How Long Will Vince Cable Stick In? 42

I view Vince Cable as a genuinely decent man with liberal instincts. It is good that someone in the Lib Dems has the guts to stand up to Tory immigrant baiting. Cable was right on Murdoch, and his instincts are right on regulating the banks. On all of these – banks, Murdoch, visas – Cable theoretically had a position of power, but has simply been pushed aside by the Tories.

I think it is wrong to confuse Vince with Clegg. I don’t think Cable is hungry for power, and he doesn’t need the money. Clegg would happily sacrifice every Liberal principle to remain as Deputy Prime Minister – I am not sure Clegg ever believed any of it anyway. Following Cable’s open disagreement with Cameron on immigration, Westminster is asking how much longer Cameron will tolerate Cable. I am hopeful that is the wrong question.

I am a Liberal, and will remain so. I don’t have the emotional attachment to corporate solutions and high public spending which many of the valued commenters here do. I was a delegate at the Lib Dem special conference which voted for the coalition with the Tories. I voted for it myself. But the fact is that the government programme bears almost no relationship to the coalition agreement we voted for. Vince Cable cares about that, and he quoted the coalition agreement in attacking Cameron today. I really don’t think Clegg cares a hoot about the agreement; it served its purpose for him many months ago; just like the things he said at the general election.

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42 thoughts on “How Long Will Vince Cable Stick In?

  • Beeston Regis

    You really thought you'd get what the Tories promised?
    I am surprised Craig.

    • Craig_Murray

      I think I failed to understand the evidence of my own eyes. I had seen at a couple of Lib Dem conferences the smart young people in suits, actually in paying jobs as party hacks, research assistants, special advisers etc, and I had noted that most of them would work for any party that gave them a career and didn't really believe in anything much. But I didn't really think it through, and thought that there were enough of my genuinely liberal old friennds around. I was very wrong.

    • Guest

      All the Lib Dems that believed in this coalition agreement should be locked up in a home for the permanently bewildered.

  • Anon

    "I voted for it myself"

    Craig, you are worshipping Lucifer and expecting to end up in heaven!!!.
    A true Liberal would NEVER have voted for or joined a coalition with the tories, FACT.

  • Guest

    Craig, let me try and explain it to you once again, this is how it works…

    Vince Cable`s real job is to keep Lib Dems from leaving the party, to give them some hope that the party has not lost its way. While Vince is there I am staying with the party is the cry and many will. Now its not a new ploy by any means, Tony Benn has been doing it for new labour for years and been very successful at keeping the weak minded on board/vote and to keep paying their subs, but when it comes down to it, at the end of the day he was/will be there for his masters, just like Cable will be. Their fine words don`t in the end match their actions….

    • nextus

      So – according to the "guest" – Cable is a mere stooge, deployed to woo the party faithful to an vacuous facade covering a duplicitous alliance with rabidly anti-liberal conservatives. So what are we to make of the fact that his current opposition to Tory policy is consistent with the position he advocated his books, published some years previously, and he speeches he has made, not to mention his own personal choices? Is this perhaps a retrospective revisionist hallucination orcestrated by omnipotent Tory lizards who hold sway over our collective political consciousness? Or – alternatively – are you a patronising paranoaic? Hmmmm …

      Let me try and explain where you can shove your condescension.

      • Guest

        nextus, that must explain why he is a senior member of a government he so disagrees with.

        Let me try and explain where you can shove your condescension.

    • Paul Johnston

      I always thought that was John Prescotts job!
      I used to travel back to Hull at the weekends to stay with my then girlfriend and always saw him catching the first train back to London as I caught the first train to Manchester. That's why I always laughed at the "two jags" joke.

  • mark_golding

    Clegg is the archetypal 'nodding dog' agreeing with agent Cameron on, well everything and anything and I denounce Clegg for betraying democracy by breaking his manifesto pledges on tuition fees without showing a trace of shame.

    I have faith in Vince, he is honest, breviloquent and intelligent. Vince predicted massacres in Iraq, world recession/economic melt-down and a Middle East crisis years ago in Feb 2003.

