What We Need From Vince

What We Need From Vince

The following is an opinion piece by Field Consulting’s Jon Andrew, who is a Lib Dem member. The piece was originally published by Lib Dem Voice at the following link http://www.libdemvoice.org/what-we-need-from-vince-54970.html

In terms of our national campaign, the 2017 election was a failure. Yes, we increased our number of MPs, but this was not because of a coherent and appealing overall message, it was because of 12 very hard fought local campaigns, and good strategic pooling of resources into target seats.

The leadership of the Party assumed that the main dividing line among the electorate would be Remainers vs Leavers, and so led with our vehement opposition to Brexit, but this did not resonate. Corbyn’s luke-warm-at-best Remain credentials did not put people off, and this is probably because the public themselves are a lot more luke warm on the issue than we are.

If I had to describe the mood of the country on Brexit right now I would describe it as “meh – let’s wait and see” rather than “let’s overturn the whole damn thing”. Indeed, a YouGov polling report published a few weeks before the election campaign started found that only 21% of the public favoured going against the result of the referendum. Perhaps this will change as the impact of Brexit on our daily lives becomes clearer, but for now, we have been making the wrong pitch.

But what is the right pitch? The most straightforward way for a third party to gain popular support is by painting the main two as the establishment options; too similar, too set in their ways of thinking, and then appealing to people’s frustrations by pitching themselves as the change from the norm. The difficulty here though is that the main two parties are not the same, and Corbyn is hoovering up all the anti-establishment sentiment in a way that we can’t compete with.

So we need to play to our strengths. Vince Cable is not going to seem like Mr Revolutionary but he can certainly seem like Mr Intelligent, Mr Economist. When he talks about budgets and deficits and borrowing he sounds like he knows what he’s on about, and he has had a long career, full of experience, to demonstrate this.

Going head to head with the Tories as the Party of “economic competence” may therefore be the way forward for us, challenging Theresa May’s hopeless “strong and stable” mantra and presenting Vince and the Lib Dems as the truly sensible, stable hand. Cable’s professorial air is a selling point, when Theresa May is increasingly seeming out of her depth and Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest drawback is the economic impracticality of his ideas.

So that’s my idea for what it’s worth. Pitch Vince Cable as a wise professor, not the kind who goes on stage at Glastonbury or gets his speeches dubbed over Stormzy videos, but the kind who genuinely knows what he is talking about, and is smarter and safer than the other options for Britain.