UK Politics

Ageism in politics is 'pathetic' says Cable

William Gladstone aged 71
Image caption William Gladstone became prime minister aged 82 in 1892

Vince Cable has criticised ageism in modern-day politics, pointing out that Churchill and Gladstone served as prime minister in their 70s and 80s.

The Lib Dem business secretary, who is 69, said he would stand for election again in two years time and had "bags of energy and stamina" left.

Questioning politicians' ability to do the job because of their age was "pathetic", he told the House magazine.

He suggested Deng Xiaoping, who ruled China in his 80s, was a role model.

Mr Cable briefly served as Lib Dem leader after Sir Menzies Campbell quit in 2007 and has not ruled out the possibility of standing for the top job in future should a vacancy arise.

During his 18-month stint as leader, Sir Menzies faced questions about his age and ability to cope with the demands of the 24-hour news cycle.

'Bags of energy'

Mr Cable said his colleague had been "very unfairly treated" at the time.

"It was as bad as attacking people for their colour, for their gender. Pathetic actually, it demeaned the people who did it."

Mr Cable confirmed that he would stand to be an MP again in the next election, scheduled for 2015, and had no "inhibitions" about doing so.

"I take the view that as long as you have got bags of stamina and capacity to do the job and I do have a lot of energy and stamina, I'm perfectly fit and healthy."

Asked about role models, he said Lord Heseltine was still active in politics and business in his late 70s while two of the country's greatest leaders had remained in No 10 long after conventional retirement age.

"Gladstone became prime minister when he was over 80, didn't he? I think Churchill was over 70, wasn't he?"

He added: "Talking of role models, Deng Xiaoping totally transformed China in the last century. I think he was 80 when he took over. And he survived the Long March."

Mr Cable - who was a Labour activist and councillor before joining the SDP in the 1980s, said he had a "sensible working relationship" with Labour but his party would adopt a policy of "equidistance" between them and their Conservative coalition partners at the next election.

"That will be the word Paddy Ashdown invented once upon a time and it will be the case next time," he added.

"It will make the point that in the national interest we are willing to work with other parties on either side."