Cable: It’s more fun being in opposition

The Business Secretary Vince Cable is the subject of a profile in today’s Guardian. In a somewhat affectionate piece, Decca Aitkenhead reports:

There has been much speculation that frugality is the only feature of this government Cable will find to his taste. Perceived as the Lib Dem furthest to the left – a former Labour party councillor and parliamentary candidate, the man Gordon Brown phoned in the frantic post-election days – Cable is widely tipped as the minister most likely to resign from the coalition. He made no secret of his preference for forming a government with Labour – but was forced by the arithmetic of the election result to abandon that dream, “and follow my head, not my heart”.

We’re so accustomed to political spin that Cable’s unwillingness to conceal his misgivings has been interpreted not as honest ambivalence, but more like tantamount to mutiny. “According to the papers,” as he says himself, “I’m miserable, alienated, and on the brink of resignation.” For many Labour voters – and a lot of disillusioned Lib Dems too – Cable’s resignation would represent some sort of moral triumph, or at the very least, a return to politics as normal. “But that’s simply not where I am,” he says.

Vince is clear about his support for the government’s programme of cuts, saying:

People forget that a year before the election, I published a pamphlet for Reform which got a flurry of publicity at the time, and was subsequently forgotten, which actually heralded a lot of the things this government has done. So we were aware that there would have to be serious cuts.

I was very careful in what I said [in the Chancellors’ debate]. I said we should approach it on the basis of economics and not political dogma, that was the phrase I used. I set out five factors which should determine when you start cutting the deficit, and one of them related to the conditions in the markets. At that time, there was no enormous urgency. But by the time of the election the financial crisis had burst in Europe, and conditions had changed.

Challenged by Aitkenhead as to whether a ministerial position means that he is now having more fun now than at any point in his political career, Vince is firm.

No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s more fun being in opposition. This is more satisfying than most of the other things I’ve done. But no, if you’re looking for fun, it’s better to be in opposition.

Read more in the Guardian’s G2 or online.

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13 Comments

  • Andrea Gill 10th Aug '10 - 8:45am
  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Aug '10 - 8:57am

    Does none of these interviewers have the wit to ask these people why, if they had changed their minds about the timing of cuts by the time of the election, they didn’t say so, but instead publicly argued for a policy they no longer believed in.

    It’s not as though they minced their words. Nick Clegg, two days before the election not only said deferring cuts was “common sense” and that his “eight-year-old ought to be able to work this out”, but also that cutting earlier would be “completely irrational” and would result in more joblessness and a higher deficit!

    And now he has to gall to tell us he privately believed the opposite of what he was saying in public.

  • Kevin Peters 10th Aug '10 - 9:03am

    Let us see how many Labour hacks this attracts, as they seem to be unable to cope with the honesty of debate within the Liberal Democrats. Prefering as they do the petty world spin where the sins of Blair and Brown are as nothing against the supposed perfidity of Liberal Democrats in forming a coalition with the Conservatives.

    Who are Labour’s heros, Jack Straw who mocked Lib Dem MPs arguing against the Iraq invasion, who then said during Chilcot thzt he had doubts about the war. John Prescott who was not to worried about the legal advice, but felt it was more important to keep the Parliamentary Labour Party together come what may.

    So little Labourite when did Labour lose it’s soul, and do you even care any more?

  • Look, Anthony, Vince Cable is one of the most honest, straight politicians you will find in the upper echelons. And Decca Aitkenhead is one of the best press interviewers around. It is, by the way, Sara, in yesterday’s Grauniad.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Aug '10 - 9:28am

    Tim13

    “Look, Anthony, Vince Cable is one of the most honest, straight politicians you will find in the upper echelons.”

    If you think that, presumably you know the answer to the question I asked. What is it?

  • I’m not sure these interview comments are particularly helpful ? We should try and keep in mind that today’s Liberal-Democrats are a healthy cross section of the old Liberal Party and more recently Social Democrats from a split Labour Party in the 80s. Affectionately known as ‘the gang of four’ and their loyal supporters.

    Vince Cable appears to make a strong case in favour of the Social Democrat cause ? This could be seriously damaging to today’s Liberal-Democrats and drive the Social Democrats in the Party back into the open arms of Labour. Other views ?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Aug '10 - 1:28pm

    “I think we need to be more honest about this. At least, we need to say “We were wrong to think that we would not need to cut as early as we did. We made a mistake.””

    The problem is that they didn’t just make a mistake – if it really was a mistake – they lied to the electorate during the election campaign. That’s if they are telling the truth now about having changed their minds then, of course. We can only guess about that.

  • “they lied to the electorate during the election campaign”

    I doubt if they intended it that way. I suspect they could see a coalition agreement of some sort up for grabs. We all know the websites were teeming with the word ‘coalition’ long before May 6th.

    That said, the Conservative Thatcherite mob appear to have got the worst end of the whole coalition deal. They voted for ‘Right …Right and Right again. They appear to have got Centre – Left and (maybe) Right !!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Aug '10 - 12:41am

    “I doubt if they intended it that way.”

    What do you mean? Did the words just slip out by accident – some kind of political Tourette’s Syndrome? Did it never occur to them that during the campaign they were saying the opposite of what they believed?

  • “some kind of political Tourette’s Syndrome?”

    Unfortunately I don’t know for sure what the truth is but I like your definition of political double speak !

    As for the cuts, if my instincts are working they are going to be a great deal worse than imagined at present.

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