Conference: Vince Cable

The Beeb has already trailed this speech, and Vince is welcomed to the stand with an even longer opening ovation than Howard got.

14.44 He starts on, let us say, a dark note. The economic situation is dire, we are going to have nothing but bad news for some time. There has never been a more important time for politicians to be honest. But what do we have? A pantomime between Labour and the Tories.

14.47 He identfies the Tories’ motivation: for them, the worse the recession is the better. That way they can strengthen their own anyone-but-Labour vote and they hope that the memory of the Tory recessions will be obliterated. Is this why they offer no solutions?

14.49 It’s critical that we build a savings culture. One Tory measure that has been discussed is to offer lower tax rates on savings than on income. Vince: it’s superficially attractive, but 10% of nothing is nothing. We need to do something more fundamental than that, e.g. by stopping the means-tested pension system taking people’s savings into account at all – this system penalises them.

14.53 “This is not just a banking crisis. This is a moral crisis.” He talks about Gordon and Tony “making a deal with the devil” in the City. They needed the tax revenues and the party donations from the banking community, and maintained light regulation on both individuals and business.

14.54 Naming and shaming the bankers who have failed and still expect bonuses! I’ve never seen the phlegmatic Vince so exercised. He thinks the bonus culture is pervasive – extends into the public sector too. But for the taxpayer, he says, these people (including the saved bankers of course) wouldn’t have a job. He says public services should make full disclosure of all highest earners – big clap.

14.57 Even longer clap for his next point: we don’t do enough to encourage the genuine entrepreneurs, the Bill Gateses, while doing too much to feather the nests of top earners in big businesses. Every small business will shudder in agreement, I should think.

14.58 On to individual hardship and hence, the bailiffs’ ability to use force against debtors. Labour has taken us back to pre-Victorian values and it’s “unforgiveable”.

14.59 Our tax package is a “start”. I’m glad he puts it like that. Still doesn’t include raising the personal allowance to the National Minimum Wage *gets off hobby horse*. In our election offering, this package will go hand in hand with a clampdown on tax havens.

15.02 However, we must be cautious on borrowing. We cannot and will not make unsustainable spending commitments. To govern is to choose – obviously an axe must be taken to wasteful IT programmes, ID cards must go, and tax credits needs to be cut back. But there are harder questions – can we afford a worldwide military role? Can we afford to pay big pensions to public servants? Is it sensible or affordable to pursue the government’s target of 50% of the young population going to university?

15.04 Labour has dominated progressive politics for 80 years. But they have been morally discredited and their brand destroyed by their economic record. We Liberal Democrats are the future of progressive politics in this country.

Everybody: Yeaaaaah! *clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap*

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