Cable the Jeremiah

Vince Cable The business secretary relishes his reputation as the "sage of Richmond'

The script's already been written.

The leader will call on his party not to lose its nerve. He'll urge them to finish the job they've begun. A vote billed as "crucial" will end in victory for the leadership and defeat for those party activists who want a change of policy.

That, at least, is how Team Clegg are presenting Monday's debate on the economy at the Liberal Democrat conference.

There's just one problem. The man most people think of when they think about the Lib Dems and the economy is refusing to be part of the plot.

Vince Cable, the business secretary and formerly his party's shadow chancellor, will take no part in the debate.

He won't speak in it. He may not even vote (although we are assured that he does back his leader's position)

Vince Cable believes that this is an unnecessary fight. He thinks that if Nick Clegg really wanted to he could reach a compromise with party activists who are calling for economic policy to be "re-balanced" to "raise employment and growth".

In part this is a row about presentation.

Nick Clegg fears that his party would let the Tories "hoover up all the credit" for economic recovery if they give the appearance of wanting to change economic policy now.

That's why he will declare on Monday that there is "one thing that both George Osborne and Ed Balls want - for us to throw away our economic credibility". He will tell his party conference "Don't do it"

Vince Cable, on the other hand, relishes his reputation as the man who warned about the economic crash - the man mocked here as "the sage of Richmond" and described by the prime minister as "a perpetual Jeremiah" after his recent warnings that things may not be as good as some Tories are suggesting they are.

There is, though, substance to the argument.

The business secretary has long argued that the Treasury is manned by officials obsessed with a hairshirt approach to the economy.

He has fought to persuade his coalition colleagues to spend more on infrastructure and to free local councils to borrow more in order to build more houses.

He fears that another housing bubble could lead to an increase in interest rates choking off recovery.

He thinks policy makers need to be ready for the moment the Bank of England decides to scale back its support for the economy. If monetary policy does less, then fiscal policy - tax and spend - may need to do more.

Before the summer Lib Dem MPs debated their economic policy. Vince made his case and lost.

One source close to the party leadership claimed there was a vote in which Clegg's position got 55 votes and Cable's just two.

No wonder the sage of Richmond doesn't want to play any part in Monday's pre-scripted confrontation between his leader and his party.

Update Monday 10am: I am now told that no vote was held after a debate about economic policy at the Lib Dem parliamentary meeting a few weeks ago. However, sources close to both Vince Cable and Nick Clegg agree that the Business Secretary did urge the party to be prepared to relax fiscal policy if the recovery wasn't sustained. Mr Cable is said to have had the support of just one other Lib Dem MP. Mr Clegg persuaded all the others. So, it was 55 versus 2.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    But whether markets or Republican govt, capitalism or criminality the solution is surely to take the whole finance industry, from top to bottom into public ownership and under egalitarian democratic control
    Which should be the main platform on finance for the new left wing party
    You'll hear it was possible then, back in the panicky day, but if it was possible then, it is still possible

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    135 Yep, they were paying their mortgages by withdrawing equity from their homes during the housing boom.

    When the boom ended and Greenspan's interest rate hikes kicked in, they lost their homes.

    They had them. Then they lost them. Because Bush's insane govt wouldn't take on their mortgage payments nor limit those payments by law

    These subprimers had to be disciplined, to accept lower pay etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    It's obvious that Cable only really belongs in a LibLab coalition. If the Tories start to rally in the final run-up to the election, it isn't hard to imagine him urging Liberals to back Labour in certain marginals.

    Which is why I think Clegg and Cameron should jointly look for an opportunity to sack him, sooner rather than later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    132. PhilPolEcon
    Sub-prime lending did not give the poor homes, it miss-sold the poor mortgages with back loaded interest rates that they did not stand a cat in hell's chance of paying when the higher rates kicked in.
    It then packaged up and re-miss-sold same as investments.
    No doubt it gave the US mortgage broker sharks shed-loads of sales commission to cushion them through their recession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    130,132 So Cable gave a RIGHT WING account of the crisis:
    The irresponsible subprime poor who shouldn't have been bailed out
    The responsible banks who took risks & deserved to be bailed out.
    Govts spent too much on welfare. Since their spending couldn't be matched by taxing the rich more that, welfare spending had to be cut
    That's why Cable supported & supports the unelected undemocratic Coalition