    Best Vince quote: “I intend to launch a war on the Murdoch empire and I intend to win it” –

    Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has intervened in News Corporation's $12.5bn bid to take full ownership of BSkyB, ordering regulator Ofcom to examine whether it is in the public interest. – (64% of British public respondents against merger-YouGov 21st March 2011)

    Ride on Vince – Stay close to friends and even closer to the enemy. The goose cannot be caught let alone cooked!!

    • Guest

      mark golding, you are right about almost all things, but you have got this one wrong. Yes, Cable did say “I intend to launch a war on the Murdoch empire and I intend to win it”, but what did happen….it didn`t happen, did it!. Was Cable set up ?, I don`t think so, it was the other way round. I find it hard to believe Cable was so inexperienced to say that to complete strangers known the Implications and ramifications if it was made public!. Think about it, it did get Cable out of a very tricky situation did it not!. Even helped his street cred, he came out of it well and Murdoch gets what he wants….winners all round except for us.

      "In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way"

      Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945)

      • mark_golding

        I have created the Facebook group – 'A Murdoch-free Press' please join – A ‘war’ on News Corp and its corrupt and undemocratic monopoly on the media commands mass support.

        Jeremy Hunt will make a final decision regarding the merger on April 26th when Parliament returns after the Easter recess. He can be contacted here:

        [email protected]

        01428 609 416

        2 Royal Parade
        Tilford Road
        GU26 6TD

        Please write to him – I have created a standard letter/email within the Facebook Group. Can we make this –

        'A Very British Coup' – please

  • Michael.K


    You are fundamentally a decent person who really believes in your ideals and principles, which obviously disqualifies you from becoming a member of the establishment and slotting neatly into your alloted role in the structure of controlled and tamed democracy will all live under. But idealism can go too far. Cable has a licence to critize, as long as he doesn't rock the boat too much. He is a kind of ideological fig-leaf.

    Jumping slightly; modern capitalism, or the corporate state, needs a big state, to provide steady demand for goods and services. The Big State, is a form of subsidy without which capitalism would be on the skids. Great Liberals like Keynes understood this, but he seems close to a Trotskyist in the current degenerate political climate.

    And jumping even further out, there's a jolly good song called "Scotland Yet" by Robin Williamson, which is worth checking out.

  • Michael.K

    "Family friendly" machinegun fesival welcomes neo-nazi extremists." Yes, that's the title of ripping article over at which is good for a laugh, especially as it's taking place at the Knob Creek firing range!

  • Eddie-G

    Vince Cable's reputation took a bit of a whack when he endorsed the Tory spending cuts. He is both a good economist and well-versed in economic history, so knows the risks from cutting spending during a recovery from the type of recession we suffered in 08/09; but he played the good soldier when the coalition fell in behind the Tory plans.

    This issue on public borrowing and spending should not be an ideological litmus test – whatever one's views of the proper size of the state as a percentage of GDP, right now there is an acute risk that if the state does not fill the output gap in the economy, there's going to be a severe slump and a lost generation of British workers. The private sector cannot and will not pick up the slack as the spending cuts bite this year, Vince knows this, and it is not yet too late for him to fall out with the coalition on the long-term consequences of the austerity program.

  • angrysoba

    Mr Murray,

    A few random questions, if you don't mind:

    1) Have you ever met Vince Cable? I just wonder because I thought you might be able to get the ear of some of the prominent Liberal MPs.

    2) Have you ever read Michael Axworthy's book on Nader Shah? I just wonder because it might be a little but up your street. Obviously it is tangentially connected to your own book on Burnes but also because Axworthy was a diplomat in the FCO and seems to sway somewhat towards your side in wanting to neutralize the venom against Iran. He obviously doesn't like the theocracy but seems to think that the West is a bit too gung-ho against the country. I recommend the book anyway.

    3) I forgot what this question was going to be but will ask you it again when I remember.

    • Paul Johnston

      Assume you have read Empire of the Mind.
      I'm reading it at the moment, just got to the bit about .Agha Muḥammad Khān Qājār
      If we are getting into a book club I've just finished Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys among the defiant people of the Caucasus by Oliver Bullough which IMHO is very good!
      Sorry for going off topic 🙂

      • angrysoba

        "Assume you have read Empire of the Mind.
        I'm reading it at the moment, just got to the bit about .Agha Muḥammad Khān Qājār"

        Yes, I have read that one too about two years ago. It's also a very interesting book. Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar is the one without any…er… beard, right?

