EXCL Vince Cable delays Lib Dem rulebook shake-up after pressure from party bosses
Vince Cable has delayed plans to implement a set of sweeping rule changes to the way the Liberal Democrats pick their leaders after pressure from party bosses, PoliticsHome can reveal.
At a meeting of the party board on Monday night the veteran MP revealed he was dumping hopes for a special conference in the coming months at which members would have decided on constitutional changes.
It comes after Lib Dem board members raised concerns that a special conference could be a waste of money and a distraction from campaigning on Brexit and other major issues facing the country.
Sir Vince wants to usher in a new free supporters scheme which would allow sign-ups to vote in leadership elections. He also wants non-MPs to be able to stand for the leadership in a bid to revamp the party.
He had been mulling holding a special party conference in early 2019 to allow members to vote on the plans, but told board members on Monday the decisions would be pushed back to the Lib Dem spring conference in March.
One source who was at the meeting said: “Vince pulled the special conference idea before we got in the room as he knew he’d lose if it went to a vote.”
Another said Sir Vince “saw the sense” that there was no need to “spend lots of time and money on internal decision making when we should be concentrating on fighting Brexit and doing well in the local elections”.
The source added that the idea for a supporters' scheme was well received and could be launched early next year, but that the other proposals would go to the spring conference.
A Facebook post by Lib Dem president and board chair Sal Brinton said: “Some members will be aware that the leader had asked the board to consider calling a special conference so that the whole package could be debated and voted on by members earlier.
“However, Vince agreed with the Board last night that the proposals could be debated in the Spring.
“He thanked the Board for their commitment to proceeding with the establishment of a supporter scheme and for being clear that members should decide at Spring conference on the detail of that scheme.”
A senior Lib Dem source said: “Vince was always open minded about the need for a special conference.”