Vince Cable is right to gamble on picking up the anti-Brexit voteby Peter Kellner / September 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Poor Vince Cable. A decade ago, when he was the interim leader of the Liberal Democrats, he led a contingent of 62 MPs. Now, as his party’s real leader, he leads just 12. For five years he was a cabinet minister, pronouncing with authority from the despatch box. Now, he cannot even be sure of being called to ask anything at Prime Minister’s Questions. Despite winning, net, four more seats this year (including Cable’s own seat, Twickenham), the Lib Dems’ share of the vote across Britain, 7.6 per cent, was the lowest since 1959.
So: should the Lib Dems finally admit defeat and disband? At his party’s annual conference in Bournemouth, should he tell his activists, “go back to your constituencies and prepare for oblivion”?
He won’t, of course. But, actually, I don’t think he should, either. The Liberal Democrats still have an important purpose. But to define it, they need to rid themselves of the illusion that they have hit rock bottom, that as the Brexit negotiations stumble, they are bound to become popular once more.