The Liberal Democrats’ tainted reputation from the Coalition Government puts Vince Cable in a delicate position of trying to restore the popularity the party had once.
Cable’s biggest challenge is trying to break the momentum which Jeremy Corbyn has built following the snap election this year. The student vote has been critical to Lib Dem successes in previous years, but it is doubtful he will be able to regain it. Rather, his best hope is to target centrist voters within the Labour party, and pro-EU Tory voters who are disgruntled with the internal party squabbles. With the Conservatives swinging further to the right and Labour swinging further to the left, there is a gap in the centre of British politics which the Lib Dems could fill.
It is unlikely that Cable will take the Lib Dems back into a position of power.
His reputation as an economist is high, but whether Cable’s public image is good enough to get a strong following is another matter. Although he is well respected, he does not excite people the same way that Jeremy Corbyn does. Furthermore, Cable’s high-profile role in the Coalition Government has led many on the left to label him as a ‘closet Tory’. It is possible that these attacks could resurface, to keep the centrists in the Labour party from joining the Lib Dems.
Cable is the most sensible appointment for leader of the party, with one of the most pressing political issues being how the Government handles Brexit. His pro-EU stance will be a welcomed voice to challenge the Government on how the UK handles its exit from the EU. However, his decision to continue the Lib Dem policy of a second EU referendum will, in my opinion, have a negative impact on the party’s support if there is another election in the next two years. Thus, Cable’s leadership will largely be based around challenging the Government for a ‘soft Brexit’, rather than making the Lib Dems legitimate contenders for Number 10.
It is unlikely that Cable will take the Lib Dems back into a position of power, but his time as leader is clearly meant to be temporary. It may be a long time before they are as popular as they were in 2010, so Cable’s largest responsibility is offering a pro-EU opposition in Parliament. After that, the party needs to find a younger, more progressive leader who can regain the support they have lost over the last few years.
Opinion pieces are the view of the author and in no way reflect the views of Forge Press.
Words by Thomas Hunt
Image credit: Office of Nick Clegg