One of the quirks of being in coalition is the Lib Dems no longer have a shadow chancellor. But we shall need one in time for the 2015 general election – not least for the traditional televised ‘Ask the Chancellors’ debate.
There have been newspaper reports that there’s some jockeying for this position, with the Financial Times reporting that “Senior Lib Dems say the high-profile job is very likely to go to Danny Alexander, the Treasury chief secretary”.
Meanwhile, over at the New Statesman, Lib Dem blogger Richard Morris suggests pensions minister Steve Webb should get the job: “suddenly, there’s a new name in the frame for that plummiest of jobs in an election campaign”.
It is absolutely clear, though, who should be the Lib Dem shadow chancellor at the next general election: the guy who was our shadow chancellor at the last general election, Vince Cable.
He is, by a long, long way, the best-qualified candidate. I say that for two reasons.
First, his understanding of the British economy far exceeds that of either Danny (or Steve). It is impossible to imagine anyone other than Vince writing as good and nuanced an account of the Coalition’s economic policies as he did last year in the New Statesman: When the facts change, should I change my mind?
Secondly, his understanding of the politics far exceeds that of Danny (though not necessarily Steve). Vince has walked the tightrope of respecting collective cabinet responsibility while signalling quite clearly when and why he disagrees with the Conservatives, most notably on immigration.
And yet, as Jonathan Calder highlighted yesterday, he is unafraid to take the fight to Labour also, offering a parliamentary tour de force that utterly floored those Opposition MPs trying to score points against either Vince or the Lib Dems.
I can imagine the reasons why Nick Clegg would want to elbow out Vince in favour of Danny. I cannot see any reason why he would so in the best interests of the Lib Dems, though.
* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.