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, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    (cont) from #93.

    The Major govt was still incompetent. The early 90s recession ended by 1993, politicians decided it ended in about mid 1995.The first 2 years of TB administration were spent implementing spending cuts that Major should have done in 1995-97.

    Still makes the IFS report pretty poor economics

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Politicians have completely forgotten that they have entered public SERVICE by seeking election, the job of a leader is to inspire and support those who are led, not to ignore them whilst lining your own pockets and those of your cronies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    #81 Tory Boy


    Massive state intervention (also known as social democracy) was the handmaiden of the financial crisis in indebted Western economies.

    Your admiration for "Dr Brown" is touching, but facile. If he set out to strengthen the UK economy he failed in his endeavour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    The problem with Vince is that he claims to be pro-business & enterprise but he has overseen piling extra debt on potential high educated candidates for workforce, 3 massive rises in post charges, incr in air transport tax & Business Rate while not (encouraging CoE) to deliver cuts in road fuel tax he called for 4/5/6/7yrs ago.

    Is he in favour of business or not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    "real wreckers"
    At every party & union conference, every year, from every speaker, demands are heard, promises are offered, choice is hidden, between illusory change (based on endless generosity towards both ends of the spectrum, simultaneously or in turn), as against real change from corrupting inequality to liberating equal partnership

    So the squabbling, worse the misdirection, go on

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    #87 I do so love it when people quote that report. Random stats without context to prove Lab really werent that bad.

    The context is that Lab went into a recession after 14 years of growth with the same level of deficit that Major govt had, based on politicial view at time, 2 after the end of a recession. Lab gave up controlling public finances after 2001.

    Major govt was still wrong though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    48 Perhaps had all the LibDems who disliked the coalition and left decided to remain and try to change it then unlike other parties they could have voted and could have changed it.

    If you leave a party because you disagree then you simply leave behind a party that will change to even more closely resemble the ideas of those remaining.
    When parties shrink they become uniform and unrepresentative

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Another broadside from within by VC. But as before, it's likely to have no effect on the coalition's course.
    Time to jump ship, challenge for leadership or form a breakaway.
    Or retire quietly with his pension.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Its in permanent crisis in UK since c1967. Can count good periods on fingers of .. er..2 fingers before you wave them at passing politicians.

    Warning signs (not all of them) that I saw but didn't join dots:
    Exceptionally high relative inflation
    State employ incr to under 1in5
    Housing bubble
    High pers & UK debt
    Tax burden too high on low earners

    Add s-primes to mix & away you go

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The big mistake was the state stepping in to save the banks. It was one most of us made because it is what we had learned in the economics class. The answer then would have been to reform the banks but that didn't happen. Hence, the same old bubble!

    Vince did agree with me that it is going to take a long time to rebalance the economy. It should not have become unbalanced in the first place!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Tory Boy

    Don`t know if that was a rhetorical question but they would have coped very badly.

    Hard to know how much of the nonsense they spout they actually believe.I suspect not a lot.Whichever way you look at it they are the real wreckers..

    Bad faith has always been their forte,policies tailored to their audience. They show as much contempt for the public as the tories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    UP Snuff

    You may be familiar with this IFS summary from "Britain on the Eve of Recession 2008.

    Labour is entering this recession with a similar structural budget deficit to the one that it inherited from the Conservatives, but with a smaller underlying debt. It remains to be seen whether the structural budget deficit will deteriorate as far under Labour as it did under the Conservatives

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    No84 Up2,
    The 'crisis' occurred in 2007/8 not 2010 although some people think capitalism is in permanent crisis.
    An increase in public sector employment and a few pounds extra to welfare claiments, however much you find undesirable, did not have the slightest effect on what is the worst crisis in the history of capitalism.
    Stop reading the fairy tales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Clegg`s slogan "Stronger economy,fairer society is an implied critique of Labour and Tory.It`s now rebounded

    If the crisis of 2010 was caused by the "Collapse of private capital and the state rescued it,"then Brown`s policy of a fiscal stimulus in 2009 was correct

    Cable criticism of the coalition`s anti immigrant,anti-Union and welfate policy doesn`t help Clegg either

    What`s he doing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    One remark made by VC stands out.He said The crisis of 2010 was caused by the collapse of market capitalism.The state rescued it.

    In their story it was government spending that caused the crisis,therefore we must cut it!.
    Both views in solation are wrong, w/both being right as factors; certainly the explosion in State employ & Benefits under GB were there in the mix.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    No79 Ben,
    Dr Cable has never been a Labour MP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Cable is right today in saying Tory politics are ugly. In fact they stink. Why then are the Lib Dems continuing to keep them in power? Only one reason. Clegg wants to cling on to his little bit of that power. It will come back to bite them when they are wiped out at the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    You are right to point out that it was massive international state intervention, organised by Dr Brown, that saved capitalism from complete meltdown.
    Sadly, it was Blair and Clinton who did more than anyone to promote Thatcher - Reaganite nonsense.
    How do you think David Laws the 'King' of parliamentary expense fiddles and his 'Orange Book' would have coped?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Wealth taxes are ideological frippery which don't actually generate much but play well to the activists.

    It must be conference (silly?) season.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    This bloke really should take his pension. He is happily sitting in a COALITION government, a position he couldn't have envisaged in his wildest dreams and still he snipes at everything they have achieved as if he was still a Labour MP. Oh thats right, he was once a Labour MP wasn't he. Loyalty is hardly his strong point then


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