In an interview with Business Insider to mark one year as Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable highlights how he wants the party to be at the centre of radical changes to the political landscape – and how he wants the party to change radically too.
Vince Cable has long been one of the party’s senior figures most in favour of dealings of some sort with liberals in other parties, including formal electoral arrangements with the Greens in his part of London. That is one part of a small but noticeable groundswell of local arrangements.
But Cable’s eyes are on Westminster politics too:
“There are large numbers of Labour MPs and quite a lot of Tories who are just bitterly alienated by their own people. I can’t see the present system can be kept going. In the New Year, new groups may emerge.
“I’m not sure who or how they’ll be configured,” he said.
“But I predict it is going to happen and my instincts are that if they’re aligned with us on basic values, we can work with them. And that’s what I am campaigning for.”
The stronger the Liberal Democrats are, the more likely it is that such reshaping will have a clear Liberal Democrat flavour, and the more likely it is to succeed.
Cable insists they are now an “ideas factory,” and are talking to think tanks like the IPPR and Resolution Foundation about policies for addressing issues he believes led millions of people to vote for Brexit, like regional inequality.
He also has recently enlisted the help of Tom Pitfield, a political strategist who worked on the campaigns of Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, in modernising the party and attracting higher levels of support.
The reference to Canada is, in particular, a reference to the idea of opening up the party beyond its formal membership structures to welcome supporters in to some parts of what the party does. On that, see my round-up of what such a supporters scheme could look like and for lessons more generally from Canada, see Lessons from Canada for the Liberal Democrats.
All of which is good reason to come to Liberal Democrat federal conference this autumn if you can, because as another Business Insider piece reports:
Cable, who is this week celebrating the one year anniversary of his leadership of the Liberal Democrats, is preparing to announce these reforms at the party’s autumn conference in Brighton in September.
“We’ve been looking very carefully at the Canadian model,” Cable told Business Insider this week.
“There are two positive examples of insurgent parties who are coming back to life. One is France, but that situation is different from ours.
“But in Canada, which is quite similar to the UK, the centre-left party was in terrible trouble despite having been in government, and they thought about how to get back to where they were.”
He added: “Essentially, they decided it was about opening the doors, ceasing to be an inward-looking, membership club and broadening out.”