Ah, the Liberal Democrats. Remember them? The original ‘strong and stable’ coalition partners to the Conservatives now have a grand total of 12 MPs, following their near annihilation in 2015.
Amongst the casualties in that fateful election for the Lib Dems was the former Coalition Business Secretary Vince Cable. Following his two year re-acquaintance with the outside world, Cable is back in Westminster. With no other contenders in the field, the 74 year old is set to lead his party, and join the ranks of both Conservatives and Labour with an older leader replacing the incumbent. In politics, grey is in vogue.
But what will Vince do for the party? Outgoing leader Tim Farron may have had bundles of energy like a young pup, but lacked a name of recognition, and his apparent baggage of religious views was always going to limit the Lib Dem appeal. An agenda to seize ‘Remain’ voters failed to capture people’s imaginations (and enough Lib Dem seats), but as the Conservatives tact to the right, and Labour continue to be led by an old-school socialist, there is still that critical space for a pragmatic, centrist voice in British politics.
Whilst some die-hards may reckon Vince is tainted by the tuition fees rise (introduced under his watch) others will be glad that the party will at last have a grown up leader, with name recognition, and experience of governing. He famously skewered Gordon Brown during his brief stint as interim leader almost a decade ago, and whilst the party has a long way to go to climb to those heights again, stable Cable may just begin to make the party seem relevant again.