The former business secretary told the Daily Mail he wants to leave the way open for the “next generation” to guide the party through Brexit. Sir Vince accepted there had been a “gradual rather than spectacular” recovery of the Lib Dems under his leadership but said he would stay on as an MP.
I wanted to set it out so that there’s an orderly process of succession
Sir Vince Cable
In a statement, the 75-year-old said: “I indicated last year that once the Brexit story had moved on, and we had fought this year’s crucial local elections in 9,000 seats across England, it would be time for me to make way for a new generation.
“I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like, succession unlike the power struggles in the other parties.
“So I wanted you, our members, to know that, assuming Parliament does not collapse into an early general election, I will ask the party to begin a leadership contest in May.
“It has been my great privilege to lead the Liberal Democrats at this crucial time. I inherited the leadership after two difficult and disappointing general elections.
“But I take pride in seeing the party recovering strongly, with last year’s local election results the best in 15 years, record membership and a central role in the People’s Vote campaign.”
Sir Vince said he would not become a backseat driver and would let the next leader set the course for the party.
He refused to name his preferred successor, saying: “We’ve got several very good internal candidates – you can work out who they are.
“The worst thing I can do is to start promoting them.”
Sir Vince told the Daily Mail he was announcing his departure now to pave the way for a leadership contest so a 12-week leadership contest can begin in May.
He said: “I wanted to set it out so that there’s an orderly process of succession and the next generation can come through rather than chaotic power struggles you’re seeing inside the Tory party and Labour party so I wanted us to do better than that.
“My wife Rachel has been very supportive of my time as leader and doesn’t mind me doing it and has come round the country with me, but she would like to spend more time with me.
“I think she will see it as a bonus that she sees me more.
“I’ll be continuing as an MP. I want to get back to writing books again in my spare time.”
Sir Vince became leader of Lib Dems in July 2017 after facing no other competition for the role.
He is the oldest leader of a major UK political party since Sir Winston Churchill.
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