Don’t take it out on Vince, guys, just ‘cos you’re stuck with George

I’ve been amused to see the rush-to-rubbish Vince Cable today among some right-wing bloggers following his appearance on BBC1’s The Politics Show.

Iain Dale (but of course) was first up to tweet: “Well done Jon Sopel for finally exposing Vince Cable as the overrated flipflopper that he is.” He was soon followed by ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie, and Wall Street Journal’s Iain Martin, who has a pet-obsession with Vince’s popularity.

Having missed the show at lunchtime, I sat down nervously to catch up on iPlayer (Vince’s inteview begins about 3 minutes in) fully expecting him to be eviscerated by Jon Sopel.

In fact, what I watched was a robust interview in which Vince more than held his own, and made the key points that (1) the Labservatives have consistently opposed Lib Dem attempts to clean up our politics, and (2) the Tories need to explain how they’re going to fund their various tax-cuts if not through raising VAT.

Why have the Tories got it in for Vince?

Which left me wondering: what got Iain, Tim and Iain so excited that they dashed into the twitblogosphere to try and swing the media narrative against Vince? (Besides the inevitable election-time partisan point-scoring, that is).

It’s clear enough: the Tories are desperately worried about ‘The Vince Factor’, and how well it’s playing among the voters they think of as ‘theirs’. The idea people might trust a Lib Dem as their preferred chancellor over and above the Tories’ offering is such a shock to the system the Tories have only one answer: consistently to rubbish Vince in the hope they can tarnish his image. To play the man not the ball.

Vince’s reputation: the reality

It’s been tried before. The closest Vince’s detractors came was during Andrew Neil’s Straight Talk show broadcast last September, in which the Tory-turned-journalist tried to get the better of Vince by flinging a load of seemingly contradictory quotes at him. The problems with this approach are twofold:

    (1) Vince has never actually pretended to have been 100% right 100% of the time, despite the claims made on his behalf – indeed, it’s his very pragmatic, measured, moderate approach that has won over the British public in the last two and a bit years; and

    (2) most of the claims made against Vince – his supposed inconsistencies – don’t actually stack up when looked at objectively. Don’t take my word for it, simply read the Channel 4 News FactCheck page which last week asked Is Vince Cable’s economic reputation fully deserved? Their fair and balanced conclusion:

    Vince Cable has been widely praised – and rightly so – for warning of the dangers of Britain living off credit. But the Lib Dem eulogies need to be treated with some scepticism. Like any politician, when the facts change he changes his mind. Which goes to show that Saint Vince is human after all.

I think the Tories would do better to worry less about rubbishing Vince, and worry instead about the fact that their candidate for Chancellor, George Osborne, just isn’t up to the job, a conclusion even top Tories themselves seem to have reached.

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  • This “Saint Vince” business is nonsense –

    It is worth noting that Iain Martin rarely has a thought that fails to enter Tim Montgomerie’s mind. Not all the words at the end of that sentence are necessary.

  • That quote from Channel 4 News Fact Check annoys me, mainly due to this bit:

    But the Lib Dem eulogies need to be treated with some scepticism. Like any politician, when the facts change he changes his mind. Which goes to show that Saint Vince is human after all.

    I wish any politician would change their mind when the facts change,it just isn’t the case, but doing so is something to be applauded. Examples where politicians haven’t adapted their thinking to to accord with the facts are many and varied, but things like drugs policy are a good place to start.

  • Bill Kristol-Balls 11th Apr '10 - 9:11pm

    Stephen you missed out Fraser ‘the social chameleon’ Nelson. Let me help you out –

    As I pointed out in the comments section, what the Lib Dems did with their VAT poster, the Tories did with their Death Tax poster.

    Can’t find the piece where Mr Nelson laid into his Conservative chums for the Tombstone effort but given the word of the day is ‘consistency’, I’m sure he did somewhere.

    On a tactical level, Vince and Nick should play up to this. Remember, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. You’ve got ’em scared. People want change but Cameron isn’t it and the public knows it.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Apr '10 - 11:47pm

    The real problem is that none of the main parties is coming anywhere near to telling us how they would really deal with the deficit.

    In his interview on the Today programme, Nick Clegg said that the Lib Dem proposals would come within “a few billions” of eliminating _half_ of the structural deficit (estimated at something like £70bn). When asked about the other half, he described the proposals as “a start”. I can only assume that means that if the Lib Dems did actually find themselves in government, they would have to find a further £30-40bn from some combination of tax rises and spending cuts.

    That’s something like three times the amount currently under discussion in relation to National Insurance.

  • Paul Wakeford 12th Apr '10 - 8:00am

    I guess the once sainted Vince will now have to remove the halo from off his shoulders now that John Sopel had managed to get him to admit that he would not rule out a rise in VAT after that bombshell poster accusing the Tories of also not ruling it out.

  • @ Paul Wakeford.

    The point is, the Tories’ sums don’t add up unless you add in a missing ‘x’ to the equation. The Lib Dems’ sums DO add up without the ‘x’.

    The Tories have raised VAT in the past, and they will do so again. Their budget has more holes than a Swiss cheese.

    @ Dane Clouston. More EU-hating nonsense from someone ironically called “Dane”. BTW, our rolling average is 20%, not 16%. What’s UKIP’s rolling average, then?

  • David Allen 12th Apr '10 - 7:10pm

    “The real problem is that none of the main parties is coming anywhere near to telling us how they would really deal with the deficit.”

    True. The answer is, of course, they will deal with it with an immediate mammoth tax rise, as soon as the election is over. Irrespective of which party it is that wins.

    The public are loudly complaining that the political parties will not tell them the truth. If, however, a political party were to poke its nose above the parapet and admit the truth about the mammoth tax rise, that party would immediately plunge in the polls. The thing is, you just can’t trust the public. They’re even more venal, self-deluding and self-serving than the politicians are!

    Faced with this schizophrenic attitude from the public, Vince is being as honest as he dares, and more honest than his competitors. I suspect it is this level of honesty, as much as the economic foresight, which impresses the supporters of “Saint Vince.” And reasonably enough, I think.

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