Vince Cable to step down as Liberal Democrats' leader after local elections in May
Former business secretary moving aside for ‘next generation’ of politicians
“I indicated last year that once the Brexit story had moved on, and we had fought this year’s crucial local elections in 9,000 seats across England, it would be time for me to make way for a new generation,” the politician said in a statement.
“I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like, succession unlike the power struggles in the other parties.”
Mr Cable’s announcement is timed to coincide with Liberal Democrats’ spring conference in York, which begins on Friday.
His successor will be selected in a 12-week leadership contest, which will begin in May.
“It has been my great privilege to lead the Liberal Democrats at this crucial time,” Mr Cable said.
“I inherited the leadership after two difficult and disappointing general elections.
“But I take pride in seeing the party recovering strongly, with last year’s local election results the best in 15 years, record membership and a central role in the People’s Vote campaign.”
The 75-year-old said he would continue to work as an MP but would not become a “backseat driver”. He also refused to endorse any one candidate to replace him, in an interview with The Daily Mail.
“We’ve got several very good internal candidates – you can work out who they are. The worst thing I can do is to start promoting them,” he said.
Jo Swinson, the party’s deputy leader, praised Mr Cable following the announcement.
“He has led the party with calm authority in our campaign for a People’s Vote and has laid the foundations for us to build on as we fight not only against Brexit but for a brighter future for our country,” she said.
“It has been an honour to work with Vince for a more open, liberal & tolerant Britain. He has helped Lib Dems through challenges of last two years and led us to some of our best local election results in a decade – and I’m confident we’ll celebrate another strong set of wins in May.”
Ms Swinson is widely considered to be a potential leadership candidate.
“Vince has just announced that, unless the country collapses into an early general election, he will be calling a new leadership election in May,” Layla Moran, the party’s education spokesperson, added.
“I want you to know how grateful I am for all you’ve done,” Ms Moran said, addressing Mr Cable directly on Twitter.
“Thank you so much for your service to the party and Brexit.”
Mr Cable told The Daily Mail that giving up the party leadership would let him spend more time with his family.
“My wife Rachel has been very supportive ... And doesn’t mind me doing it and has come round the country with me, but she would like to spend more time with me. I think she will see it as a bonus that she sees me more,” he said.