“From hero to zero and back again” – Vince Cable profiled in the Independent on Sunday

Yesterday’s Independent on Sunday featured a profile of business secretary Vince Cable. Vince’s stock certainly appears to risen in recent weeks, his reputation for prescience partially restored by the woes of the Murdoch empire.

But it is his real passion – economics – on which the piece focuses. With the spending review and tuition fees out of the way, what can Vince and his department do to improve the lackluster growth figures?

Well, George Osborne has his Plan A, but Vince has his Plan A+:

“Plan A+ is about really mobilising growth, thinking outside the box, not breaking your fiscal rules – because you have to do that for credibility – but shifting the emphasis on to these growth-enhancing interventions.”

Mr Cable was not surprised at the small level of growth, given the scale of the “heart attack” the economy suffered. The “patient is still being fed steroids” – the monetary policy, including “abnormally” low interest rates. Getting back to normal will take a long time and, for now, Britons have got to get used to times being tough. “We are a poorer country.”

But anyone who thinks this plan will involve big tax cuts can think again. “Whether it’s Ed Balls or the Mayor of London [Boris Johnson], they are assuming there is some kind of Father Christmas at work that helps you keep a balanced budget. Well, there isn’t. You can’t just have tax cuts without paying for them.”

In particular, scrapping the 50p tax rate for those earning more than £150,000 remains “impossible”. “It would be politically inconceivable for government to take some of the tax pressure off high earners at a time when people on low pay are suffering public sector pay restraint and cuts in real incomes because of high commodity prices.” Raising more people out of paying tax altogether, possibly above the £10,000 threshold already set out in the coalition agreement, should take priority. “We will look at it [the 50p rate], but it will have to be balanced by something that’s really strong in terms of tax fairness.”

Mr Cable will not cede his pet projects. He refuses to give up on a mansion tax – “mansions can’t run away to Switzerland” – and is adamant the Lib Dem pre-election policy of a levy on homes worth £2m or more is “still a solid basis to proceed from”.

You can read the full profile – including more discussion of phone-hacking, tuition fees and the political situation for the Lib Dems – here.

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8 Comments

  • Daniel Henry 1st Aug '11 - 11:17am

    It was a good article. I really hope these words turn into action.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 1st Aug '11 - 7:03pm
  • Andrew Duffield 1st Aug '11 - 7:35pm

    Sustainable growth doesn’t require tax cuts, just a tax shift – off earned income and onto unearned wealth.

  • Nigel Quinton 2nd Aug '11 - 10:01am

    @Kirsten the truly shocking sentence in that article is this one:

    A Whitehall source said: ‘He put the officials in a very embarrassing position as they didn’t know whether to side with Vince Cable or the Prime Minister’s brother.”

    Why should civil servants feel ANY obligation to side with the PM’s brother? This raises serious questions of undue influence.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 2nd Aug '11 - 11:13am

    @Nigel
    Exactly. Eye popping stuff.
    In fact, Vince Cable’s opinion on this should be sought.
    I can feel a letter coming on…

  • The story in the Daily Mail, provided thanks to the link from K.de K., is unattributed to any named source but if true shows how Alex the “phenomenon” Cameron views the coalition. It is more difficult to stand up the shocking story that civil servants have been unwilling to support the Business Secretary for fear of upsetting brother David; but the angle, complete with ‘hanging judge’ photo captioned “I don’t care what the minister thinks”, is definitely onside with the paper’s former columnist.
    Vince has indeed gone from zero to hero in the eyes of Associated Newspapers: Mail readers are being reminded of this soothsayer’s warnings on the economy in addition to those about Murdoch. Let’s just hope he can stand their warm embrace and can put up with the games playing of David Cameron and the other “brother”, George, while trying to make Britain a fairer country within the constraints of the present coalition.

  • Kirsten de Keyser 2nd Aug '11 - 9:38pm

    I’ve emailed Vince for his take on the story, so I’ll keep you posted.

  • LondonLiberal 3rd Aug '11 - 11:08am

    It’s sad that Vince, a man i once admired, has given his backing to the ‘National Planning Policy Framework’, which rips up our planning guidance and places it with a brutally simplictic alternative – from next year, councils will have to say ‘yes’ to almost any planning application that brings jobs, regardless of the social or environmental costs. So hello to more ugly big-box developments out of towns, hello to more urban sprawl, and hello to less local control over your communities. Saint Vince has become a major sinner.

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