On the night he was supposed to be launching the Progressive Alliance, former business secretary Vince Cable today announced it was “too late” because the Liberal Democrats “couldn’t work with the Labour party in its current form”.
On its homepage today, the Progressive Alliance – a movement led by the thinktank Compass, which aims to stop left-wing votes being split among different parties – still boasts Cable as one of its main speakers at a launch event tonight.
But instead, he spent Monday evening out canvassing in his Twickenham constituency.
Cable was originally the highest-profile supporter for an alliance between the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and Labour, and was one of six speakers listed at tonight's launch in London.
But speaking to BuzzFeed News in Hampton, on the outskirts of London, he said: “It’s too late [for a progressive alliance]. And in any event we couldn’t work with the Labour party in its present form and that’s why we’ve made it clear there’s no prospect of a coalition with Labour in its current state.”
Cable said of his billing on the site, “I sent apologies a couple of days ago. I never confirmed that I was going. I’ve done things with them in the past but the election’s now been called.”
He later added: “The candidates are now settled, right, so there is no question of pre-electoral agreements between parties, except in the case of the Greens where there’ve been localised understandings, as here. But in a wider sense, Labour’s not willing to play ball, and we frankly don’t feel like working with them under their current regime.
“That whole progressive alliance thing didn’t emerge in response to the election. It emerged because of the Brexit vote and because of people worrying about the aftermath and the position of European nationals. When I went to the first few meetings with Caroline Lucas and Clive Lewis and various others, it was about those issues. It wasn’t about 'how do we position ourselves for the next election'.
“At the moment we’re all focusing on our little patches. I’ve got to get in here. I’m not thinking about repositioning around everybody else.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has pledged the party would not form any coalitions after the election, a position that would have made Cable’s cross-party enthusiasm for a progressive alliance awkward.
Speaking about the impossibility of coalitions, Cable said: “The Tories have got into this hard Brexit mindset and the leadership of the Labour party have behaved quite appallingly over the whole Brexit issue so we’ve got little in common with either of them.
"We’re fighting our own battles, and absolutely categorically we’re not forming a coalition in the next government.”
Emily Dugan is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Dugan at email@example.com.
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