Vince Cable’s decision to speculate publicly about a post Nick Clegg leadership race is a significant moment. To be sure, saying ‘I wouldn’t exclude it’ about running for the job is a long way from launching an actual challenge. But it is not the answer that a politician gives if they want to stop all speculation.
There’s long been gossip at Westminster that Cable’s interest in the leadership has revived — and this interview appears to confirm that. It is worth remembering that Cable only didn’t run last time because he thought that the party wouldn’t pick another veteran as leader after the Ming Campbell disaster. So, there’s unfulfilled ambition there.
It is easy to envisage a scenario in which Clegg stands down and Cable takes over the leadership because he’s the candidate acceptable to both wings of the party — one can imagine both Tim Farron and Jeremy Browne serving under him — and because he’d be regarded as giving Lib Dem MPs the best chance of saving their seats. Oddly, the tuition fees u-turn hasn’t stuck to him as it has to Clegg despite it being done by his department. The principle that young cardinals vote for old popes might also apply in these circumstances.
Given that a hung parliament remains one of the most likely outcomes of the next election, who leads the Lib Dems into it is crucial. One senior Labour figure privately predicts that ‘if Vince Cable is the next Lib Dem leader, Ed Miliband will be the next Prime Minister.’Tags: Coalition, Jeremy Browne, Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, Tim Farron, Vince Cable