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).