  • Deep green puddock.

    I think it is quite likely that Vince Cable's avuncularity is comforting. He is clearly a decent person. So too is David Cameron. I think on a purely 'share a glass of wine' level David Cameron is interesting , extremely convivial person with admirab;le personal qualities. you don't go to Eton without becoming a gentleman. That really would be a waste of a great deal of money if you didn't even develop the social skills to slip through all the social gates that undoubtedly exist in all human social activity systems. Tony Blair is also acutely socially aware and astute and able to say exactly the right words to please people, and reputedly has a prodigious recall of social encounters. Indeed it is probably some part of the job of a successful public figure to combine a high IQ with a high EQ.
    i guess we all tend to hide behind the caricatures of all these people in our criticisms of public figures , but a face to face confrontation might have a quite different texture and tone to the dialogues we imagine ourselves to be in.

    That doesn't change the my opinion that Cameron is just too lightweight for the job. Nice bloke, beautiful manners and bright enough in a 'do the approximately expected 'right' thing, well enough' but I cannot detect any creative or inspired edge to his political analysis or standing ; there are no clever moves which deliver him deftly from the inevitable dilemmas and conflicts. He really just bumps along, gets by, and will eventually have a crash of some sort against events, because he does not have the quality of prescience.
    Blair did have that quality of prescience and was much sharper than Cameron, but there is an altogether different dimension to Blair that is hard to capture, because it is essentially naive and childish -a deficit of reason of some kind, something that we find hard to believe in someone with such manifest skills and abilities. i am sure the two sides of Blair are related in some way.
    Then there is Vince Cable, that so many of us had hopes for. He seemed fearless, incisive, honest and 'in control'.
    But that was when he was a backbencher at no risk of being put to a real test. He was in his comfort zone. His gaffe with the Telegraph reporters is quite interesting. I suppose it can be viewed as a bit of dishonest trickery but we can't avoid the question- why did a mature political player succumb to the blandishments of a couple of pretty young reporters masquerading as constituents he didn't know? Why did he confide his inner thoughts to these reporters. It seems incredibly naive.
    I wonder if the constant spotlight of minsterial activity is just too much for him to organise his ideas and thoughts fully, in contrast to his backbench role. I don't want to criticise him for that exactly- all of us have limits and Westminster would crack most of us apart, but he may have reached his limit.
    I am also becoming more and more convinced that the personality/celebrity politics we see now is an disastrously wrong turn for us all. We probably expect too much from people we permit too much power to. Blair's appealing 'child man' personality is perhaps celebrity and media friendly, but not a wise choice for a system of governance where critical matters are weighed.

    The problem is that celebrity politics and the apparent access to mass communication has created a stampede of narcissistic emulators of the Blair political model, who in reality was simply emulating Thatcher, whose caricature and charistma far exceeded the quality of her character or her abilities.

  • Dunc

    "But the fact is that the government programme bears almost no relationship to the coalition agreement we voted for."

    Quelle surprise! Why, nobody could have seen that coming!

  • Anon

    "I am a Liberal"

    There are many Craig who are Liberal socialists, everything about you say`s you are a Liberal socialist in denial.

    • Duncan_McFarlan

      Liberals and socialists are not the same thing just because you disagree with both of them. You're getting confused in the same way as Newt Gingrich when he recently made a speech saying that the US was in danger of becoming a "secular atheist country" that would be "dominated by radical Islamists" as if atheists and radical Muslims were the same thing or sympathetic to each other because neither were right wing Christian fundamentalists.

      • Anon

        Duncan McFarlan, I was thinking along the lines of Proudhon. As for the rest of your post…eh!.

  • carl

    How long is Vince Cable going to stick it out? Good question. To the end I suspect, despite the maverick posturing.

    We have a pretty good idea of the kind of person he is – smarter than his boss (his boss in the Treasury, that is), still economically centre-right but also possessing some strong core centrist convictions, able to see the flaws and contradictions at the heart of the government's economic and budgetary policy but unable to address them.

