by Stephen Tall on January 3, 2009
The right-wing blogosphere is fairly wetting itself today, picking up on the ‘exclusive revelations’ of the Daily Mail’s Peter Oborne that Labour is allegedly cosying up to the Lib Dems in anticipation of a pact which would see Ming Campbell elected as Commons Speaker and Vince Cable installed as Chancellor:
Although the PM recognises that it would be inconceivable to elect another Labour Speaker, soundings have been taken among the Liberal Democrats. The Whips’ Office has already launched a campaign to get Labour MPs to back former LibDem leader Sir Menzies Campbell to become the new Speaker. This arrangement would mean that Sir Menzies (who, incidentally, possesses the personal distinction and authority to make a very good Speaker) is highly likely to get the job. Indeed, he would be the first Liberal Speaker of the Commons since William Court Gulley at the end of the 19th century. …
and all the signs are that Gordon Brown is warming to the idea of Vince Cable as Chancellor of the Exchequer in a government of national unity.
Personally, I think Mr Oborne’s story is worth much less than the sum of its parts; and, as so often, he’s parcelling up a number of events and some fevered speculation into a far-fetched package.
For a start, that the idea of ‘Lib/Lab cooperation’ is being broken by Mr Oborne himself is grounds for suspicion – if either parties wanted to prepare the ground, they could scarcely have chosen a less sympathetic journalist. And Mr Oborne is hardly plugged into the close counsels of either Nick Clegg or Gordon Brown.
Moreover, I find it hard to believe that Vince – a serious, grown-up politician – really believes that becoming Chancellor in Prime Minister Brown’s Labour cabinet would give him real power over economic policy. The evidence that Mr Oborne produces – a paragraph from Vince’s recent article for the Mail on Sunday emphasising the need for unity politics in times of economic crisis – seems very thin to me.
What I think is conceivable is that Mr Brown is laying some groundwork for warmer relations with the Lib Dems. Ming is a political friend of Gordon’s, respected on all sides of the Commons chamber. It’s easy to see why the Prime Minister might prefer Ming to the political storm that would greet attempts by Labour MPs to install a third successive Labour Speaker.
Similarly, the Prime Minister’s decision to allow Lib Dem shadow cabinet members to meet Whitehall’s permanent secretaries to discuss the party’s manifesto – traditionally a preserve only of HM’s Official Opposition – is pretty canny politics, simultaneously making nice to Nick, while cocking a snook at Dave.
Anyway, over to you, LDV’s readers – what do you reckon: if offered the job by Gordon Brown, should Vince Cable accept the post of Chancellor? Eyes right for the poll; use the comments thread below to give your reasoning…