On Tuesday I’m going to be interviewing Vince Cable for an hour - yes, you read that right - in the LBC studio. 8-9pm, since you ask. It comes off the back of his speech on Friday, in which he essentially announced he’s entered the world of lame duckery. Any political leader who heralds their own political death inevitably sees their authority drain away, and I suspect that means that Vince Cable’s departure may be sooner than he had originally imagined.
In my view the LibDems have an enormous political opportunity, and it’s slightly perplexing that they are still polling in single figures. They ave a clear, unambiguous position on Brexit, which, in theory ought to appeal to 48% of the population. But it’s not happened for them. That’s one of the things I want to explore with Vince on Tuesday. How much does he think it’s down to him? It could be that he’s the right leader but at the wrong time. If he had been the LibDem leader back in 2010, I do wonder whether he’d have done a lot better. That would have meant that Nick Clegg might have then become leader in 2015 and we’d now be experiencing a bout of Cleggmania. Or not. We’ll never know.
But I do think that whoever succeeds Vince Cable needs to have a scattering of stardust about them. If only Chuka Umunna were a LibDem. The new leader needs to have ‘it’. Whatever ‘it’ is, Jeremy Thorpe had it in spades. Iain Duncan Smith didn’t. ‘It’ means turning heads when you walk into a room. It means being able to rouse a crowd. It means having a certain authority about you. It means performing well on TV. The ultimate leader with ‘it’ was Tony Blair, I suppose, but for the Liberals it was Jeremy Thorpe. Whatever his failings were - and there were many - if you wanted a charisma transplant, you’d want Jeremy Thorpe to be your donor.
It’s fashionable to think that Britain is crying out for a Macron type leader. Nick Clegg would have fitted the bill perfectly, but given he’s now out of parliament and seen as an unpopular figure in large parts of the country, I think we csan discount a Clegg comeback, even though if I were a LibDem I’d probably quite like that to happen. In Parliament the only other two contenders are Norman Lamb and Ed Davey. Both have many qualities but this has come at the wrong time. So it’s probably down to Jo Swinson, the current deputy leader and newly elected MP Layla Moran. Do either have ‘it’, though?
I found Vince Cable’s speech somewhat underwhelming. His war cry to join the ‘movement of the moderates’ was hardly something to get the juices flowing. What does it even mean? It might alliterate but that’s about all.
I can’t imagine Jo Grimond marching his ‘moderates’ towards the ‘sound of gunfire’.
After all, aren’t Liberals supposed to be the ‘radicals’ rather than the ‘moderates’?
Vince Cable will be with me in the LBC studio, taking your calls, from 8-9pm on Tuesday 11 September.