As I’ve covered on several times over the last year here and in Liberal Democrat Newswire, Vince Cable is interested in talking with those outside the party about how to break the current political system.
There have been a consistent five strands to this approach, which to recap for more recent new readers (hello and welcome!) are:
- Putting the Liberal Democrats at the heart of policy debate: “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.”
- Reforming and strengthening the Liberal Democrats, such as via a registered supporters scheme – with a particular view to possible changes to the current party system. The stronger the Lib Dems are, the better placed the party will be to make the most of them and to shape them in the way we want.
- Yes to talking to and cooperating with those outside the Liberal Democrats: as Vince Cable has put it, “[One] step is to break down tribal taboos by working with other parties. That is happening over Brexit in parliament, with dissident Labour and Conservative figures joining us in the centre to defeat the government.”
- Yes also to allowing local parties to make electoral arrangements with others, especially the Greens, as was done on his home patch in Richmond in the May local elections. This is the strand I’m most sceptical about (because of the lessons from the past about how there are better ways of cooperating to achieve common political aims). It’s also the strand where Vince Cable is being least pushy. The other four are all ones he is working to make happen; this one is more a case of him being happy that local parties are free to decide themselves whether or not to do this.
- No to wanting a new party: Vince Cable has already turned down an offer to lead a new party and he repeated his commitment to the Liberal Democrats today on his Facebook page.
Even so understandably that’s rather drawn attention again to his strategy of working with others. So his Facebook comments today are worth quoting in full:
The Liberal Democrats have a strong tradition of working with others across the political spectrum, to do the right thing. Very often, we have led a debate and found others coming in behind us. It happened with our opposition to the illegal war in Iraq; it happened on cutting income tax for the lowest earners; and now it’s happening on Brexit too. Our campaign for the people to get the final say on any Brexit deal was once derided by the political establishment. Now, more and more people are joining forces with us to get an exit from Brexit.
But something broader is happening too. I have always said that Brexit could lead to some form of realignment, since it has exposed so brutally the fact that there are really at least two Conservative parties, and at least two Labour parties, all fighting like rats in a sack. In that environment, I think it right that Liberal Democrats should set tribalism aside to work with others who share our values.
That does not mean that there should be a new party. Britain already has the big, strong, liberal, centrist political force – it is called the Liberal Democrats. Thanks to our 100,000 members, we are the strongest grassroots voice in Britain speaking out against Brexit and demanding a new and better politics. As the political landscape changes, I am determined that our party should win new support from the millions of people who are political liberals, but have not yet been persuaded to vote Liberal Democrat.
UPDATE: For more on Vince Cable’s approach, see 7 things to remember about Vince Cable, party reforms and recent media coverage.