So Vince Cable is now the new Lib Dem leader, after no-else opposed the 74-year-old Twickenham MP for the party’s top job. Of course, in the Lib Dems the ‘top job’ is a little less powerful than in other parties, thanks to a spider’s web of structures that mean the leader can’t always do what he (or maybe one day she) wants.
But Cable clearly knows what he does want to do, which is to make up for the party’s miserable election campaign in which Tim Farron spent far too much time having to talk about gay sex, and the rest of his party spent far too much time trying to defend him. He doesn’t have the same problems as Farron when it comes to making complicated arguments about conservative religious beliefs and liberalism, but Cable has already managed to suggest he hails from a different era of politics by making clumsy comments about gender and race no longer being an issue in politics.
The Tories respect Cable from the time they spent working with him in Coalition. But they also know his foibles as a politician, which would be handy for an organised Tory party that wasn’t consumed with fighting itself.
Today Cable sought to pitch his party as the only force in the centre ground, saying both the Conservatives and Labour had been taken over by ‘ideologues’ and that politics had lost its ‘basic common sense’. It’s difficult for anyone to disagree with that last statement, but Cable also called for an ‘exit from Brexit’. So the Lib Dems will continue with their unashamed pitch for angry Remain voters, regardless of how many others just want to get on with implementing the result of last year’s referendum. If you’re going to make a pitch this strong, you can’t detract from your message with long theological debates. Cable knows how to do that, at least.