Vince Cable eyes local election gains ahead of final conference as Liberal Democrat leader

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has said the party will build on what it’s achieved on Brexit and hopes to make big gains at May’s local elections, as he enters his final conference as leader.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable. Credit: Tony Johnson
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable. Credit: Tony Johnson

The 75-year-old former Business Secretary this week announced that he planned to step down as head of the party after being in the top job for almost two years.

He revealed that he would step down in May, making way for “a new generation” of aspiring political leaders from within the Liberal Democrat ranks.

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But this weekend his focus is on the party’s Spring Conference, held in York.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of the gathering, he said that his focus was on frustrating the Brexit process, winning back support at the forthcoming local elections and relaxing party rules to expand its popular appeal.

“There are three things,” he said. “Bringing everyone up to speed on Brexit. The party’s achieved a lot in keeping alive the People’s Vote as the no Brexit option.

“Secondly it’s a rally for the local government elections in May which are actually rather big this year. We did well last year and we will do hopefully much better in May and we have a strong base in local government that we want to build back up again.

“The third thing is internal - we are making constitutional changes to make the party somewhat more open to supporters not just our inner group of members.”

Reflecting on the last few months in Westminster, Mr Cable said he was disappointed that the group of disaffected Labour and Tory MPs who broke away from their parties to form the new Independent Group had not joined the Liberal Democrats instead.

“It would have been a bonus if they had,” he said.

“But I wasn’t surprised and I don’t see it as a problem. I think the important thing is that we recognise that we have a lot of common ground and we learn to operate together as far as possible.

“But they have their own group and their own identity and we respect that. I think the test will be whether we can develop a grown up cooperative relationship with them.”

On Brexit, Mr Cable said: “It’s still pretty chaotic. We have resolved a lot of negative things. We don’t want her deal and we don’t want no deal. Where we go next is still very much up for grabs.”