Political

Vince Cable turned down invite to lead a new political party

Over on Left Foot Forward, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has revealed that he was invited to lead a new anti-Brexit party.

Explaining what happened, Vince Cable writes:

Recently, we’ve seen an explosion of announcements of new parties being formed. Most are not very serious: vanity projects, spoofs or hopeless lost causes. These new parties offer politics without politicians…

So far, no politician of any stature, or even without stature, has endorsed or joined them. Money, marketing, a new name and the self-belief of the founders appear to be the common ingredients.

The absence of politicians is revealing. I was asked to consider leading one of these new parties and when I pointed out that I already led a party, with deeper roots and rather better prospects, the answer I got was ‘well, why don’t you change the brand and we will get behind you’.

Others, I believe, have been approached – Tony Blair, Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg – and plausible names banded about include David Miliband and George Osborne. None, to my knowledge, has been tempted.

The conversations, I gather, follow a predictable pattern. Flattery: the new Messiah is capable of leading the country out of its present mess if their talents can be harnessed to a new vehicle with a new name and, in some cases, the tycoon’s millions.

Then the politician asks some obvious questions about local organisation, compliance requirements and the handicaps of Britain’s first-past-the-post system and eyes glaze over. Unnecessary detail. If you politicians aren’t interested, we will do it on our own. The two epithets I commonly hear to describe the new party sponsors are naivety and arrogance.

That final paragraph in the extract quoted bears careful thought. There’s a powerful combination to be had from marrying existing knowledge with new ideas. Mere enthusiasm for newness, just as mere insistence on always doing things the way you’re used to, is not enough. It’s both that you need to combine.

In the meantime, as I wrote in the last Liberal Democrat Newswire:

The cast list of would-be new parties, none of whom have yet made an electoral or opinion poll impact, include RenewDemocratsRadicalsSpring (update: and another one, Advance). And that’s without even getting into what Tony Blair or George Osborne have been getting up to. It’s all rather reminiscent of the long-standing joke about computer standards.

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