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    130. PhilPolEcon
    I think it is valid to point to Gordon Brown's imprudence in the mid-noughties.
    Target inflation of 2% was too high in a period when so many prices were being slashed due to cheap imports from China etc.
    Gordon was spending in the good times when he should have been saving for the next bad time.
    Just because there was no inflationary pressure did not mean it was right to spend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Cable blamed govt borrowing & welfare spending, not the fears of US capitalism.
    He blamed subprime lending that gave the poor homes.
    He didn't criticise the role of the Fed & the BoE's King. But they had the same policies that caused the Japan1990 crash
    US capital wanted workers well off to make profits from them but not so rich they weren't compliant, China to make stuff but not to benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    Although the UN weapons inspectors were not mandated to attribute blame for the attack on capital Damascus on 21 August .......

    "Mr Hague said their findings matched the UK's claims that government forces were responsible."

    So long as LibDems continue to support LIES like this I will hold them in contempt.

    Disassociate or face the consequences!

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    My 2006 Leics Univ submission foresaw a slump after the then current Fed rate hikes
    US finance capital's worries were the workers' growing affluence & so power in the wage-profit bargain & the growth of competing capitals in China & India
    Big equity releases didn't worry them, they fuelled profit
    A Jeremiah? Cable WRONGLY blamed govt borrowing, NOT the Fed rates nor Bush not supporting subprimers

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Attempting to start my own business but keep missing payments and getting charged really deserve the right bank account to achieve this it's holding me back personally. however my past will say I can't get a line of credit because the system is rigged even if you've changed an have ambition now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Don't know about being part of the plot but he has lost the plot! Every time he opens his mouth garbage comes out that's perhaps why he is staying away. To think before the last election he came across as knowledgeable and a valid opinion, just shows what government does to you Mr Cable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    125 & 126.
    It's all part of a carefully crafted plan.
    Pump up the population, create more people than we have jobs, then watch the labour rates fall & force people to work for peanuts & fight for the scraps left on the table.
    Only those at the very top benefit & our economy slowly stalls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Are these leaders blind by the wages they receive from the EU. They will defend it no matter what, while the rest suffer with spread out wages and lack of money to achieve and grow as people. They have massive wages from it yet talk about fairness. it's not fair that they get paid what they do from the EU an we have to pay for it in more ways than one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    Shut the borders over population causes poverty!

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    121. GuillotinePete
    "Catch up on tonight's Panorama".

    Yes indeed – Osborne’s promises to clamp down on tax avoidance laid bare for all to see.
    And the biggest joke of all; the very man hired to advise the Gov’ on Tax avoidance is the one giving lectures to those who wish to...err...avoid tax.
    Trebles all round (unless you are on PAYE).

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    I seem to have the floor, but no audience!

    There is certainly no recovery on my High Street.

    The absentee local authority is forced to do dodgy land deals with supermarket developers which will sound the death knell for the few surviving independent traders.

    No feel-good factor here Gideon.

    Still waiting for inspiration from our political leaders.

    Catch up with Robert Peston goes shopping.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    The Coalition's Recovery is the latest incarnation of the government crafted pre-election boom to try to instil the feel-good factor in the electorate.

    It may work on the high equity + mortgaged middle-aged home-owners and buy-to-let'ers who will see their house prices going up.

    It won't work on most because non-mortgage cost of living is going up while wages stagnate.

    Walk the walk Osborne.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    I suspect there will be little enthusiasm from the great mass of British voters for any of the three major English parties at the next election.

    Their only chance of getting votes is by being slightly less unattractive than the other two parties.

    The are all willing 'running dogs' of capitalism and favour crippling the young, the old, the poor and the weak.

    Catch up on tonight's Panorama.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    IR @118
    "the answer"

    In UK as across all of Europe, policy-based pro-democratic public funding, and 'private funding' (latter attracted by population-proportionate income base), for 'basic' population-proportionate infrastructure, employment & production, any down ward change gradual, allowing steady moves-for-value, not mass flight unless to places with natural case / strategic advantage

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Enjoy your second to last party conference


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