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 18.

    @17. Egg On A Stilt

    The people have not forgotten that the liberals sold their soul to the devil for a chance of power.


    That maybe so but the people seem to have forgotten that Labour did exactly the same thing in the 90s and have continued to do so ever since.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The people have not forgotten that the liberals sold their soul to the devil for a chance of power.

    When election time comes, everything else will be a secondary issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The banks are sitting on Billions of pounds that where for SME's, they have not changed one iota, try starting an SME company with IPR, the banks would rather AIDs and Rabies together, we just cannot import everything someone in Europe must have realised this by now surely, probably German not our own MP's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    "Sorry Sheneval but abstaining from a vote is neither decent or moral, if you disagree with policy you vote against it as abstaining is just the coward's way of voting for it while appearing to look like the goody-good shoes?!!!!"

    Whilst I appreciate where you are coming from I think those who abstained are less dishonest than those who voted for when they had pledged to oppose..

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The first thing Clegg should do is apologize for supporting the policies of this Tory Party that is even more right wing than Thatchers Government ever was. Hopefully all those that voted tactily for the Lib Dem candidate to keep out the Tories in their constituency will bring this sorry shower to book in 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    There's some pretty dopey ideas in all the parties and at least coalition appears to soften some of that. If LibDems want to ensure another then they need to focus on they maintaining all their seats - and this means addressing some of their own dopiness - but they don't want to encourage 'tactical voting' because who knows where that will lead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    shakermistyeyed. "fairness" is very subjective. Conservatives-Cut the top rate of tax. Lib Dems' raise the income tax threshold to £10,000. I know which one I think was fair. I think the economy is picking up in spite of the Conservatives, give it time it could still go wrong with a booming housing market. Lend too much we nearly go bust - solution encourage people to borrow - FANTASTIC IDEA

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Red team , Blue team, Orange team...they all work for the same paymasters.

    Watch what they do, not what they say...

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Sorry Sheneval but abstaining from a vote is neither decent or moral, if you disagree with policy you vote against it as abstaining is just the coward's way of voting for it while appearing to look like the goody-good shoes?!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The Lib Dems are a protest party who suddenly found themselves in power and found themselves having to jettison many of their unworkable 'protest' policies, which alienated many of their supporters.

    I heard a bunch of Lib Dems talking at their last conference. They all wanted to get rid of Clegg - but admitted they had no one to replace him with. They're stuck with Clegg and they all hate it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    What exactly has Cable achieved in his role as Business Secretary? LibDems bang on about the impact they have had on economic policies, watering down everything in the name of "fairness" (a pointless cry for credit given that fairness is subjective). There's another way to look at this, which is that Conservative economic policy & austerity have worked despite the LibDems, not because of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    The Lib Dems threw away their integrity when the reneged on their pledge about tuition fees - they will never be trusted again by the current voters - shame for the decent ones who at least abstained.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Re 1.

    What on earth is HTB2 ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I tend to agree with many of Vince Cable's views and he has proven in the past to be one of the more capable political mind in parliament. However he has also shown himself in government to be a poor 'politician' , constantly being outmaneuvered by those with weaker ideas but stronger tactics. In an ideal world the brightest would win out but Westminster is far from an ideal world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    The LibDems will prostitute themselves to either The Tories or Labour in a vain attempt cling on to what little power they have - but they may discover that no one wants the "services" they are offering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The Lib-Dem's have no credibility anymore. All lost because they hitched a political ride with the Tories. Now so bad even their own people are jumping ship as they realise the party has betrayed it's policies left right and centre for their day in the spotlight. Sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    In the next elections MPs wont be the only people voting..

    The fact that Clegg supported HTB2 shows how out of touch with the electorate he is.

    Well done to Cable, he is the only hope the LibDems have for the 2015 elections.


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