
“Neither the Tories or Labour can produce a manifesto on Europe without breaking themselves up. So in a general election, there would be a break-up… Will the Lib Dems essential to that process when it happens? Absolutely.”
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