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Sir Vince Cable says he is ‘plausible’ candidate for prime minister

Sir Vince said the Lib Dems needed to present themselves as a party of government, not just a voice of protest.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has insisted he is a credible candidate to be the next prime minister.

Despite heading a party with just 12 MPs, Sir Vince said he could replace Theresa May in Downing Street.

The Lib Dem leader 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.

“I think British politics is in a remarkable state of flux. You have got the Conservative Party in an open civil war – complete breakdown of discipline.

“You have got the Labour Party in a suppressed civil war. They had a good election, and Jeremy Corbyn is currently riding high. But, we know under the surface there is enormous discontent about the extreme left.

“I, and my party, are the alternative.”

Asked if the Lib Dems could get a Commons majority, Sir Vince said: “It’s possible that we could break through. If British party politics starts to break up, if the traditional structures start to break up, and that could well happen, we are extremely well positioned with moderate, sensible policies.

“I am very confident talking about being an alternative prime minister.”

Sir Vince joins an anti-Brexit protest. (John Stillwell/PA)

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Ed Davey also talked up Sir Vince’s Downing Street ambitions.

He told Sky News: “I think under Vince we have someone who is seen as a future prime minister. If you put him up against Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn, I think the majority of people would rather have Vince in Number Ten because he comes with huge credibility, particularly on the economy.”

Sir Vince said going back on the Lib Dem pledge not to raise tuition costs had damaged support as he suggested a graduate tax could be a better alternative to fees.

The former business secretary is using the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth to position the party as the voice of Remain voters as he rejects talk of the possibility of a soft Brexit.

Sir Vince said public opinion had not changed much since the Brexit referendum, but it would once the economic reality of withdrawal from the EU sank in.

He said voters should be offered a ‘first referendum on the facts’ once the terms of a Brexit deal were known so that the UK could vote on the option of staying in the EU.

Former Lib Dem leader Lord (Paddy) Ashdown told BBC Sunday Politics: “We’re such lovely people, Lib Dems, so decent, so moderate, so sort of soft voiced that sometimes I think we can come across with a slight poverty of ambition.

“Nobody ever accused me of that and I can’t accuse Vince. I mean, what are you in politics for?

“Are you really in politics to say, ‘dear British people, we love you very much, please can we go on being the third party?’ I don’t think so.

“You’ve got to go out there and try and campaign and I applaud Vince Cable for having an ambition that fits the scale of the task before us.”

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