And they accuse the Tories of ‘banging on about Europe’! Down here at the Lib Dems’ conference in Bournemouth, they were speaking about little else yesterday. Anti-Brexit drone-drone-drone.
Conference-goers wore knitted EU berets (less stylish than Sir Ming Campbell’s Panama hat) and baggy EU sweatshirts.
A knot of blue flag-waving desperadoes gathered on a cliff overlooking the sea. Good grief, I thought: are they going to make the ultimate gesture and leap over the edge?
Inside the conference hall, ancients clapped furiously when anyone said: ‘We should exit from Brexit’.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable attends the Liberal Democrats annual Conference at the Bournemouth International Centre
One speaker referred to the EU as ‘the mainland’. And there was a nervous young man whose tongue took a mind of its own and made him plead for the party to have a ‘queer and unequivocal stance on Europe’. Oops. He possibly meant ‘clear’.
Several activists claimed that the Lib Dems were the only party to be ‘united’ in a view on Europe. This was not entirely true. A handful of souls voiced unease about the party so stubbornly setting its face against last year’s Leave vote in the EU referendum.
A lad called Andy from Wantage was in the process of telling the conference that it was a bad idea for ‘a governing class to ignore the will of the people’ when – brzzzzt – the red time-limit light burst into life and he was firmly told to return to his seat.
Niall Hodgson, a councillor from Sunderland, argued that opposing Brexit was ‘shackling us and you may have noticed it is not particularly popular’.
He said the party’s anti-Brexit stance made it very hard for him, in the north-east of England, to mention the national party on his campaign leaflets.
Mr Hodgson received some applause yet when it came to a vote he was ignored and the inmates voted to retain those shackles.
I really could become PM, says Sir Vince
Sir Vince Cable has insisted he is a ‘plausible’ candidate for prime minister as he set out his stall as leader yesterday.
He claimed he could replace Theresa May despite leading a party of only 12 MPs.
Asked about his prospects, the former business minister told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think it’s perfectly plausible, actually. As leader of the third UK party, my job is to be the alternative prime minister.’
Sir Vince said British politics was in a ‘state of flux’ with the Conservative and Labour parties both engaged in civil war. However his comments coincided with him being reported to police over his election expenses. Stuart Coster, co-founder of the People’s Pledge, said it sent a dossier to the Met detailing claims Sir Vince overspent by at least £4,000.
The group, which campaigned for an EU referendum, claims some of the leader’s ‘personal’ claims have been wrongly allocated to national spending.
Jo Swinson MP raged about the ‘anti-liberal forces’ which swept Donald Trump to office.
Actually, Trump is in some senses a liberal in that he is sceptical about centralised officialdom.
Lib Dems love telling other people how to live their lives whereas liberals are live and let live.
Miss Swinson is a classic of the genre. She delivers a speech with numerous golly-gosh facial gestures and ‘big fish’ hand movements but her patronising primary school-teacher ways are matched by a belief in a nannying elite.
If the Lib Dems want to identify their next leader they might be better advised to avoid la Swinson and consider a member of the Scots parliament, Alex Cole-Hamilton. He said he ‘wept bitterly’ at the Leave vote. He at least spoke in a more immediate, connecting way than drippy Swinson.
The current leader, Sir Vince Cable, did a Q&A session in the afternoon. Snoozy and pessimistic.
Meanwhile, a Macclesfield activist called Richard said that the conference ‘should not rule out’ the possibility of the Lib Dems winning the next general election. This was heard without laughter.
‘If I have to I will spend 40 years getting us back into Europe,’ cried Richard. ‘I want to change the world!’
Wera Hobhouse MP said she held regular marches through her Bath constituency to ‘take the pulse of Europe’. Former MP Julian Huppert ran up the steps to the stage to wail ‘I am proud to be a European citizen!’ and then jogged back to his seat, chest puffed. The sketchwriting guild misses Huppert. He was always good for business.
A squeaky-voiced gent from Hertfordshire spoke about the European Court of Justice but it was hard to understand, his teeth were whistling so much. Another man said the EU referendum was the sort of thing Hitler would have done.
Lisa from Hazel Grove claimed the Lib Dems had ‘a long and proud record of being right’. Another former MP and former MEP, Liz Lynne, said the party’s manifesto was ‘not properly understood by the electorate’ at the general election.
Those dimwit voters!