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Faustian pacts and pompous asses

Brian Taylor | 13:02 UK time, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Substantive stuff from the Liberal Democrats in Perth today - after a faintly faltering start yesterday when the exhibitors in the foyer nearly outnumbered the audience in the hall.

The substance came in a thoughtful speech from Vince Cable, the party's finance spokesperson at Westminster.

In a quiet, understated way, he excoriated his rivals, suggesting that Labour had made a Faustian pact with the financial world and indicating that independence for Scotland would be a calamity.

With a sense of perspective, he had opened in historical mode, reflecting on the so-called People's Budget introduced by Lloyd George a century ago.

It had, he said, set out to erode the gap between rich and poor: a challenge, he said, which was still before us, as he witnessed when he revisited Glasgow's Maryhill district which he had represented as a youthful (Labour) councillor in the city while lecturing at the university.

But perhaps history too reminds us of the challenge currently facing the Liberal Democrats.

They have been unable, during that century past, to come anywhere near the political dominance demonstrated by the Liberal government elected in 1906.

However, Mr Cable speculated that political turmoil might lead to a disturbance in established political allegiances - from which the LibDems might benefit, if they offered a credible alternative to the voters in Scotland and throughout the UK.

Elsewhere, I had a chat with Tavish Scott in a webcast interview, putting a selection of your questions to him.

Have a glance yourselves - but he remains agin an independence referendum while not absolutely ruling it out in future.

Nor does he rule out, absolutely, a future coalition with the SNP.

We shouldn't get too excited, though. One or two obstacles in the way.

Would the numbers stack up? Just how would they get round that referendum issue?
Plus would the SNP want to deal?

Do they find minority government liberating - or are they, down the line, beginning to find that the lack of voting clout at Holyrood is becoming frustrating, leading them to shelve policies?

PS: Wasn't that a remarkably vituperative exchange of comments between Sir Menzies Campbell and Alex Salmond?

Ming started it. (Didn't. Did too.) He suggested in full patrician mode that Mr Salmond was a "novice" in global affairs and lampooned the FM's visit to Washington.

Team Salmond responded with statespersonlike disdain. Or rather not. In fact, they said Sir Ming had sounded like a "pompous ass".

Boys, boys.


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