Sir Vince Cable has urged disillusioned Labour and Tory supporters to jump ship to the Liberal Democrats and sink Brexit on the eve of what is almost certain to be his last party conference as leader.
As the Lib Dems gather in Brighton some in the party remain unhappy at Sir Vince’s “slow motion resignation”, but the former business secretary is trying to put out a positive message as he talks up the prospect of creating a political middle with muscle.
Sir Vince insisted a fresh referendum on the terms of EU withdrawal was vital for the country.
He told the Press Association: “We enter this conference season with Brexit on a knife edge.
“It’s our duty to make sure we secure the people’s vote the country desperately needs.
“Hopefully, we can help Labour moderates put pressure on their leadership to join us in this fight.”
The Lib Dem leader added: “I want to make an open pitch to the people of this country who are fed up with the extremes of the current Conservative and Labour parties.
“Whether you see yourself as a liberal, social democrat, progressive, or centrist there is a home for you here, particularly as we fight Brexit together.
“I have made proposals to open up our movement to become an even more powerful force at the centre of British politics, standing up to power and privilege to bring fairness and opportunity for everyone.”
In a bid to confront widespread criticism of his leadership ahead of the conference, Sir Vince last week announced he would stand down once Brexit was “resolved or stopped”.
However, the move proved controversial as Sir Vince refused to set out a firm leaving date, insisting he would like to lead the party into the May local elections.
Sir Vince’s call for a major shake-up of party rules to allow a non MP to succeed him as leader and let people join the Lib Dems for free has also caused controversy.
The Lib Dems say 10,000 people have pre-registered their interest to become party members since Sir Vince outlined the proposed reforms.
The conference is likely to see a jostling for position among potential leaders like Sir Vince’s deputy Jo Swinson and former energy secretary Sir Ed Davey.