UK Politics

Vince Cable: I was a victim of Tory-peddled fear

Vince Cable Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Cable was defeated in Twickenham, a seat he had held since 1997

Vince Cable has said he lost his seat at the general election because of a Conservative campaign of "fear".

The ex-Lib Dem MP said warnings of chaos, "Ed Miliband's socialism" and the SNP frightened voters in England into supporting David Cameron's party.

But he said it would come back to haunt the Tories as it had "unleashed" both English and Scottish nationalism.

Mr Cable lost his seat in Twickenham after 18 years to the Tories, who overturned a 12,000 majority.

The party suffered a string of dispiriting losses, ending up with just eight MPs, down from 57 in 2010.

'Devastating effect'

In an analysis of why the Liberal Democrats performed so badly, Mr Cable wrote in the New Statesman that "fear" won the day.

He said the general election campaign in Scotland encapsulated "optimism, pride and national self-confidence", whereas in England "the opposite happened".

"Fear triumphed over hope: fear of 'chaos'; fear of Ed Miliband's socialism; fear of being held to ransom by the Scots.

"This fear was carefully - brilliantly - mobilised by the Conservatives and used to devastating effect in a targeted campaign that included 23 Tory-facing Lib Dem seats (all lost)," he said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Nick Clegg resigned as Lib Dem leader after the party's resounding electoral defeat

"I know; I was a victim of it. My comfortable majority disappeared as thousands of suburban Londoners quietly feared for their (generally prosperous) existence."

But fear was "not anger", he said, adding he had never been through an election "and been greeted with, and misled by, so much personal goodwill and affection on the doorstep".

The former business secretary suggested that tactical voting played a part, with people choosing to vote for national - rather than local - reasons.

"The fear of a weak, Labour-led UK government being held to ransom by the SNP was just too much for a lot of my voters," he said.

'Betrayed and bitter'

But he predicted the "politics of fear may come back to haunt" the Conservative Party.

"It has unleashed English - alongside Scottish - nationalism. Ultimately this may prove more dangerous to them than the traditional enemies of Conservatism.

"They have started a fire and clever [Conservative election strategist] Lynton Crosby will no longer be around to advise them on how to put it out."

Offering an analysis of Labour's election woes, Mr Cable said he thought the seeds were sown before Ed Miliband was even elected Labour leader in the wake of the 2010 election.

"I recall the howling, angry, self-righteous sea of Labour faces on the benches opposite (in 2010). Furious at loss of office, bitter at the sense of betrayal (by Nick Clegg in particular) and without a shred of humility," he said.

He also said he thought Scots living in London were the most fearful of Scottish nationalism, as they "resented" the idea of "their country - Britain - being redefined without their consent, and without being consulted".

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