In today's Vince Cable news…

by Stephen Tall on January 10, 2009

Today’s Times has an in-depth interview with the Lib Dem shadow chancellor and deputy leader Vince Cable today. Lots of good stuff, as you might expect:

While Gordon Brown was declaring the end of boom and bust and David Cameron was sledging with huskies, Dr Cable, a former chief economist at Shell, was foretelling dark times. For years he was ridiculed for suggesting that property prices were too high, that household debt was out of control and that the banking system was fundamentally flawed. But now everyone wants to hear his prophecy for 2009. … Dr Cable supports a fiscal stimulus but thinks the VAT cut was the wrong solution. “The Government should have a proper public investment programme — social housing, environmentally friendly activities . . . What Obama is thinking about is about 100 times bigger than the British package.”

Noteworthy, in particular, is Vince’s response to whether a government of national unity should now happen, and whether he’d take a job in it. A week ago, the Daily Mail’s Peter Oborne hyped up the speculation alleging (on the basis of pretty much no evidence) that Vince was a major mover behind a Lib/Lab coalition and would accept the post of Chancellor if offered by Gordon Brown. Well here’s Vince in his own words:

If things get worse will the public want a government of national unity? “People might start getting into that way of thinking,” he replies. “But I think that’s quite a long way down the track.”Would he join such a government? “I back the idea of approaching these problems in a much more collegiate way,” he says. “In a crisis people don’t want politicians telling their opponents they’re all a bunch of idiots.” He would no longer describe the Prime Minister as Mr Bean, although he says: “I don’t think he is Mr Incredible. The image I would use of him is King Canute, the guy who ordered back the waves of boom and bust.”

Also interesting is Vince’s answer to the perennial question of Lib Dem tactics in the event of an ‘hung Parliament’. While Nick Clegg refuses to be drawn on what he’d do, Vince is in little doubt that it will be decided by Parliamentary arithmetic:

“It would be arrogant for us to choose one or other. Whoever gets the largest number of seats … whether it is Conservative or Labour, we will work with either.”

This strikes me as exactly the right response (though we might quibble whether Lib Dems should in fact be offering to work with whichever party wins the most votes, rather than the most seats); much better than the party’s oft-repeated refrain that we can’t possibly answer the question, which sounds oh-so-evasive to the electorate’s ears.

Meanwhile Liberal England’s Jonathan Calder brings us the latest news on Vince’s book, The Storm: the world economic crisis and what it means. (Buy it using THIS LINK and earn the party commission).

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Today’s pedantry alert…

Dear Vince, Gordon Brown is nothing like Canute. Canute ordered the tide not to come in specifically so he could demonstrate to his sycophantic courtiers that, even though he was King, he was not all powerful and was still subject to the basic laws of the universe.

What happened was exactly what he wanted to happen. If anything, Gordon Brown’s attitude is that of Canute’s followers, not of the man himself.

Good article though!!

by Benjamin on January 10, 2009 at 12:18 pm. Reply #

Hear hear Benjamin – can we please tell all our political leaders, media types and opinion formers :

1. Canute was (as stated by Benjamin) illustrating that even monarchs have to obey the forces of nature

2. Little Englanders do not hate foreigners – they were the (mostly Liberal and Radical) anti-imperialists who believed in devoting resources to home needs rather than conquering other peoples’ countries (which is what the Tories fancied doing)

3. Stakeholders are the INDEPENDENT people who “hold the stakes” wagered by those involved in a wager – NOT people with an interest in the matter which has become its current meaning

4. Birmingham has NOT abolished Christmas, nor does it hold anything called “winterval”

by crewegwyn on January 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm. Reply #

Re crewegwyn #4, it seems the ‘new’ meaning of ‘stakeholder’ dates from, er, 1821, so I suggest you adopt it like everyone else:

‘ 2. . A person, company, etc., with a concern or (esp. financial) interest in ensuring the success of an organization, business, system, etc.

1821 Times 27 Dec. 2/3 We have ourselves..the opinions of respectable men, with whom we have no..interest in common, beyond that which belongs to all good subjects of the same Government, and stakeholders in one system of liberty, property, laws, morals, and national prosperity. ‘ [OED]

by Chris Squire on January 10, 2009 at 3:49 pm. Reply #

Please provide a link to this article: a search on the Times website gives a nil result.

by Chris Squire on January 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm. Reply #

The missing link is: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5485155.ece As the Times is, or was, a paper of record, I was searching for ‘vincent cable’ . .

by Chris Squire on January 10, 2009 at 4:34 pm. Reply #

I’ll make my personal opinion of a “Hung Parliament Situation” clear – we don’t ally with anybody, instead we wait for the government to fail and capitalise. If the public was not confident enough in them to elect them properly, then they shouldn’t be in power.

by Huw Dawson on January 10, 2009 at 8:13 pm. Reply #

If there’s a clear winner who has simply not got the required majority (i.e. there is only a small swing away from Labour which deprives them of a majority OR there is a strong swing to the Tories but they fail to actually win the requisite seats) then a Confidence and Supply deal would be acceptable but only if, by supporting that minority government, we were able to acheive some of our significant goals (PR, fixed-term parliaments, tax changes, green energy being my top picks).

A full-on coalition in the first Hung Parliament would not work, but if we do achieve a fair voting system which looks set to deliver repeated balanced chambers then it’s a mental block we as a party need to overcome.

by Benjamin on January 11, 2009 at 11:46 am. Reply #

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