    A man who, like his boss (in the Party) spent too long out of power and wanted it too badly to just give it up and walk away when he finally got it. Like Clegg, like all the LibDem frontbench, he wanted to be a player. He wanted to be part of government. Any government. All that is worth the humiliation and the sniping from the party faithful.

    Although he is used by Clegg and Cameron to pacify the waverers and doubters in his Party, a smoother, more articulate, less buffoonish version of John Prescott, that wasn't what he originally set out to be. The question is why is he so happy to fill that role now?

    That he will not go voluntarily was proved the second he accepted the toxic brief of Post Office privatisation (which no one, not Clegg, not Osborne, not Cameron wanted to or wants to touch). And again when his own department kept him out of the loop on the cuts package. And again when he was demoted over BSkyB (although once again his judgement has been proved sound).

    He would do a lot better for himsel if he had the courage of his convictions. He talks like a maverick but never actually acts like one when the crunch time comes. It is odd that there is this intimation that he will some day resign on principle when in fact he has absolutely no intention whatsoever of resigning. Every single time he's been tested on an issue he has blustered then pulled back from the brink. His bosses have the patience for that sort of thing. Others do not.

    To be a minister in this coalition thingy you have to be either all the way in or all the way out. You have to be like Clegg or not at all. How much more demotion, stripping of his powers and duties and sidelining can he take? Quite a lot on current evidence.

    I suspect that two, three, four years down the line when the LibDems have outlived their usefulness to Cameron and are wiped out at national and local government level, Cable will be judged on the basis that he tenaciously clung to power despite everything and went down with a sinking ship, rather than that he followed his principles and his better judgement and turned the party round from outside the Cabinet.

    • Guest

      "How much more demotion, stripping of his powers and duties and sidelining can he take?"

      Weren't his powers only temporarily stopped, just enough to let Murdoch gain control of BSkyB…I think so!. Strange that!.

  • mike cobley

    Being an LD party member (I know, I know…) I have met Vince C fleetingly when he came to speak at a Glasgow North party event. My impression is that he is a serious politician with an interesting past (from Labour to the SDP to the LDems). Yet he also has a certain amount of corporate baggage in that he was chief economist at Shell for 2 years; well, it could have longer I suppose.

    Seems to me that his battlecry of going to war with Murdoch and intending to win was a bit out of character – in order to win against that pit of corporate vipers you would need to be either PM or to hold one of the great offices of state. Vince just doesnt have the clout, and is compromised by ministerial position to boot. As a social democrat (aye, we're still about) I really do wish he would kick over the traces – this coalition of the damned isn't worth the candle, and is actively increasing the sum total of human misery in this country.

  • CanSpeccy

    What do you mean Craig, when you talk about "Tory immigrant baiting"?

    Cameron has indicated that net immigration should be reduced from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands, which is, consistent with the wishes of the great majority of British people.

    Is that what you call "immigrant baiting"?

    And if so, are you saying that liberal "principles" must trump the wishes of the public?

    And if so, is it not the case that liberalism as you champion it is a fundamentally undemocratic ideology?

    • evgueni

      I am interested in an answer to that also. Would a Liberal Democrat trust the electorate with the right of Initiative? For example, the people of Britain collect 500k signatures to force a binding referendum on limiting immigration in some way. You personally disagree strongly with a Yes vote, but would you still defend the people's right to make that decision for themselves if they so choose? Voltaire's words come to mind – you know, "I disapprove of what you say but will defend your right to say it".

      I would like to put the same question to you CanSpeccy – only this time the people of Britain are voting to dismantle the Constitutional Monarchy in favour of a Republic with an elected Head of State. (I think I recall you defending the institution of Monarchy in a previous discussion?)

  • Alaric

    The phrase 'keep you're friends close but your enemies closer' comes to mind when I think of Vince Cables current position, it was interesting to hear Davids Mitchells view (on the Cameron speech) last night on the 10'oclock show. Mitchell posited that Cameron was saying 'im not a rascist, but if you are, you can vote for me' and that Vince Cable inclusion is symbolic of a juxtaposition between the left and right for, a simple visual/aural clue for potential voters.____As for the NOTW scandal, paying off people and the numerous police enquirys, I wonder if this will affect the BSkyB deal, how much we will find out, what will change as a result and will it be too late (BSkyB), more to the point, are we increasingly heading toward a more implicitly Italian style of relationship between the mainstream media and government? Or are we there and is it the fact that it is becoming more legitimate?__

  • Phil

    It is very, very hard to believe that any politician planning to thwart a major Murdoch initiative would casually reveal the fact to someone they had just met. Especially as in normal circumstances a minister required to make an impartial decision would be sacked for bias.

