- Matt Cardy / Stringer
- Vince Cable promises to take Liberal Democrats “back to government.” Lib Dem leader insists he is a credible future prime minister. He tells his party conference that they can still get an “exit from Brexit.” He mocks the government as squabbling “public schoolboys” and the Labour party as unreconstructed socialists.
LONDON – Vince Cable today promised to reverse Brexit and take the Liberal Democrats “back to government” as he made his first conference speech as party leader.
Speaking in Bournemouth, the former Lib Dem Business Secretary insisted that his party was now “the government of the future” as aides compared him to President Macron of France and Justin Trudeau of Canada.
“Our party is not just a Coalition partner of the past, we are the government of the future,” Cable told party delegates in Bournemouth.
Cable told delegates that he was now the only “credible potential Prime Minister” and asked them to “join me on the journey as we, together, take the Liberal Democrats back to Government.”
However, he conceded that the party still had a long way to go before they become relevant to the public again.
“For many voters, we still have to scrub ourselves hard to get rid of the smell of clearing up other people’s mess,” he said.
Asked about how credible Cable’s pitch to become prime minister was, given the party’s current low ratings in the polls, a spokesperson for the MP reminded journalists that “nobody thought Trudeau and Macron would end up in power.”
‘An exit from Brexit’
Cable insisted that under his leadership Brexit could be stopped, saying that the Lib Dems were the only party that could achieve an “exit from Brexit.”
Cable said the party would offer voters a referendum on either accepting the final Brexit deal, or staying inside the EU.
“This is not a call for a re-run,” he insisted.
“This is not a call for a second referendum on Brexit. This is a call for a first referendum on the facts.”
Cable suggested that many voters were misinformed about the EU.
“I am already getting a colourful correspondence from people of my own generation claiming that I have betrayed them,” he said. “That I have given up too easily on reinventing the British Empire and on the dream of Britain without foreigners. “I am still struggling, actually, to think of an answer to the woman who challenged me, in all seriousness, to explain how her Wiltshire village would cope with the arrival of 60 million Turks.”
Cable mocked the government’s “infantile” approach to Brexit, comparing senior members of the government to children squabbling over toys.
He said: “I have to say it is a pity that the Brexit landing is being managed by people who would struggle to get their heads around a toddlers’ Lego set.”
He also mocked those who oppose a second referendum as “being frightened of the people…and the facts,” adding that they “now believe in the slogan of dictators everywhere: ‘one person, one vote, once!’.”
On the attack
- Jack Taylor / Getty
Cable was also scathing about the opposition Labour party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, mocking him for his left-wing views.
“You don’t qualify for the Labour Shadow Cabinet these days unless you have studied the Venezuelan guide on how to bankrupt a rich economy,” Cable said.
Cable’s comments follow those by his predecessor Tim Farron, who told Business Insider that Labour had now become a “Trotskyist party.”
The Lib Dem leader also accused Corbyn of “sitting on the fence” on Brexit. One early draft of the speech, that was later amended, said that Corbyn was “in danger of being sliced up the middle by the serrated edge.”
“I believe Jeremy Corbyn would do a lot better to get off the fence and refurbish his revolutionary credentials. So Jeremy – join us in the Anti Brexit People’s Liberation Front!” he told delegates.