Cable out on a limb

Posted on September 22, 2010

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There is no doubting that Vince Cable, the business secretary, is right to attack excessive bank bonuses and the “spivs and gamblers” that receive them. The major economic mouthpiece of the Liberal Democrats, such views and the forthright manner in which he has expressed were commonplace in opposition and earned Cable a reputation as one of the Lib Dems’ leading lights. Now, however, they only serve to once again lay bare the divides within the coalition government and raise questions as to how long Cable can remain a part of it.

Almost certainly, the language Cable used yesterday to attack unbridled capitalism was in part to satisfy his party, a large part of which remains unhappy at Nick Clegg’s decision to take the Liberal Democrats into government. Cable may very well have been playing to the crowd at conference in order to boost his and his party’s flagging popularity before returning to work for his new paymaster, David Cameron. Yet there are signs that it could be seen as more than that. There are signs that the Tory press are turning against him, with the Telegraph critical of his provocative language today. And one cannot escape getting the impression that Mr Cable actually believes what he is saying. Whatever George Osborne’s plans for cutting the deficit, we can be fairly sure that the bankers, the Chancellor’s natural bedfellows, will not be taking the hit Mr Cable has suggested. If he is serious about these beliefs, then he should stand up for them, and resign.

Suggestions that the business secretary’s speech carried a Marxist whiff are overstated. Yet there was something very ‘New Labour’ about the philosophy Cable spoke up for today. If the Lib Dems continue to suffer in the polls, which only seems likely, and Vince Cable continues to be outspoken on this topic, then whoever becomes Labour leader on Saturday would be well advised to offer a potential olive branch to the rebellious business secretary.

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Posted in: Politics