by Stephen Tall on December 4, 2007
Anthony Barnett, over at the OurKingdom blog, is in super-optimistic mood about the current state of the Lib Dems:
For the first time since the First World War the Liberals are defining popular feeling thanks to Vince Cable. They have been hegemonic before (meaning dominating and setting the framework of thought rather than directing it) when two liberals, Keynes and Beveridge, set the terms though not the politics of the welfare state for post-war Britain. Since then they have striven to be popular and influential, usually by being earnest and worthy (and sometimes by being cheap, cheerful and inebriated). But even when Paddy Ashdown was clearly the best man in the Commons for the top job there was something needy, marginal and outmaneuvered about being a Liberal Democrat. This sensation of good but doomed was never greater than with Ming Campbell. Now Vince Cable has achieved the most surprising breakthrough of all in a period of astounding reversals.
This week he has punctured the Prime Minister’s image of strength and foresight by casting him as a comic Mr Bean creating chaos by his obsession with detail and caution. Unfair? Not half as unfair as the treatment meted out to the Lib-Dems over the years. The damage to Brown will be great. The damage to the Conservatives could be greater if they become the number two opposition party with everyone in Prime Minister’s question time waiting impatiently to get the polished Etonian gamesmanship over and done with before the Lib Dems make the strike that matters. How well the new leader, Clegg or Huhne, work with the well-focused judgement of Vince the hegemon will now determine his success. Done right and both of them could end up in a future cabinet.