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Strong and Cable? Vince runs for Lib Dem leader

20 June 2017 National News

Liberal Democrat veteran Sir Vince Cable is to run in the leadership race for the party’s top job after Tim Farron stepped down.

In a statement, the former business secretary said: “With 20 years on the national political stage I am passionate as ever about our liberal values.

“I am ready to commit my energy, enthusiasm and experience to the task of leading the Liberal Democrats through what will be a period of chronic uncertainty.

“With the prospect of another election looming large, we must be ready for the fight.”

Video: Lib Dems want to become the main opposition

The 74-year-old, who returned to the House of Commons as MP for Twickenham in the General Election, is the first contender to throw his hat into the ring to replace Tim Farron, who resigned earlier this month.

Former health minister Norman Lamb has also indicated he is considering going for the job, but hotly tipped East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson has ruled herself out, saying she will try to become deputy leader instead.

Former energy secretary Sir Ed Davey has also said he is giving “serious thought” to standing.

Sir Vince said he is ready to “work with like-minded people in other parties” to secure a second referendum on any Brexit deal, with the option to remain in the EU if the agreement on offer is deemed not good enough.

Tim Farron resigns as leader of the Liberal Democrats

Video: Farron bows out as party chief

He described Brexit as an “iceberg” about to hit the UK economy and said the Lib Dems should “warn of the dangers ahead and the need for a new course”.

Despite the fact that the party secured only 7.4% of the vote and 12 seats in the election, Sir Vince insisted “the political winds are moving in our favour”.

He said: “There are big opportunities ahead. The Conservatives are in disarray and in retreat. The Labour Party outperformed expectations but complacently believes that ‘one more heave’ will see it into office.

“But an economic policy based on offering lots of free things lacks economic credibility and will be found out. Investing in infrastructure, rather than borrowing for everyday running costs is credible.

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Video: Lib Dems defy the pundits to increase seat numbers

“There is a big space in British politics which I am determined that we should occupy.”

Sir Vince served as acting leader of the Lib Dems following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell in 2007, but declined to stand for the leadership at that point, saying that an older candidate would not be electable because of “irrational prejudice about age”.

If elected, Sir Vince would be the party’s oldest ever leader and the oldest leader of a major party since Sir Winston Churchill, who stepped down as Tory leader at the age of 80.

Mr Farron surprised many in his party by days after the election, saying his Christian faith had made him a “subject of suspicion”.

The leadership contest will run throughout the summer, with the new leader elected by party members in a postal ballot in time for the start of the Lib Dem annual conference in Bournemouth on 16 September.

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