    Clegg has evidently lost the power to keep LibDems onside, so Cable is used as the 'approve maverick'. Obviously he has no real power to influence government policy, as Craig says "Cable theoretically had a position of power, but has simply been pushed aside by the Tories"

    • Guest

      "would casually reveal the fact to someone they had just met."

      Yes, and they are all on guard against journalists doing this sort of thing!. Also, what immaculate timing, just at the moment decisions about the takeover were to be made….pure coincidence of course.

  • ingo

    I think its electioneering, as if two peacocks showing off to each other. As with Norman Lamb crying wolf over the NHS, threatening to resign his position unless certain reforms are drastically re written.
    Landsleys pause indicates that the Tories thought the NHS reforms out, with the Lib dems coming in at the last minute, tucking at the strings. But, Norman Lamb has not resigned, as was to be expected, Clegg came round to North Norfolk and they had a chat….
    Will a lost AV referendum be the last straw for Vince cable? I
    f they don't disagree with each other every so often, would we forget that they are in different parties?

  • mark_golding

    Vince Cable's so called 'hubris' was of course not 'Cameron arrogance' just 'Cable audacity' – taking a chance with words for a reason, whether it be throwing the glove in Murdoch's face or calling his Eton gentleman lieutenant's keynote speech on immigration 'unwise, Vince is 'bringing it on' hoping the ripples reach us and we react… – -my take.

    In a world of deception and pain I like a man who voted for a wholly elected House of Lords, removing hereditary Peers, who voted against introducing foundation hospitals, who voted against the Iraq war, who voted against replacing Trident, who voted against Labour's anti-terrorism laws, for laws to stop climate change, for equal gay rights and for a transparent Parliament.

    Vince Cable has caused a disturbance, now it is up to us – ie those of us with the discipline and subtlety of mind, to use our own words to prevent this absurd coalition from ruining our NHS, our education, our freedoms and perpetuating the daily, subtle propaganda that filters into, abrades and confuses our minds which Murdoch et el calls 'News' or 'scoops' or 'scandals' or rumor or even intelligence.

    Nothing is ever as it seems and little frogs(Vince) know that scorpions(Telegraph) *can* swim even in a fast and dangerous Murdoch river.

    • Guest

      "Murdoch river"…A highly toxic river.

      "removing hereditary Peers"

      I thought that was great at the time, then the likes of Blair replaced the "hereditary Peers" with people like Lord Taylor. We were all worse off, you wouldn`t have thought that was possible!.

  • mike cobley

    It is entirely possible that May's Bonfire of the Councillors could finally kick off serious anti-Clegg action within the Libdems. Clegg is, after all, the Libdems' Blair – lower than that I cannot get.

  • carl


    None of the things that you have just praised Vince Cable for supporting in the past will ever happen under this Coalition government, led by these people. Nor does Nick Clegg have the slightest interest in making any of the other outstanding issues happen. Britain is still as heavily involved in Iraq as they were under Labour.

    If Vince Cable wants to change that he should mount a proper challenge inside or outside the government and stop grousing from the sidelines.

    Despite all my previous pontifications, the bottom line for Vince Cable is pretty simple. When your boss humilates you, demotes you, dresses you down and undermines your authority in public, you either prove your loyalty and indispensability to the team or you leave. That is how it works in the real world.

    Vince Cable has a choice. He could become a Benn (loved by the party base but despised and distrusted by the people with real power in the party).

    Or he could become a Heseltine (strong willed principled ex-insider who leaves on his own terms, builds his own power base, plays the long game and picks his own best opportunity to strike).

    Or he could become a Blunkett, a Clarke, a Balls or a Lawson (clever, able, creative and communicable who gets into scrapes but can run with a brief). For obvious reasons there aren't many LibDems I can compare him to.

    At the moment he is looking more and more like a fledgling Tony Benn than Michael Heseltine.

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