Lib Dems can '˜break through' in eurosceptic seats, claims leadership hopeful Vince Cable
Lib Dem leadership candidate Vince Cable has spoken of his ambition to make big 'break throughs' in parts of the country that rejected his party at the election, as he dismissed suggestions that they have lost their ability to appeal to rural constituencies.
The former business secretary also shook off criticism about the lack of competition in the party’s leadership race, arguing that it will avoid an “exhausting and divisive campaign” during a period of uncertainty for the country.
The comments by the newly re-elected MP for Twickenham follow a mixed election result for the Lib Dems, which saw the party increase its numbers from 9 to 12.
However, they also lost two seats in Yorkshire –including key party heavyweight Nick Clegg – which Sir Vince has previously put down to voters not being “ready” for promises of a second Brexit referendum.
Speaking to reporters, the leadership hopeful offered a stark prediction that the public “mood” on Brexit could change quickly once the UK economy “begins to see the consequences”.
He added that it was down to his party “to build in the option” of a second referendum to allow for people’s “right to change their minds”.
He also rejected claims that the Lib Dems have become the party of “metropolitan, university cities” after failing to make gains in smaller cities and rural areas like North Yorkshire that heavily voted to leave the EU.
He said it was his “objective” to “make a break through” in these areas, despite the party falling from second to third place behind Labour.
“The electorate is very volatile, they have been offered two alternatives, neither of which I think are convincing of plausible,” he said. “I think we have an opportunity to break through the middle.
“In some of the areas we have done well we have come from a long way behind, and that will happen again,
“We’re not going to advance by small incremental steps. That’s not my objective, its actually to make a break through.”
Asked whether he would have preferred a full leadership contest rather than a “coronation”, Sir Vince said the situation has “pros and cons”.
“We could’ve spent months in an exhausting and divisive campaign – we wont have that, we can get down to work,” he said.
“And given the uncertainty in the country I think there are some advantages to that.”
He went on to pay tribute to the out-going leader Tim Farron, who he claimed “did a good job”.
And he repeated his warnings about the country’s record low interest rates, stating that “whole generation of people with debts” will be “hit very hard” once rates being to increase.
“We have never been in this position before, its artificial and its going to change... And when [voters] find that’s the environment in which they’re in, the whole political chemistry around [Brexit] will radically change,” he said.