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Daily View: Verdicts on Vince Cable's speech

Clare Spencer | 09:43 UK time, Tuesday, 20 September 2011

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Commentators give their verdicts of business secretary Vince Cable's speech at the Liberal Democrat conference.

Concentrating on the mood on the speech, the Times' sketch writer Ann Treneman jokes that Vince Cable's austerity programme bans smiles and optimism:

"Vince Cable, grey-sky thinker. No cloud has a silver lining because silver is just grey with sparkles in it. And sparkles are another victim of his austerity drive."

Similarly, the Daily Mail's sketch writer Quentin Letts also called Mr Cable's attitude glum, saying it was a "marvel of melancholy". But he also disputes some of the content of the speech as well:

"Mr Cable was not entirely innocent of grandstanding. He had a cheap line about how anyone who wanted to reduce maternity welfare handouts was as wicked as a Victorian boss sending children up chimneys. Oh, come off it. If such cuts helped restore the economy, is it not the duty of a grown-up minister to contemplate them?"

Saving money, as Quentin Letts suggests, is not on the mind of the Guardian's Polly Toynbee. In her scathing review of the speech, she combs through the contents to highlight what she says is balderdash:

"Start with the crunch issue, the lack of recovery. As he reminded us, 'Keynes talked about a 'paradox of thrift': everyone and every country being individually wise but collectively foolish - leading to a downward spiral.' That's precisely what is happening now, Britain the worst offender with toughest austerity resulting in lowest growth anywhere but Japan. Yet he went on to pretend a paltry array of stimuli will fix the problem: he cannot possibly believe that loose change from the petty cash will arrest the plunge in employment and growth. The Green Investment Bank? Only £1bn, with no borrowing capacity. Regional growth fund? Nothing to replicate the abolished regional development agencies. 'Step up investment in our clapped out infrastructure,' he said - but that's a mere half billion raided from reserves to buy a few jobs."

The Telegraph's editorial also attacks what it sees as questionable methods of bringing about economic recovery:

"Not for the first time, Mr Cable was more interested in political posturing than in setting out a strategy for business competitiveness. Is he really saying that the key issues facing the economy are boardroom salaries and bash-the-rich taxes? Mr Cable would be taken more seriously by the business community whose interests he is supposed to champion if he had concentrated on growth and told us how his department intends to foster it."

Another focus of the speech was on curbing excessive pay of top executives. One supporter is the policy officer at the campaign group FairPensions Christine Berry. She says in that his focus on limiting extreme pay packets will be good for people with pensions:

"Currently, shareholders have an advisory vote on remuneration packages. Today's consultation suggests making this vote binding - something FairPensions has long argued for. This would be a significant step forward in enabling shareholders to stand up for savers' interests and curb excessive pay. But it would also be a challenge to the investment industry itself."

However, in the Independent Dominic Lawson says there is no muscle behind the proposals:

"What the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has actually done is to publish, in the words of his department, 'A discussion paper [which] looks at the issues surrounding executive compensation. It puts forward wide-ranging proposals on how to link executive payment more closely to company performance and invites feedback and further evidence that will help build a stronger understanding of the issues.' Hold the back page!
"This document makes absolutely no definitive policy suggestions. It discusses such remedies as giving shareholders a veto on executive remuneration packages, or appointing a member of the workforce to boards' remuneration committees - but is studiously non-committal, offering arguments both for and against such proposals."

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