It seems like just yesterday that Vince Cable was the most popular Lib Dem in the land. Back in the heady days of the late noughties, Cable was regarded as the supposed seer who foresaw the banking crisis; a 'safe pair of hands' whose memorable jibe at Gordon Brown's transformation from 'Stalin to Mr Bean' provided much mirth to MPs across the House.
But much has changed in the decade since and the once well-regarded Liberal Democrat has been undergoing a transformation of his own. Cable, who stepped down from the Commons in 2019, has earned notoriety during the last year for his comments on the Chinese Communist party and the plight of the Uyghur Muslims under the regime.
— Beijing to Britain (@BeijingToBrit) July 27, 2021
🚨 | @Nigel_Farage talking China with Sir Vince CableCable:• Doesn't think genocide taking place in Xinjiang. "Calling it genocide is hyping the language."• Defends HK Gov re protesters - "there's got to be order"(Part one) pic.twitter.com/uuISHs8w8Z
Much to the ire of his onetime parliamentary colleagues, Cable has seemed content this summer to defend Beijing's actions and, in so doing, destroy what little remained of his reputation. In June the former Liberal Democrat leader wrote a piece for the Independent which denied that ethnic cleansing is going on in Xinjiang, despite reports of forced sterilisations and abortion.
Cable's defence that such measures were justified as counterterrorist 'crackdowns' prompted a furious retort from his party's foreign affairs spokesman Layla Moran who tweeted 'On this he isn't speaking for the @LibDems.' But despite the obvious embarrassment of his party comrades, Cable is yet to demonstrate any contrition for his comments.
This lack of an apology has now prompted the party's youth wing to demand Cable's expulsion and bar him from their conference. Cable's response was to suggest the Young Liberals were neoconservative puppets, telling the Evening Standard today: 'The anti-China campaign is orchestrated by the far right republicans in the USA and I am surprised to see progressive groups lining up with them.'
A spokesman for the Lib Dems told Mr S: 'Vince Cable does not speak for the party on this issue, we stand with the Uighur Muslims. The matter will be debated at our conference this Autumn, where our position will be put beyond doubt.'
Steerpike looks forward to seeing if the bright sparks succeed in pulling the plug on Cable.