I have a great respect for Sir Vince Cable. He is a competent leader and one of the very few current British politicians with what used to be called "bottom" - serious and successful experience in the wider world as well as in politics. So it pains me to criticise him, but his latest and much heralded pronouncement is wrong on two counts.
First, at a time when overwhelmingly the most serious issue in our politics is Brexit, this is not the time to distract attention with musings about arcane features of the party's rules (should non-MPs be eligible to become leader; should we create a second tier of non-paying "supporters" along with present members?).
At a time when the Labour Party has allowed itself to be obsessed with fine definitions of what is and what isn't antisemitism, and the Tories are immersed in the malfunctions of Boris Johnson's private life it is daft for the one proudly pro-European party to divert serious discussion even further with details of party organisation which, though important, are of little relevance to the biggest crisis in British politics since Lord North's mis-handling of the American Colonies.
Even more seriously Sir Vince has declared his aim to build a "movement of moderates."
We Liberals are not moderates: we are a party with a distinct position of the libertarian left (as opposed to Labour's position on the statist or authoritarian left). I hate to use the word "passionate" because it hints of the faux-enthusiasms which candidates for "The Apprentice" try to impress Alan Sugar.
But there is nothing "moderate" about Liberals' commitment to:
- Liberty, which we define as the maximum amount of individual freedom commensurate with the freedom of others:
- a much greater measure of equality, with a generous social security system to protect the weakest in our society and fair and effective progressive systems to tax wealth and income, both to finance a society which values every individual and to prevent some from becoming so powerful that they exert excessive influence over its operation:
- a reformed democracy with an elected second chamber, and proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies for the main chamber:
- genuine democratic "stake holder" participation in the organisation and of commerce and industry, and the distribution of the profits:
- substantial devolution of powers, safeguarded by a written constitution, to the constituent nations of the UK and regional and local governments:
- continued and enthusiastic membership of the European Union:
- dedication to the rule of law both nationally and internationally:
- wholehearted support to international organisations, romr the United nations downwards, no ifs, no buts - that's the way the future should go:
- a reformed world economic order, enabling the citizens of poorer countries to reach acceptable standards both physical and cultural:
- serious concern for the health and conservation of the planet:
- our defence tailored to current threats and our current status.
What I, and most Liberal activists, want to build is a party that proclaims this vision loudly and boldly, not one in the uninspiring centre which promises simply to avoid the worse excesses of the others.
Sir Vince is fully capable of leading the fight for such a society. He should