Vince Cable shows why Liberal Democrats need him to be our Economic Spokesperson for the General Election

Vince Cable, Business Secretary at the launch of the joint government and UK automotive industry's automotive strategyVince Cable was interviewed by Andrew Marr yesterday. His confident and credible manner and his clear explanation of Liberal Democrat priorities make it very clear to me that he should be our Chief Economics Spokesperson during the election campaign. He can take the fight to both Conservatives and Labour in a way that nobody else can. Stephen Tall has been saying this for a long while. I have to confess that while my heart was for Vince, my head said that if Nick undermined Danny Alexander, the press would make a Great Big Thing about it that would overshadow the whole election campaign. I wrote then that while Danny had been up there with Nick doing the hand to hand combat with the Tories, helping get many Liberal Democrat policies through, ultimately for me Vince is to the economics brief what Tom Baker is to the Doctor. I wrote about my favourite Doctor of all time last year ahead of the 50th and right up until the last moment I had thought that it would be David Tennant. And right at the last moment, I couldn’t do it. It had to be Tom. So, I guess for me, Danny is David Tennant, but I would be very wary about taking that analogy too far.

So, after yesterday, I’ve decided just to go with my heart and say unequivocally that it should be Vince. Quite simply, nobody can do this stuff better than he can. The party loves him, the voters respond well to him and we can’t afford to take such a solid performer off the field. He wiped the floor with George Osborne in 2010 and he can do the same again.

Here are some of the highlights of his interview yesterday in which he announced new legislation covering big international takeovers.

How to ensure the national interest in international takeovers?

In the wake of Pfizer’s attempt to take over Astra Zeneca, he said that the Government would legislate to make sure that any commitments made were legally binding:

We must be sure that there is no wiggle room. We may get into the area of financial penalties to make sure that these commitments are binding.

Supposing the company don’t want to negotiate, what do you do then? You need some fallback powers when the Government can intervene and invoke the public interest. What I would argue and what the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition would argue is that you do it with a laser missile rather than a cluster bomb.

Tackling inequality

Although income inequality had fallen under the Coalition, Vince was very clear that more needed to be done to reduce inequality generally and agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury although “I don’t speak, like him, with the authority of God.” That has to be one of the best lines in an interview ever.  He went on to talk about what he had done to curb executive pay. On income tax, he said:

45p is the right rate but under the Labour government with the support of all parties we had a 40p rate. It’s much more important to tax inequalities of capital and wealth which is why we need the Mansion Tax. Labour have caught up with us on this particular policy.

His views on what might happen after the election was interesting. He said that a Lib/Lab coalition was  “unlikely to happen.”

Legal Tax Avoidance

The principle which we are beginning to implement and my party would go further is  a general anti avoidance rule so that those who avoid taxes can be “aggressively pursued” by the HMRC.

Royal Mail

Vince was robust in his defence of the price he’d set for the shares, saying that all the advice was that they should have done what they did.

He said that the first conclusion of the recent report was that Government has delivered its objectives in bringing in private capital to ensure that Royal Mail can fulfil its universal service obligations.

Under the circumstances in which we were operating, there was no alternative but to do what we did.

Changing the rules on strike ballots – potty

Do we need to change the rules on strike ballots so that a majority has to vote in favour?

I don’t think there’s any need for them. We have far fewer strikes than we’ve had in the past and in general industrial relations are very good.

The particular proposal that they are making is simply potty. I mean most MPs would not be validly elected if that were the case.

You can watch Vince’s whole interview here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • LibDemVoice’s own polls show how much the party membership want Vince to take on this role: more lib dem members want Nick to resign now than want Danny to be our economic spokesperson!

    I’m not trying to re-open the “Nick must go debate”. But the membership realise the importance of providing a serious, credible economic spokesperson, as well as some balance to Nick – Vince speaks to a large section of the electorate that Nick simply cannot reach. Danny simply does not offer this, and simply reinforces the idea that the party leadership only listen to and choose from a favoured right-leaning in-crowd at the top of the party.

    Indeed, I know of many who have been supportive of the leadership thus far, but would view a choice of Danny over Vince as final clinching evidence that the leadership do not speak for the membership.

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Jul '14 - 10:38am

    Vince has economic credibility. It is something he has had since long before the coalition. I agree he should be economic spokesman.

  • Stephen Hesketh 14th Jul '14 - 10:55am

    @Caron. I agree with most of what you say but note that you stop short of calling for the present Doctor Who to be replaced! Whilst there is a tradition and expectation that the Doctor will ‘regenerate’ when he comes to the end of his shelf life, the TARDIS and the aims and values they together work towards are both timeless and vital to universal Liberal civilisation 🙂

    No matter how robust his defence, the Royal Mail sell off price was probably Vince’s biggest slip up.

