In his Liberal Democrat conference speech last month, Vince Cable said, “I see our future as a party of government.”
Modern studies classes at school taught me that what distinguishes political parties from pressure groups is that political parties seek government (or at least power). This point was drilled into me.
I remember not being so sure about that at the time. Did the Green party see itself as a party of government? Possibly. Ukip was beginning to flex its muscles. Has Ukip ever seen itself as a potential party of government? They may say they are, but I’m not so sure that has ever been their goal.
And why would they seek government?
Ukip is a party that has delivered on its core policy, removing the UK from the EU. Our politics are now completely dominated by this.
This is despite Brexit not having been the official policy of any major party. And despite the fact that Ukip only ever got one poxy MP elected — and even he was a defector from the Conservatives.
What they had was a one-man self-publicity machine who got his way — not through electoral success, but by plonking himself in TV studios and thumping tubs while others weakly looked on.
They had a thoroughly nasty and damaging agenda. But they had a vision and the ability to articulate it to the masses.
Maybe we need a bit more of that, rather than making glum and vague aspirations to one day get into government so that we can tinker a bit for a few years.