POL­I­TICS

Ca­ble: Not back­ing our push for new EU vote would be SNP blun­der

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Stur­geon and her col­leagues had not come out in sup­port of “EUref2” be­cause they thought it would harm their push for a se­cond in­de­pen­dence vote, Sir Vince said: “That would be a big blun­der, to put a mi­nor tac­ti­cal move ahead of the big pic­ture.”

Sir Vince, in an in­ter­view with The Her­ald as the party faith­ful gather this week­end in Bournemouth for their an­nual con­fer­ence, also said how they wanted to make Scot­land a “LibDem bas­tion” once more as they pro­moted them­selves as the “party of the two Unions”.

In the run-up to the June Gen­eral Elec­tion, the LibDems were hop­ing for big gains on the back of their unique of­fer on Brexit: a se­cond EU poll; “a ref­er­en­dum on the facts”.

But un­der Tim Far­ron’s lead­er­ship ex­pec­ta­tions were not ful­filled. Hav­ing slumped from 57 West­min­ster seats to just eight in 2015, this June the party gained only four more seats, three of which were north of the Bor­der. The LibDems re­main Bri­tain’s fourth party.

As with life at West­min­ster, Brexit will dom­i­nate the con­fer­ence sea­son. The LibDem leader claimed, af­ter talk­ing to sev­eral civil ser­vants who used to work for him in the Coali­tion years, there was a great deal of alarm the Prime Min­is­ter and her col­leagues were “just mak­ing it up as they go along”.

Sir Vince said he be­lieved Brexit was now go­ing so badly the LibDems’ flag­ship pol­icy of a se­cond EU poll was gain­ing at­trac­tion across the par­ties.

“Tories are say­ing

pri­vately: ‘Look, if we do get into a ter­ri­ble mess, this is one way of get­ting off the hook,’” he said.

The LibDem leader even sug­gested Mrs May might be­gin to be tempted by the se­cond poll idea given the dif­fi­cul­ties her Gov­ern­ment was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing as the clock ticked away.

He said: “If the Gov­ern­ment finds it­self in a year or 18 months with no agree­ment and a very dam­ag­ing out­come, then it’s pos­si­ble the whole process could grind to a halt. They may be tempted, as a grow­ing num­ber of peo­ple are, to take refuge in the pol­icy we have been pro­mot­ing; to give the pub­lic a vote.”

When it was sug­gested Ms Stur­geon and her col­leagues had not come out in sup­port of EUref2 be­cause they thought it would harm their push for a se­cond in­de­pen­dence vote, Sir Vince said: “That would be a big blun­der, to put a mi­nor tac­ti­cal move ahead of the big pic­ture.”

Now 74, Sir Vince brushed aside any sug­ges­tion he was too old to be the LibDems’ leader, deny­ing he had done a deal with his deputy, Jo Swin­son, 37, for her to take over in a cou­ple of years.

When it was pointed out to the Twick­en­ham MP that by the time of the next sched­uled elec­tion in 2022, he would be four days short of en­ter­ing his 80th year, he replied: “Yes, well. I point out the gen­tle­man on my walls, Glad­stone, who went into of­fice aged 82. This is the ex­treme sce­nario. As of now and for the fore­see­able fu­ture, I’m very fit, up for it and per­fectly happy to do it.” NEWS of the week is that Scot­land’s lead­ing clas­si­cal com­poser (and online Nat basher) Sir James MacMil­lan has writ­ten a piece in hon­our of rightwing colum­nist Stephen Dais­ley. Mr Dais­ley, you may re­call, quit STV ear­lier this year af­ter SNP MPs moaned about his out­put. What US au­di­ences will make of the finer points of a Scot­tish me­dia “gag­ging row” is un­clear, but it de­buts next year in New York. Un­spun stands ready for a free­bie for the open­ing.

FRESH news too on the “French­gate” saga that landed LibDem Scot­tish Sec­re­tary Alis­tair Carmichael in court ac­cused of ly­ing to vot­ers to win his seat. Cen­tral to the af­fair was his spe­cial ad­viser, Euan Rod­din, who leaked a dam­ag­ing, but duff, ac­count of the FM chat­ting to a French diplo­mat be­fore the 2015 elec­tion. The in­de­fati­ga­ble Mr Rod­din is now the Ad­viser to the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral at the Coun­cil of Europe. Tres bon!

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