    @ William 14th Jul ’14 – 10:16am “I’m not trying to re-open the ‘Nick must go debate’. ” I hadn’t realised it had been closed!

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Jul '14 - 11:08am

    It was interesting to see some discussion of the Hayekian origin of the Institute of Economic Affairs in the recent programme “the men who made us spend” The thesis was about consumerism replacing utilitarianism around 1979, as a psychological bit of popular brainwashing. It did not go into the way wages were squeezed and disposable income replaced with increased debt, usually based on equity release from rising property prices. And the eventual outcome of that being the financial debt crisis of 2008. Now, with little demand from consumers, the economy may be growing several years after it could have been, but it doesn’t look good. The IEA for those that don’t know is where Paul Marshall and sponsorship for the Orange Book came from. Mrs Thatcher was their finest political creation.

  • Popularity maybe but do not forget Andrew Neil had him pinned down and almost on the ropes at the last General Election

  • As with the great Tom Baker, we’ve got rose-tinted glasses on this morning. It was wonderful to have Tom back for 3 minutes last year, but could you imagine him helming a full series next year?

    Vince was totally skewered by Andrew Neil in the last campaign, was overshadowed by Nick through the debates, and although he’s been our most effective cabinet member throughout at spelling out Lib Dem, Tory, and coalition policy, my perception is that he’ll find the day to day rigour of the election campaign overwhelming, and doesn’t get the hearing he once did.

    Although Danny’s the obvious alternative choice it’s clear he doesn’t speak for many members – maybe we should ask if Tom Baker is free?

  • Richard Dean 14th Jul '14 - 3:36pm

    Vince is certainly the right guy if you want the LibDem vote to go further down the tubes.

    In this parliament he’s shown himself to be vain (eg.the Telegraph girls) and incompetent (eg.the Royal Mail) and weak (the Oakeshott aftermath). He has a severely unattractive TV persona. He’ll be over 72 in 2015 and almost 80 in 2020.

    Why would an intelligent electorate want any of this?

  • matt (Bristol) 14th Jul '14 - 3:47pm

    I suspect that for many like myself, the issue of ‘Vince vs Danny’ is not simply about competence (not that he is the least competent minister or potential mminister we have) – it is symbolically about the coalition not being a defining moment in the remaking of the party in which those elements of economic policy which were less compatible with a Conservative agenda were chopped off or played down.

    I am not saying that Vince is a raving leftwinger, or that Danny is Enoch Powell in a ginger wig, but that Vince Cable appears to have done a better job of differentiating LibDem from Tory from inside the coalition, in his communications; so (unless there is another, alternative out there none of us know about) if wew want a clearly differentiated economic argument at the 2015 election, we should pick him.

  • Frank Booth 14th Jul '14 - 4:04pm

    I’m very much in favour of Vince over Danny but it must be said, what has Vince actually achieved as Business Secretary? His only big policy of note has been the raising of tuition fees.

  • David Evershed 14th Jul '14 - 4:36pm

    The next parliament is going to be about making the necessary cuts to eliminate the unsustainable deficit.

    Vince Cable is good but Danny Alexander knows where the bodies are buried on cuts.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Jul '14 - 8:52pm

    I’m wounded from the spats on the Edward Lucas thread, but I think this is an important one too. I favour Danny over Vince because of principles rather than details.

    I’m too tired to debate any more today, but that is my position on this.

  • The question that isn’t being asked is whether the LibDem’s will be better served in 2015 by having Vince stand for election as an MP or whether he should be on the new years honour list and so be promoted to the Lords…

  • Peter Andrews 15th Jul '14 - 6:55pm

    Roland if Vince stood down in 2015 that would massively increase the likelihood of us losing Twickenham which is certainly not in the Party’s interest. I have no idea why some people are so ageist, Vince is clearly still physically fit and has all his intellectual faculties in tact even if he has made mistakes as a minister. Americans’s seem to have no problem with electing much older people than Vince as Senators.

  • Peter, I get your point, the problem of key person succession is common to many enterprises.

    The real problem I see is whether a LibDem presence in Westminster (government or opposition) would potentially be better served by having or not having Vince around and whether his presence is more important than the risk of a successor loosing Twickenham.

    Yes we do have to consider Vince’s age, I suggest that he only has 5~10 years of active service left and hence one of the considerations has to be how to make best use of his time.

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