Vince Cable has warned the Lib Dems they need a wider agenda than just opposing Brexit in order get back into power.
In his keynote speech to his party’s conference in Bournemouth on Tuesday, the Lib Dem leader told activists to avoid becoming “Ukip in reverse”.
“I want our party to lead the fight against Brexit,” he said. “But we should not be consumed by Brexit to the exclusion of everything else.
“We are not a single-issue party. I see our future as a party of government.”
In his speech, Cable said the Lib Dems were “not just a Coalition partner of the past” but “the government of the future”.
He added: “And my role, as your leader, is to be a credible potential prime minister”.
The speech was Cable’s first as leader, having taken over from Tim Farron in the wake of the general election.
Layla Moran, the newly elected Lib Dem MP for Bath, told party members at a fringe event earlier this week that while Cable’s claim he could become prime minister was “good fun” it was not necessarily realistic.
“There is a portion of the wider party that still kind of believes this too, that somehow we are going to go back into government at any moment- And I think we need to kind of accept we’re not,” she said.
But Lib Dem peer Baroness Ludford told HuffPost UK the party was “not fanciful” about its chances of returning to power soon. “OK, Vince said he could be prime minister, but there is no harm in talking up your own chances,” she said.
And one former Lib Dem minister told Cable was right to set the bar high. “Does he expect to be going into No.10 in the next couple of years? I suspect not. But the point is, as a third party, if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s quite difficult to persuade anyone else to,” the minister told HuffPost UK.
In his speech, Cable said Theresa May was delivering a “compelling display of weak and wobbly government” beset by internal divisions over Brexit.
And he attacked Jeremy Corbyn for trying to voters “something for nothing” with all his spending commitments “paid for by someone else”.
Cable added of Labour: “For them budgeting is just a bourgeois hobby.”
This week the Lib Dems committed the party to opposing Brexit and pushing for a referendum on the eventual deal negotiated with Brussels.
Cable told his party Brexit was the “product of a fraudulent and frivolous campaign led by two groups of silly public school boys reliving their dormitory pillow fights”.
He added: “Brexit was described by the Brexit Secretary himself as an operation of such technical complexity that it makes the moon landing look simple.
“I have to say it is a pity that the Brexit landing is being managed by people who would struggle to get their heads around a toddlers’ lego set.”
Cable made the comments as Boris Johnson insisted he was not set to reisgn from the cabinet over differences with May over the Brexit process.
The product of a fraudulent and frivolous campaign led by two groups of silly public school boys…
…reliving their dormitory pillow fights.
And thanks to Boris Johnson, they have degenerated into a full scale school riot with the Headteacher hiding, barricaded in her office.
Brexit was described by the Brexit Secretary himself as an operation of such technical complexity that it makes the moon landing look simple.
I have to say it is a pity that the Brexit landing is being managed by people who would struggle to get their heads around a toddlers’ lego set.
These are people who live in a world of infantile fairy tales.
Jeremy Corbyn’s acolytes are focused on how to maximise the contradictions of capitalism.
You don’t qualify for the Labour Shadow Cabinet these days unless you have studied the Venezuelan guide on how to bankrupt a rich economy.
It’s no wonder they backed Brexit.
It’s no wonder they lined up behind Theresa May, maximising the chances of chaos and disruption.
What the people want…
…What the country now desperately needs is some political adults.
That’s you. That’s us.