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With Labour And The Tories Now At Extremes, The UK Needs The Lib Dems More Than Ever Before

04/10/2017 17:31 BST | Updated 04/10/2017 17:31 BST
Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.K.'s Liberal Democrat Party lanyards sit at the party's annual conference in Bournemouth, U.K., on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. Cable said U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May should fire her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, over an article he published on Saturday about Britains departure from the European Union. Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In Manchester, this week, we've seen another chapter in the slow demise of the Conservative Party.

Its leader, Theresa May(be), looks repeatedly like a deer in the headlights...wondering when the political cars headed her way, which she's managing to miss by mere inches, will finally connect and knock her out.

Her interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday was embarrassing. Unable to say that Boris Johnson is sackable, despite his repeated undermining of her and clear plan to steal her (broken and discredited) crown. Dodging Marr's questions, even more than normal.

Claiming to want a 'country that works for everyone' but unable to set out how she hopes to achieve this...largely because she remains wedded to the austerity agenda which has left many having to queue for foodbank vouchers and pretty much a whole generation of young people worse off than their parents and with no hope at all of being able to achieve the British Dream of being part of what Margaret Thatcher once termed a 'property owning democracy.'

This is where seven years of Tory misrule has brought us. And, yes, as Lib Dems were part of the government for five of those seven years so my party has to take its share of the blame for that too.

Though I would add that the best, most progressive things to come out of the 2010-2015 Coalition Government were Lib Dem achievements: taking millions of low paid workers out of income tax altogether, the pupil premium, same sex marriage and so on. But, let's be frank, Clegg and Co should have done far more to stop the most pernicious parts of the Cameron's Conservatives.

But, that was then and this is now. The Liberal Democrats, now with twelve MPs in the Commons and 100,000 plus members in the country (making us, reportedly, the second largest Britain-wide political party... behind Labour, but overtaking the Tories) we, whilst still having a long road ahead, are back as a serious force in UK politics.

With Vince Cable as our leader-a man trusted and liked by the British public, a man with a proven record on economics, a man who understands that we need a genuinely mixed economy where both business and workers have a vitally important role to play, a man who says rightly that charities should be there to add value not be forced to do more and more for less and less-we have a chance to seize the centre/centre-left, which has been abandoned by the Tory and Labour parties as they've gone to the political extremes.

The Liberal Democrats, the trustees of two great political traditions, liberalism and social democracy, are presented now with the opportunity we've longed for since our cataclysmic defeat in 2015. We are now the adults in the room.

Whilst Labour becomes an unedifying personality cult around the hard-Left leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and the Tories, now on the hard-Right, are riven by rows and divisions over Brexit, my party can be the pragmatic progressives, providing hope but also rational policy answers.

The Lib Dems are united, have a clear position on the need-following a referendum on the facts, when the final 'deal' is presented by May and Co-for an exit from Brexit, and have a leader and shadow cabinet chocked full of talent... including many who held Ministerial office comparatively recently, whereas very few of Corbyn's top team have ever held government posts.

I don't pretend that we'll do a Trudeau and take the Lib Dems from third to first place in one go... but do I foresee a set of circumstances, such as a Government of National Unity, whereby-even as the leader of the third party-Vince Cable could become Prime Minister? Absolutely. Not likely, perhaps, but far from impossible either.

And who, if they're honest and not part of the Corbyn cult, can deny that Cable is a far more attractive, realistic, pragmatic and progressive alternative Prime Minister than the present Labour leader?

So, now is the time to stop saying sorry for our years in government; time to turn back to campaigning, to the community politics we can do so well; fighting for the liberal and social democratic values which we, alone in British politics today, have at our heart. This must be the Liberal moment.

It's time to go back to our constituencies and prepare... to save our nation!