Tag Archives: edinburgh festival 2023

Review: Vince Cable at the Edinburgh Festival

Our Glorious Former Leader, Vince Cable, came to Edinburgh yesterday to talk to Iain Dale. It was great to see him for the first time Bournemouth  Conference in 2019. He looks well and hasn’t aged even now he’s turned 80.

There was a time when our press office held its breath whenever he came to Scotland. I remember one Conference in particular, ahead of the independence referendum where he said something that wasn’t quite our line which the press and the SNP made hay with. Today, he could not have been more on message, praising what Ed Davey was doing in terms of building the party’s infrastructure and campaigning capacity.

Talking of Ed, he’s going to be here on Saturday at 4 pm, talking to Iain and his For the Many partner Jacqui Smith. You can get tickets here. If you haven’t listened to this podcast, do, it is bloody hilarious and you need it in your life. And if you are going on Saturday, get in touch with me ([email protected]) and I’ll let you know where we are meeting beforehand.

Iain started by asking him about his time as a Labour Councillor in Glasgow in the 1970s. Vince described how he was chief whip at a time when corruption was rife, and four of his group ended up in Barlinnie. He left for the SDP and has never felt  tempted by Keir Starmer’s Labour who are not offering anything positive. He criticised Wes Streeting for saying that it is better to offer no hope than false hope and thinks that they should be doing more to inspire people.

Education, he says, should be the priority at the next election, rather than the NHS. The Tories have failed so comprehensively on it and it desperately needs investment to improve attainment.

He reckoned that there was not much chance of us going into coalition after the next election. We would be heavily outnumbered, and the party would be reluctant to go there again.

Iain asked him if he was “pissed off “that he was seen as too old to go for leader back in 2006. He was, but he accepted the mood to hand power to the next generation

He talked about the coalition years, saying that he winced along with many of us at the Rose Garden scenes.  He says he’s probably the last man standing, though, who thinks that we were right to go in to the coalition and reeled off a long list of things that we had done,  the Green Investment Bank, the industrial strategy, investing in children from deprived backgrounds in school.

He vigorously defended privatisation of Royal Mail saying it was the only option to enble it to modernise as it wasn’t allowed to borrow.  He blamed the union for not co-operating. Iain pushed back on him as he thought the union leader was pretty reasonable from his interviews with him on LBC but Vince said that if they had co-operated, the privatisation would have brought in more money for the taxpayer. He also said that the most recent problems within Royal Mail were the result of bad management rather than the privatisation.

He considered resigning several times during the coalition years – over the  sting when he said some inappropriate things about the BSkyB takeover, when cuts started to hit his department, particularly in the further education sector and  towards the end when it was all going wrong.

He talked about his time as leader and the stroke which led to him stepping down. While he made a full recovery, he decided to stay quiet about it at the time in case it was seen as s sign of weakness.

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Come and see Ed Davey and Vince Cable at the Edinburgh Festival

Vince Cable and Ed Davey  are appearing at the Edinburgh Festival next month.

On Wednesday 9th August at 1pm, Vince will be taking part in Iain Dale’s All Talk and you can buy tickets here.  I went to a few of Iain’s shows back in 2019 and they were very entertaining and aimed at getting past message discipline and exposing the human being. This will be pretty easy with Vince. I say with great affection that message discipline was not always his biggest priority which is probably why he was so well liked. Rumours that the press team will be watching his performance from under a desk are exaggerated. Probably.

Under Vince’s leadership, the Liberal Democrats had some stunning results, winning 16 MEPs and gaining 700 councillors in 2019. We benefitted from a clear message, mission and purpose. And it was all the more remarkable that he led us with so much energy when facing his own health challenges, including having a mini-stroke in the Summer of 2018. However it was his economic credibility, his prediction of the 2008 economic collapse and telling Gordon Brown that he had gone from being Stalin to Mr Bean that he is perhaps best remembered for. He has had a fascinating life, from starting out as a Labour Councillor in Glasgow and the 70s, to marrying his first wife Olympia against his family’s wishes. And of course there was Strictly.

Ed will be appearing on Saturday 12 August, the Glorious Twelfth itself, at 4pm on Iain’s For the Many show with former Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. You can buy tickets here. When his appearance was first announced, I wrote:

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