“Strong and Cable” Leader Blames Brexit
The new leader of the Liberal Democrats is the 74-year-old former business secretary Vince Cable who was named party leader on Thursday after Tim Farron stood down. Following the disappointing results of the general election, Farron announced on 14 June that he was resigning because “remaining faithful to Christ” was incompatible with his party leadership.
For Farron, “To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.” He served as leader until the summer recess 790and was succeeded by Cable yesterday, who was the only candidate for the leadership. Farron praised the new Lib Dem leader and said he would be “strong and Cable.”
Cable wants the Lib Dems to continue occupying the middle ground in British politics, especially now when Brexit has polarised voters. Sir Vince has worked with the French president when Emmanuel Macron was a minister in Francois Hollande’s government and he feels that they both share a “similar approach” to politics. He stated that "The Tories have effectively been taken over by hard-line anti-Europe zealots and equally, we've got the Labour Party in the hands of the hard left. What I call the centre ground of moderation and common sense has largely been abandoned and we should occupy it."
Cable wants to offer an exit from Brexit and he is supporting the idea of a second referendum on the EU so that British people are given the right to decide on the final Brexit deal, including the option to remain. He said: “What we now need is an exit from Brexit. The exit from Brexit comes as a result of the policy that we have adopted, which is that we must consult the British public at the end of the process. Voters should be asked, ‘Do you wish to accept what is coming down the track, jumping off the cliff and hoping there’s a tree to catch you, or do we want to stay within the European Union?’”
Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, the new leader said that he believed that Brexit might end up being “disastrous” and he was willing to work with other parties to retain access to the single market and the EU’s four indivisible freedoms: freedom of people, capital, goods and services. He added that there is a possibility that Brexit might not happen because of the divisions and the problems that it has created.
He defended Philip Hammond and his struggles with Brexiteers in the cabinet saying that “You’ve got Boris Johnson in short trousers, and Dr Fox in nappies. In that company he [Hammond] deserves some qualified support.”
Public Finances: It’s all Brexit’s Fault
Cable blamed Brexit for the rising deficit, after today’s public finances weakened this month. According to figures released today, Britain borrowed more than expected in June with the UK’s public net borrowing requirement jumping up to £6.9bn in June 2017, £2bn more than in June last year. While economists expected the monthly deficit to drop to £4.7bn, the figures today were disappointing and show that Britain had borrowed up to £22.8bn since the start of the fiscal year in April. Inflation and EU contributions pushed Britain’s borrowing up, and, as the report shows, Britain is on track to borrow more this financial year than the last one.
Cable said that those who voted for Brexit believing that more money would have been available for healthcare were seduced by the Brexiteers’ talk. He explained that: “This rise in borrowing is a direct consequence of the dramatic fall in the pound since last year’s Brexit vote. Instead of the £350m for the NHS that was promised, people’s living standards are falling and borrowing is going up. It shows why we need to offer people an exit from Brexit. Nobody voted last year to become poorer or to increase the amount of their taxes spent on paying down the national debt.”
As an economist, Cable said that he wants to bring reforms and change politics, addressing current “inequalities that disfigure British society.” The deputy leader of the Lib Dems, Jo Swinson, said that Cable “was a sage on the financial crisis and keeps a calm head in times of crisis. When Vince speaks people listen, so our distinctive liberal voice will be heard.”
Farron applauded Cable for his skills as a “campaigner and a statesman” who is aware of the divisive language of certain politicians who have misled the people and said that this “is no time to allow our destiny to be in the hands of fools or extremists. This is the time for a fresh start.”