Sir Vince Cable sets out Lib Dem Brexit plan amid anger at Norman Lamb quitting

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable will set out his plan to foil Brexit.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable will set out his plan to foil Brexit. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Sir Vince Cable will set out his plans to develop an anti-Brexit, cross-party coalition when he declares to Liberal Democrat supporters: 'I am a proud saboteur.'

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has quit as Lib Dem health spokesman.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has quit as Lib Dem health spokesman. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The new leader is looking to finish his first conference at the helm on a high after a difficult few days in Bournemouth which saw North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb quit his front bench health role.

The central theme of the speech is Brexit as Sir Vince hopes to rally MPs and supporters of other parties to work with him to foil Britain's exit from the European Union.

He will say: 'We are not alone. There are sensible grown-ups in the Conservative party and the Labour Party and the Greens. And beyond them are millions of people deeply worried about what is happening.

'We have to put aside tribal differences and work alongside like-minded people to keep the Single Market and Customs Union, essential for trade and jobs; Europe's high environmental and social standards; shared research; help for our poorer regions; cooperation over policing and terrorism.


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'Europe, of course, needs reform but you don't achieve reform by walking away.

'Our position is clear: the Liberal Democrats are the party of Remain.

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'We will be denounced as traitors and saboteurs. I'm half prepared for a spell in a cell with Supreme Court judges, Gina Miller, Ken Clarke, and the governors of the BBC.

'But if the definition of sabotage is fighting to protect British jobs, public services, the environment and civil liberties, then I am a proud saboteur.'

His words will be seen as a clear call for rival MPs to defy their party and vote with the Lib Dems on Brexit.

He will also use the speech to attack former prime minister David Cameron and those Tories who pushed for a referendum: 'A disaster looms. Brexit. The product of a fraudulent and frivolous campaign led by two groups of silly public school boys living their dormitory pillow fights.

'And now, thanks to Boris Johnson, they have degenerated into a full-scale school riot with the head teacher hiding, barricaded in her office.

'In the real world, we have yet to experience the full impact of leaving Europe. But we have a taste of what is to come in the fall of the value of the pound.

'Foreign exchange dealers are not point scoring politicians. Their cold, hard, unsentimental judgement has been, quite simply, that Brexit Britain will be poorer and weaker after Brexit than if we had decided to stay in Europe.'

Sir Vince also takes aim at Labour saying 'you don't qualify for the shadow cabinet these days unless you have studied the Venezuelan guide on how to bankrupt a rich economy'.

Sir Vince will hope his biting words gloss over the resignation of Mr Lamb who claimed he wanted to spend more time concentrating on his new role as chairman of the science and technology select committee. But although he is adamant he remains loyal to the party and the leader some delegates have questioned the timing of his announcement.

One party source said delegates would be annoyed by Mr Lamb's shock move and questioned if there were other reasons behind him quitting. He said: 'We are a small party with not many MPs and this is our new leader's first conference. For Norman to make this announcement in the middle of it is damaging. There is no doubt about that.

'I think it has been timed to do damage. Of course just last week he wrote an article attacking the party as well. It is clear that he is not happy with things but I wonder if this is the best way to go about it.

'He could have stood in the leadership race against Vince – maybe he should have. But to be doing this kind of thing now is not helpful.

'I understand it must be tricky for MPs that have Leave constituencies like Norman does when the party is so pro-European. But if he is distancing himself from the party because of that I think it is rather foolish. I think he is going to find politics quite a lonely place in the future.'

At conference Mr Lamb will use his speech on health to highlight an increase in the use of private ambulances. He will say: 'This staggering rise in the use of private ambulances is a stain on this government's record.

'Ambulance services are simply not being provided with the resources or staff needed to cope with soaring demand.

'Growing reliance on private sector services is not only costly, inspections have also raised serious concerns over patient safety.

'The government must act now to reverse this trend, especially with another NHS winter crisis around the corner.'

Analysis

Publicly, at least, Norman Lamb backs his leader Sir Vince Cable.

'I remain a loyal member and I will be absolutely loyal and supportive of Vince,' he said when he quit as health spokesman.

But many in the party will question his timing: in the middle of Sir Vince's first conference as leader and on the eve of his own speech. It also comes on the back of a brutal assessment of the party in which he declared the Lib Dems were 'floundering'.

Mr Lamb is clearly not happy with the way the party is moving. And he knows that distancing himself from a leadership that is still promising a second referendum on Brexit will probably play well in leave voting North Norfolk. And the battle he had to cling on to the seat back in June will still be fresh in his memory.

Mr Lamb will be an excellent chair of the science and technology committee but it is unlikely that alone is the reason for him quitting the front bench.

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