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