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.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    The Lib Dems have lost the next election badly, no matter what they do. They will fail for 2 main reasons:
    1. most of the lib dem votes were placed to keep the conservatives out yet the lib dems got into bed with them.
    2. The rest of the lib dem votes were placed by idealistic Uni students who believe that education on all levels should be free for all lib dems betrayed them. Well done Cleggy!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    For all the confidence boosting economic propaganda Vince seems to one of a very few who is prepared to tell it as it actually is.

    The corner turned, is relatively scrambling back onto cliff top.
    UK finances & economy, are basically walking along the edge of financial/economic abyss, to gradually inch away from edge will take many years of growth & debt repayment, with no further hicups.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    After WWII, this was a country peopled by millions of battle-hardened men and equally stern women. The rulers of the day knew they were not those with whom one should trifle. Their expectations were clear, and so in effect a revolution followed without even a scuffle, and the consensus change in politics was accepted.

    The LD's history in the reversal of all this is ignoble, and continues alike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    How about IMPORTANT issues like immigration?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    NR: 'In part this is a row about presentation.'
    Yes, and Lib-Dem presentation at that.

    The most significant thing to me is, it does appear Cable has popped out of his dotage to sound some cautionary economic notes. Only trouble is that it is rather at odds with some of his price-increasing and non-delivery of transport tax cuts ...


  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Cable has always been more of an idiot than the media give him credit for. Thy hyped him up when safely in the presumed position of no chance of ever doing anything. Yet he has been shown up badly ever since stuck in an office out the back. The evil man that started the idea taxing things just because you own them. So called mansions now, next iPads? They would do better to dump him too old longer

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Happenstance rewarded the sensible work done by the party in local government up and down the country providing the Lib Dems with an opportunity to demonstrate a possible alternative to a two party system.
    Unfortunately they stuffed it up and are therefore most unlikely to be in this position again in the foreseeable future, what a shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Tory economics is part oubliette, part anaglypta: first consign swathes of the economy to the dungeon of low wages, then paper over the hatch with a veneer of inflationary bubble to bolster the rich.
    St Vince has hinted that he knows Britain needs structural reform in skills and investment to break the long term death-spiral of inflation and devaluation.
    No chance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Ah yes the fair Lib-Dems - perhaps the same folks that blocked fairer constituency boundaries and reducing the number of MPs by 50. Their breath-taking arrogance is staggering beyond believe. Gleg comes from a highly privileged background but he and Cable want no one else to become rich - they have zero credibility and will be reassigned to history after the next election - thank God.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    This is simple, the libdems realize they must have a post Cleg leader.

    What I still don't understand is how they got so little out of the torries in the coalition deal, and then why they gave away their main bargaining chip by promising they would under no eventuality let the government fall.

    At least this is a clear sigh that at least one Libdem has at least a little ability to plan ahead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    How can Nick Clegg still be LibDem leader?! How can anyone take any of his "promises" (inc about minimum wages) seriously after he lied to the UK about university tuition fees? His lie affected thousands of students and he is a free man, yet Chris Huhne lied about a speeding ticket and ended up in prison!! Some1 tell me how that works. For LibDems to avoid electoral disaster, Clegg needs to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Vince Cable and all other Liberal Democrats are a disgrace. They've sold their souls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Nick Clegg's leadership has been a total disaster for the Lib-Dems as his colleagues will find out at the next election when they lose their jobs in droves. Meanwhile, he'll get a cushy seat in the House of Lords.

    The only credible Lib-Dem leader is Charles Kennedy.

  • Comment number 25.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    #20. Spectator
    "put country before party", "clear up the mess left by Labour", "snipe from the sidelines of opposition" - I see that the Lib-Dems are now so Tory that they prattle the shallow slogans of the Daily Mail and the Murdoch Press. Isn't it more accurate to say "put self before country", "wreck working strategies for dealing with the GFC", and "bleat from the sidelines of coalition"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    @5 HTB2 - Help To Buy 2 - the deeply immoral policy of pushing massive mortgage debt onto those who will be wiped out when interest rates rise once the Fed start tapering (gilt yields are already rising). Lives will be ruined as a direct result, and Vince is right to raise the concern.

    Sad that his leader doesn't share his wisdom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Vince Cable appears to be the only Liberal democrat left.

    The others can only be described as faustian "tory lite"

    Faustian - adjective, imply a situation in which an ambitious person surrenders moral integrity in order to achieve power and success for a delimited term

    Shame on them for absolving themselves of all moral responsibility with lame excuses. Doing wrong is never excusable

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Clegg's vacuous support of the Tories on austerity has been very damaging to the country, causing more misery than even Thatcher could dream of. The Lib-Dems, in their pursuit of personal power, have forgotten their own economic fundamentals. Not only will I never vote for them again, but I will take every opportunity to remind people of the self-serving cynicism of this apology for a Party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    @18 Hugo Grotius

    The people will also remember that the Libdems put country before party in 2010 to create a stable administration to clear up the mess left by Labour. If the party had failed to face up to the responsibilities of government then it would also have been heavily criticised. It is easy to snipe from the sidelines of opposition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The Libdems have are sticking to the brief that there supporters demanded, cause the other party in the coalition to rethink numerous policies. While the niave public accept 'knee jerk reactions ; to badly thought through policies, the LDs appear to attempt to apprehend the nonsense before it reaches statute, who else can be relied upon to do that?


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